Content - Swiss celebration of first quartz watch in Tokyo

  • November 27, 2017

Swiss celebration of first quartz watch in Tokyo

Tokyo (SCCIJ) – The Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM) has celebrated the 50th anniversary of the invention of the world’s first electronic watch in Switzerland by holding a technology workshop in Tokyo. Because the quartz watch was the first wearable device ever, the workshop focused on the latest technologies of wearable devices. CSEM was behind the first electronic watch half a century ago and is at the forefront of innovation in Switzerland’s industry today, in particular for ultra-low power microelectronics, cutting-edge microtechnology and complex, smart systems. The technology workshop in Japan was organized in collaboration with the Science and Technology Office Tokyo of the Embassy of Switzerland in Japan and the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO).

First Swiss quartz clockwork

Swiss quartz watch invented in 1967

Fifty years ago, the world’s first quartz wristwatch saw the light in the laboratories of the Centre Electronique Horloger (CEH) in Neuchâtel. "Beta 1" and "Beta 2" were the code names of these devices. At the annual precision competition of the Swiss Society of Chronometry in 1967, the prototypes presented in several models picked up the first ten places in the competition, which set Swiss and Japanese timepieces against each other. The watches presented by Seiko, based on a closely related technology, had to be content with consolation prizes.  

As one is accustomed to tapping on smartphones, it is difficult 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 energy consumption was excessive for a wristwatch and the capacity of batteries at that time. Some decades later, it was a quartz watch, the Swatch, that enabled the revival of Swiss watchmaking.

Ms. Yuko Harayama, Executive Member of the Council for Science, Technology and Innovation (CSTI) in the Cabinet Office of Japan, held the keynote speech at the CSEM technology workshop in Tokyo (click to enlarge)

Ms. Yuko Harayama, Executive Member of the Council for Science, Technology and Innovation (CSTI) in the Cabinet Office of Japan, held the keynote speech at the CSEM technology workshop in Tokyo (click to enlarge)

CSEM as “source of inspiration for Japan”

After some opening words from the Ambassador of Switzerland to Japan, Jean-François Paroz, at the CSEM technology workshop in Tokyo, Ms. Yuko Harayama, an executive member of the Council for Science, Technology and Innovation (CSTI) in the Cabinet Office of Japan, in her keynote speech looked back at the history of the Swiss microtechnology institutions and how the success of CSEM in Switzerland inspired Japan to come up with the Micro System Integration Center and a hands-on-access-fab. at Tohoku University. CSEM has been described as a solution provider, a business partner and a research collaborator. “But for me, it was a source of inspiration because of its bridging function from the innovation ecosystem perspective”, Ms. Harayama stated.  

Then, Mr. Georges Kotrotsios, Vice President of CSEM, presented this Swiss technological institution as a cornerstone in innovation ecosystems of Switzerland, which partly explains why Switzerland has been recognised repeatedly as a world leader in innovation. Mr. Alain-Serge Porret, Vice President of Integrated and Wireless Systems of CSEM, talked about the visionary project of developing the first quartz watch. It took five years’ work for the CEH team to develop the innovation that changed the nature of watchmaking. Since then, microelectronics has developed much further. In this context, Mr. Stéphane Emery, Head of System-on-Chip at CSEM, presented subthreshold electronics as the basis for ultimate low-power devices.    

Advanced semiconductor technologies at CSEM

The second part of the event was dedicated to advanced semiconductor technologies for the Internet of Things and wearables. The keynote speech came from Mr. Masahiro Chijiwa, Vice President of Fujitsu in charge of technology and business development. This was followed by four technology presentations. First, Ms. Andrea Dunbar, Senior Head of Embedded Vision Systems at CSEM, talked about machine learning for compact intelligent vision systems. Second, Mr. Emery presented the challenge of integrated intelligence on systems on chip. Third, Mr. Simon Gray, Head of Marketing & Sales at CSEM, discussed the processing, communication and powering of ultra-miniaturized autonomous objects. Finally, Mr. Alain-Serge Porret, Vice-President of Integrated and Wireless Systems at CSEM, illustrated the connected, augmented human of the future.  

A round table brought together the speakers to debate the challenges being faced in the domain of microelectronics as the key factor in current technological change. Microelectronic devices and components, coupled with artificial intelligence, form 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 – this was the message the CSEM event in Tokyo was able to send. This message was also discussed at a reception of the technology workshop’s participants at the Embassy of Switzerland in Japan at the same evening.    


Text: SCCIJ partly with material of CSEM; Foto (top): Caliber Beta 1 assembled was the world’s first quartz watch (Collection du Musée International de l'Horlogerie © MIH); Event photos: SCCIJ

Our Sponsors