1971 Solar LED Uranus Prototype

Uranus Electronics, Inc. of Port Chester, New York, USA was a pioneer in the design and manufacture of digital wristwatches in the 1970’s. Morris Levine, the President, and Arthur Cake, the head engineer, obtained US patent 3981138 for an electronic digital watch ("Digital Display Timepiece"). The application was filed December 2, 1974 http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-bool.html&r=3&f=G&l=50&co1=AND&d=PTXT&s1=3981138&OS=3981138&RS=3981138

In addition, Mr. Cake was awarded patent 3946549 (filed December 26, 1973) for an "Electronic Alarm Watch." Uranus Electronics, Inc. was the assignee.

Uranus manufactured some of the earliest LED digital watches - battery powered and solar. The best known model is the calculator watch, which came in solar and battery powered versions. http://www.ledwatches.net/photo-pages/uranus2.htm


I have not been able to find an exact date for the watch. It was probably made in 1971 or 1972. A number of sources describe this a prototype watch. I have found two other examples of this watch to-date. One sold on ebay in 2006 and is shown on the Led Watches website http://www.ledwatches.net/photo-pages/uranus-proto2.htm. The seller of the watch did not know the background of the watch except that his father had a watch store and had the Uranus in his collection of watches.

Peter Wenzig has an example in his collection on his “Magic Digitals” website and a great photograph of the complex structure of the watch. The photographs are at http://www.digitalwatches.de/ENGLISH_INDEX.HTM under the section on “LED watches”

This is a heavy watch with a gold filled case. It is a very complex watch, made up a many separate integrated circuit components rathter than the later techniques using large scale integrated circuits. The layout of the watch is unique. The upper half of the face contains the LED display while the lower half is taken up with solar cells arranged in a semi-circle.

Frank Filangeri was Manufacturing Manager at Uranus between 1974 and 1976. He provided some background about the company and his work there in an interview and correspondence in 2006 and 2007.

Mr. Filangeri explained that their chips came from various sources in the United States, including Solitron. Uranus purchased the waffers and diced their own chips.

The cases were mainly imported but the better ones came from Feurer Brothers in New York. This is the company that made the cases and buttons for Uranus’ calculator watch.

In 2003, when I visited Roger Riehl, he commented that he had contact with Uranus and there had been some transfer of information between firms. Mr. Filangeri did not know of any contact between Uranus and Mr. Riehl but thought it might have been before his time at Uranus. Mr. Filangreri was not involved with the production of any of the solar watches at Uranus.

Hamilton sued a number of companies for patent infringement over their ownership of the patent of an electronic digital watch. Mr. Filangeri recalled that Uranus was one of the firms sued and paid a royalty to Hamilton.

Mr. Filangeri recollected the names of several other people associated with Uranus. Harvey Suderman was the marketing manager of Uranus. He left Uranus to start his own watch company. Tony Malfitani was another engineer.

The economics of electronic watches changed very rapidly. While the calculator watch sold for around $800 USD in 1976, it proved impossible to command these prices in light of the foreign competition and much lower prices.

Mr. Filangeri recalled Uranus stopped manufacturing watches not long after he left in 1976. Morris Levine passed away on November 13, 2006.

Mr. Filangeri went on to another electronic watch company, Mercury Time. In the new reality of lower cost foreign manufacturing, Mercury was a firm that imported watches and bands and resold them.