Digital watches were not always electronic. This may not come across as a shocking statement to anyone familiar with the history of watchmaking. However, the subject is far-removed enough from our daily lives that it rarely comes up. Here at Times Ticking we’ve covered the origins of digital watches in a previous post—but we wanted to make some space for a particular Depression-Era wristwatch style. As our title suggests, we’re going to be covering Movado’s digital watch line from the 1930s. There’s not a ton of literature on this piece but it predates their still-popular Museum watch (released in 1946). During a time when wristwatches were still new to the scene, with art deco architectural style abounding in urban America, Movado was designing forward-thinking timepieces.
Even Movado doesn’t describe a formal name for their original digital pieces. Instead of something like the “Grand Complication” or “Empire” they simply called each the Movado Digital Watch. As the name suggests, these watches did not have hands. Instead, they employed sliding discs that turned to tell the time. Half a century before electronic LEDs existed this was the way to go digital. Each mechanical beauty sported windows similar to today’s modern day/date window. Their top display was for the hour and the bottom for the minutes.
Two case designs were created by Movado for these 1930s digital watches. One of them was pretty standard for similar digital watches at the time. It was a rectangular 18K gold and stainless steel case. The case on the rectangular digitals was slim and was worn on the wrist via a black leather strap. Movado’s other digital watch was worn on the wrist similarly—but had a more traditional round case with an actual dial. This second design also had a watch crystal, whereas the rectangular Movado Digital Watch only outwardly displayed the digits via the digit windows. Essentially, one kept with a more traditional look and feel, where the other was a bit more avant-garde for the time. The straight lines of the rectangular Movado Digital, with just the numbers on display, implied an architecture similar to old New York skyscrapers—art deco pared down and shrunk into wristwatch form.
Where are they Today?
Movado’s Digital Watches are some of the rarer ones we’ve covered. What’s harder to find than the literature on these pieces are the actual watches themselves. Pouring over countless auction sites and checking with Movado’s official website, we here at TimesTicking have come up with very few examples of them for sale. With a few jump-hour digitals from Movado springing up on Fabuisse Vintage Watch Co. and Etsy, most price tags have them listed somewhere close to $2,000.00 (with potential for going much higher). These Movados are indicative of a short lived digital watch boom in the 1930s. When the depression hit, production on this style of watch dropped significantly—with few digital watches emerging until the Quartz Revolution/Crisis of the 70s and 80s. So if you can manage to find one of these Movado Digital Watches they’re worth collecting. Their value seems to increase as the years keep roaring by.
Times Ticking has been in operation for more than 30 years, since 1982. We have performed watch repair for customers both locally and internationally. If it Ticks! We KNOW it! Our team of watch repair technicians have a combined experience in watchmaking of over 120 years.