Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, died on March 24, 2023. Although many touching tributes are currently being published to this titan of the technology industry, most overlook what Moore himself called his greatest mistake: Intel’s attempt to corner the digital watch business. Intel bought Microma, a hot Silicon Valley startup, in 1972 but gave up the business just six years later. Moore continued to wear his “$15 million watch” for decades as a reminder of this failure – and to stay out of consumer products!
The Bulova Accutron was the most important watch of the 1960s, bringing a new level of accuracy and technology and shifting the balance of power in horology from Switzerland back to the United States. It was also a dead end, delaying the development of other electronic watches and distracting the American and Swiss industries from the rise of quartz. How did something with such promise fail to have a lasting hold on the market?
Despite the sketchy history of the design, Movado’s “Museum Watch” remains an icon of horology. It’s one of the very few watches that is instantly recognizable even to the uninitiated, and thus belongs in any serious collector’s watch box, if not on their wrist.
Today’s “Watch A Day” isn’t a watch at all, though I wear it on my wrist. The Apple Watch is a useful extension of my phone, a wrist-mounted notification platform that also tells the time, and a bit of a status symbol to some people. But it’s not a watch.
Is the Apple Watch a personal communication revolution like the iPhone, a well-executed gadget like the Apple TV, or a total miss? Does it mark the end of the the world as we know it for watches? And what’s it like to use one? I’m a watch guy and a gadget guy, so perhaps my perspective will be of some value.
My post laying out why the gold Apple Watch Edition must cost $10,000 caused quite a stir, but I’ll be the first to admit that I could have it all wrong. It’s entirely possible for them to put together a gold-cased Apple Watch for a much-lower price point, but I’m much more interested in the reasons why: Apple’s manufacturing and retail empire would be seriously disrupted by a $10,000 lump of gold!
Get ready for the tech press to flip out when Apple announces the retail price for the gold Apple Watch Edition model. Apple critics have always roasted the company for selling products that are more expensive than they should be, and they frequently use this as a wedge topic to criticize buyers. But the “18-karat gold” Apple Watch Edition will set a whole new bar with a sales price of $10,000. The funny thing in this case is that Apple is perfectly right to be charging that much!
What makes a watch into a grail? It’s all about the quest! And what triggers that quest? Sometimes, it’s nostalgia! A “holy grail” is defined more by the quest to find it than the object itself. If you could run down to Macy’s and buy the watch you have been seeking, would you love it? Maybe, but would you rhapsodize about it? Probably not.
There are few watches as immediately recognizable as the Hamilton Ventura. Still in production today, the “Elvis Watch” was a massive success when it was introduced in 1957 and represents the decade remarkably well.