In the 1960s an interdisciplinary group of researchers within CEH
strove to design a completely new product based on untested technology in a
very short time.
Some of the researchers came fresh from Swiss university programs in
physics or electrical engineering. Others were seasoned scientific
investigators, most with Swiss educations and work experience in
cutting-edge American laboratories. At CEH the researchers worked in
secrecy and under pressure to succeed.
The researchers named their first quartz wristwatch prototypes Beta 1
and Beta 2. The two kinds of prototypes, constructed with integrated
circuits developed and fabricated at CEH, differed from each other in the
way they rotated the watch hands.
The Beta 1 prototypes used a tiny "stepping" motor to turn the hands in
one--second steps, rather than in a smooth circle. The Beta 2 prototypes
turned the hands smoothly, with a vibrating motor and ratchet mechanism,
and consumed less power than the Beta 1.
When the prototypes proved the feasibility of the new electronics
technology for watches in time trials at the Neuchâtel Observatory in
1967, the lab went on to design a commercial quartz wristwatch containing
the Beta 21 module.
Armin Frei was one of the Swiss-educated
researchers that CEH Director Roger
Wellinger repatriated from the United States. Frei, who had received
his Ph.D. at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich worked for
RCA at what is now the David Sarnoff Research Center in Princeton, N. J.,
and at Varian Associates in Palo Alto, Calif., a firm that pioneered atomic
time standards. At CEH Frei investigated the feasibility of using a
miniaturized quartz crystal as a
time standard for wristwatches in 1965 and 1966. He developed a workable
high-quality resonator-a bar-shaped piece of quartz that vibrated at a
stable 8,192 Hz (times per second) when proper voltage was applied. He
also developed an integrated low-power oscillator circuit on a chip to keep
the quartz vibrating and a device with integrated electronics for
fine-tuning the quartz frequency. Quartz oscillators with these basic
features would remain the CEH standard through a series of prototypes
tested at the Neuchâtel Observatory and for the first 6000 watches
manufactured for sale.
Rolf Lochinger was another of the CEH
scientists who received his Ph.D. at the Swiss Federal Institute of
Technology in Zurich and then went to work for RCA in the United States, at
what is now the Sarnoff Research Center in Princeton, N.J.. Collaborating
with Armin Frei at CEH, Lochinger studied and designed circuits that
enabled the watch's quartz unit to work together with other components
necessary for keeping time. He focused special attention on a workable
circuit for dividing down the 8,192 Hz of the quartz to one pulse per
second to rotate the hands of the watch. He also studied stepping
micromotors for moving the hands and designed driver circuits for them.
Beginning in 1966 Jean Hermann, an electrical
engineer educated in Switzerland, supervised the technical process for
entering CEH prototypes in the observatory time trials. During the process
he developed, with technician François Niklès, a stepping micromotor to
turn the hands of the Beta 1 prototypes. Hermann also had help from other
colleagues, including Jean Fellrath, in developing the integrated circuits
used in the Beta 1 to divide down the frequency of the quartz to make it
usable in a wristwatch. Hermann himself developed an integrated circuit to
compensate for variations in quartz frequency caused by temperature
changes. After the trials, he improved features of the quartz resonator to
make it suitable for manufacturing in large numbers.
Henri Oguey, with a background in electrical
engineering and a doctorate from the technical university in Zurich, had
worked for IBM in both Zurich and New York. At CEH, with technician Rolf
Lüdin, he developed a vibrating micromotor to turn the hands on the Beta 2
watch prototypes. In contrast to the stepping micromotor of the Beta 1
prototypes, Oguey's vibrating motor turned the hands smoothly, rather than
in jumps. Oguey also had help from his colleague Jean Fellrath to devise an
integrated driver circuit for the vibrating motor. Once the prototype with
the vibrating motor he had designed demonstrated its suitability, Oguey
went on to improve the electronics and organize the manufacturing of what
would become the commercial product, Beta 21 module.
CEH Managers ~
Before 1960 ~
In 1962-1963, in CEH's earliest days,
electronics engineer Eric Vittoz had demonstrated the feasibility of using
quartz as a time base in a small clock that required very little power.
He became an expert in the electronics of
frequency division, that is, schemes for dividing down the high frequency
of a quartz oscillator to a much
lower one usable to drive the hands in a watch. And as his colleagues were
preparing the prototypes for the observatory trials and first production
runs, Vittoz completed his doctorate and began developing the next
generation of Swiss watch electronics-frequency dividers and quartz
oscillator circuits with very low-voltage CMOS (complementary metal oxide