The Synchronar watch has been in the news for over three decades of its production.
Sun Dayton (Ohio) Daily News, January 14, 1971
Inventor Selling Stock In Watch Run by Sun
By Jim Good, Daily News Business Editor
Roger Riehl has a wristwatch he believes is unique. It has no moving parts, is powered by the sun and probably will sell for $1,700.
To gain enough capital to produce it, Reihl Electron Corp. of Troy recently has begun sale of a public stock issue.
Riehl, a self-taught engineer, hopes to be the first on the market with this concept of a watch, which does not even look like a conventional watch other than the fact that it straps on the wrist.
There are not visible numbers or hands. That’s because the top is used to gather solar power. The time is read on the device’s side.
At the press of a button, the watch shows hours and minutes or minutes and seconds in digits like a scoreboard or a time-temperature sign.
A few minutes in the sun will store enough energy to run the watch’s integrated circuits indefinitely, its inventor said.
“The unit has a power of the equivalent of 2,000 transistors,” he said. “The watch is shock and vibration proof and will operate in from sub-freezing to boiling temperatures.
“The first units will sell for $1,700 and have a lifetime guarantee. “We believe there is a market to sell 12,000 units a year at this price range.
“By 1974, the price should be down in the $500 range.”
Riehl said he has been working on the watch for six years. Other work he has done locally includes the design of a navigational system and electronic scale for measuring liquor and a delicatessen scale for Hobart Manufacturing Co. He said he has also designed and built anti-skid brake computers for aircraft landing systems for B.F. Goodrich Co.
As far as higher education goes, Riehl said ” he did it the hard way. I graduated from high school and that was it.”
Troy Daily News, Thursday, February 11, 1971
Troy Inventor Offers Sun-Powered Wristwatch
By Mark Matthews, Troy News Staff Writer
The lonely inventor who turns out a dramatic new product from a tiny workroom has been replace by a fleet of drawing boards and hundreds of white shirted designer, right?
Wrong, proclaims Trojan Roger Riehl, who as invented what he feels is a better wristwatch – a solar-powered digital time-piece.
Production starts in July on the product that is so accurate and durable it will “put mechanical watch manufacturers out of business in 10 years.”
The watch which Riehl said will be “powered by the sun” since the sun’s light is transferred into the watch’s electronic mechanism via solar cells will be the same size as a normal man’s watch and weigh less.
It will lose less than 10 minutes a year and able to withstand fierce pounding on a hard surface, Riehl claims. And it will make learning time for young kids old hat. Press a small button and the exact time will show with lighted numbers on the edge. This will require a change in watch wearers’ habits – no one will look down at the face of a Riehl watch.
Of course, the first watches to be turned out by Riehl Electronics Corporation’s small Route 25 factory will be for collectors or the status seeking few. Soon though, if beginning production of 100 a month hits profitable ground, Riehl says prices of $1,000, $500, and possibly less are envisioned.
Within 10 years, according to the cheerfully enthusiastic Riehl, the watch will be mass-produced and selling for under $50. That’s when conventional watch manufactures had better start taking looking for other employment.
Riehl’s expectations have been buoyed by an article in the January 21 issue of Electronics magazine. The article predicted that by 1975 there will be a $50 million dollar a year business in electronic watches depending on whether volume production of the individual parts is picked up.
Riehl says the pick-up is already underway, with integrated circuits being produced at a faster, less expensive rate by RCA and other electronic gadgets. The circuits themselves are the most expensive part of the operation, Riehl said.
They come in at the middle of lightening-quick timing mechanism. The operation begins under the watch’s opaque glass window, where the solar cells are housed. Energy rescued from the sun's light (Riehl said a few minutes in the light will provide enough energy to help keep the watch running for a week) goes into batteries which store it and release it in regular amounts with the aid of a voltage regulator. The actual time keeping is done by an oscillator, with frequency controlled by either a quartz crystal or a tuning form (the quartz crystal version will lose only two minutes a year).
Inspiration for the watch came to Riehl in 1959, when he saw for the first time the use of integrated circuits by the military. Since then it has been a long financial climb before he was in a position to produce.
A native of Utica, N.Y., Riehl has been making far-out electronic devices since before he was 16, when he startled his hometown with a football scoreboard composed of junk.
He moved to Cleveland in 1960, joining in business with an electronically minded relative who owned a TV and radio repair shop. While there, Riehl invented a wide-space, dual channel two-way radio, the patent for which he sold to Dare, Inc., Troy.
When Dare needed assistance in repairing and modifying the radio, Riehl was offered a job. So Riehl moved to Troy in 1962, remaining with Dare until 1968.
A parti-time electronic business later blossomed into what is now Riehl Electronics Corporation (with 31 percent opened to public ownership) was begun in 1964. Products of the period since then have included the Spitfire transistor ignition system, a liquor inventory scale and Magnetach, an electronic tachometer and dwell meter.
A brief stint with Hobart Manufacturing resulted in the present production of a digital computing scale for delicatessens. But these inventions merely served to provide capital for production of the wristwatch. And it is the latest invention that will make Riehl and his partner Gerd Klingler rich, they hope. “I’ve always had the desire to make a lot of money, “Riehl said.
His ultimate dream is to have a production of the watch and whatever comes after it taken over by trusted subordinates, leaving Riehl full time for designing. What will emerge then is anybody’s guess.
1970's Magazine Feature
August, 2006 issue WatchTime
Letter to the Editor