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The quartz watch is 50 years old!
CSEM celebrates the beginning of microelectronics in Switzerland
“Beta 1” and “Beta 2” were the code names of the first quartz-based electronic wristwatches, presented discreetly in 1967 at the annual precision competition of the Swiss Society of Chronometry. Available in several models, these prototypes developed in Neuchâtel made the headlines several months later. They picked up the first ten places in the competition, which opposed Swiss and Japanese timepieces. The watches presented by Seiko, based on a closely related technology, had to be content with consolation prizes.
An equation with three unknowns: precision, miniaturization and low consumption
Accustomed to tapping on our smartphones, it’s difficult for us today to appreciate the achievements of the engineers and scientists at the CEH which – having merged with two other laboratories – became CSEM (Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology) in 1984. In the sixties, microelectronics was still in its infancy. The creation of an electronic watch notable for its precision was to be a major challenge: large-scale quartz clocks already existed, but their consumption was excessive for a wristwatch and the capacity of batteries at that time.
Advent of crucial know-how
It would take five years’ work for the CEH team to develop the innovation that changed the nature of watchmaking, this culminated in the ultimate recognition with the publication of the competition results in 1968. The less-than-ideal start to the adoption of quartz technology in Switzerland didn’t prevent these engineers and scientists from continuing to build up and innovate in their specialty. They went on to create a unique industrial environment and culture for miniaturized electronics in the region of Neuchâtel. In fact, it was a quartz watch, the Swatch, that later enabled the revival of Swiss watchmaking.
A ubiquitous technology in our daily lives
As guardian of this heritage, CSEM is celebrating – on September 5 in Neuchâtel – the 50th anniversary of the first quartz watches. After a speech by Daniel Borel, the founder of Logitech, a round-table discussion led by Xavier Comtesse will bring together key players from microelectronics to debate the challenges being faced in this domain, a key factor in current technological change. Microelectronic devices and components, coupled with artificial intelligence, are in fact the basis of the digital revolution which is presently taking place. Switzerland, with CSEM at the forefront, will continue to play a leading role in developing these technologies.
Happy birthday Beta 1&2!
From the first wearable to a hyperconnected world
September 5, 3:00 pm, Microcity, Neuchâtel
Keynote speech of Daniel Borel, Swiss entrepreneur and co-founder of Logitech SA.
Round-table moderated by Xavier Comtesse, mathematician with Daniel Borel, Swiss entrepreneur and co-founder of Logitech SA, Alain-Serge Porret, VP, Integrated and Wireless Systems, CSEM SA, Christian Enz, Director, EPFL Microcity, Jacques Müller, The Swatch Group, co-creator of the Swatch timepiece, John Donoghue, Director Wyss Center for Bio- and Neuro-Engineering, Weishi Sun, Deputy Director, Business development, Europe TSMC
Happy birthday Beta party, introduced by Hugo Wyss, IEEE Switzerland – completed with a chronological exhibition "From quartz to electronic: 50 years of ETA technology".
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