After WWII, the race for technological advancement was on the rise and within the watch industry a few companies were jockeying for rights to the first electrically-powered watch movement. Bulova succeeded with the Accutron tuning fork in 1960 and Seiko with the first quartz movement in 1969 but, before that, Hamilton developed an interesting take on the concept with their Electric 500.
Development took over a decade before a consumer-ready model hit the market in January of 1957. The Electric 500 movement functioned, basically, by way of an altered balance wheel which half consisted of traditional balance screws on one side and a wire coil on the opposite. Below the balance wheel were set 2 permanent magnets. A pair of wires ran from the battery housing to the balance assembly and as the wheel passed over each of the permanent magnets, a small charge was sent through one of the wires and the resulting electromagnetic field of the wheel’s wire coil would react with the permanent magnets, thus keeping the wheel in motion and allowed the watch to keep time. A later Electric 505 model was introduced with various improvements.
This movement was not long for the market as it had numerous issues, both inherent and lack of service training, but during this era a number of the most outrageous watch case designs emerged. Their asymmetrical stylings and individually-named references still make them a topic of conversation and desirability amongst collectors today. For a watch-lover wanting a unique vintage look that’s sure to spark a conversation, well, this would be a genre for you. Take a trip down Hamilton’s asymmetrical lane sometime and enjoy.