The masters of time didn’t have time

The struggle for high-tech fame: Exactly 50 years ago, Junghans proudly presented the first German quartz wristwatch. The race for technology was above all a prestige project.

At the press conference on April 14, 1971 in the Hotel Intercontinental in Frankfurt (Main), Junghans proudly presented its first quartz wristwatch - the Astro-Quartz.

Mith the term revolution, some people are quickly on the spot – but when it comes to measuring time, it really was one. For centuries, the clocks of this world ticked with a technology consisting of gears and a mechanical oscillation system. In the sixties of the last century, electronics and quartz crystals came into play as clock generators – first in large clocks, then in those for the wrist. In February 1968, the FAZ made its readers aware of what this meant in the science section: They functioned “extremely precisely”, the quartz wristwatches that were being developed, it said there; much more accurate than the best gear clocks.

In fact, the miniaturized quartz watch at the time stood for much more than just a new high-tech product. Rather, it was a prestige project for nations in which everyone wanted to be the first. Because in science and technology at that time there was fierce competition for top positions, also politically fueled. The question of who will land on the moon first had just been answered by the Americans in the summer of 1969, when, months later, Japan came up trumps in an earthly discipline. The Seiko watch company presented the very first quartz wristwatch ever on December 25, 1969. Only a few weeks later, the Swiss Omega followed up with its own quartz model.