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The Auction will run through Friday, May 20th, at 5:00PM Eastern Standard Time.
100% of proceeds will be donated the Horological Society of New York. Thank you for your support!
In 1960, about a decade before the Quartz Crisis changed the face of horology forever, Bulova produced a watch that eschewed the traditional balance wheel in favor of a 360-hertz steel tuning fork, powered by electromagnets attached to a battery-powered transistor oscillator circuit. Designed by Max Hetzel, the Accutron made waves. It became the first wristwatch to be precise enough to be qualified for U.S. Railroad certification, guaranteed to be accurate to about one minute per month, or about two seconds per day.
The Accutron's success prompted Swiss brands to introduce their own versions of the technology. Universal Geneve released their first--and only--electric watch, the Ultrasonic, in the early 1960s. Like Universal Geneve, Wittnauer (then known mainly for their chronographs and their association with Longines) was an early adopter of this new technology.
R&D on what would become Switzerland's first electric movement began in the 1940s, spearheaded by designers André Breyer and René Besson of Ébauches SA. ESA secured the patent (numbers 345611 and 346828) for their electric movement in 1959. The movements--L4750/51--were assembled at ESA's manufacture at Landeron and used WD-5 batteries manufactured by Leclanché. Unlike its American counterparts by Bulova and Hamilton, the L4750 contained no magnets. Instead, the L4750 relied on the electric impulses produced by the contact wires reacting with the steel balance plate.
The first Wittnauer Electro-Chrons with the Landeron 4750 movements rolled off the production line at the close of 1960, and debuted at Basel in April 1961. Thirty different brands utilized this movement, among them Benrus and Gruen. But it's the Wittnauer Electro-Chron--with its distinctive hands shaped like lightning bolts--that remain among the most collectible, relics of an era just a few short years before the introduction of the industry-changing Quartz technology.
All this technical bit aside, the Wittnauer Electro-Chron also has another fascinating connection: to Major League Baseball. In the early 1960s, Wittnauer Electro-Chrons were presented to former Major Leaguers by the Cleveland Indians and the New York Yankees. This particular Electro-Chron that we are auctioning belonged to none other than famed (or infamous) shortstop "Rowdy" Richard Bartell.
Dick Bartell's career in the Major League Baseball began in 1927. In the nearly twenty years Bartell was in the Major Leagues, he played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Giants, Chicago Cubs, and Detroit Tigers. He played in three World Series and the first-ever All-Star game in 1933. At the time of his retirement in 1947, Bartell led the National League in double plays and had a batting average of .284 with an impressive 79 home runs. He is ranked at the 38th Best Shortstop in Major League Baseball history.
This watch was presented to Bartell by the owners of the New York Yankees at Old-Timers' Day at Yankee Stadium, July 28, 1962. Analog/Shift located and presented it to former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and now, Mayor Giuliani has partnered with us to auction it for charity - and what better charity than the Horological Society of New York?
Stainless Steel case is approximately 36mm, excluding crown. Landeron 4750 Electric movement. Circa 1962.
Overall Condition: Stainless steel case is in very good condition over all, with sharp lugs and no signs of over-polishing. Shows light signs of wear from age and use, including some light scratches and pitting on the sides of the case and case back. Original dial bears insignia of the New York Yankees. Hands and hour markers are in excellent condition with only minimal patination from age. Signed crown; original stamped case back bears engraving "Old-Timers Day, 1-28-62. Dick Bartell."
Includes original 18mm stretch metal bracelet by Kreisler.
Also includes typed letter, dated 1982 and signed by Dick Bartell, authenticating the watch's provenance.