Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

A '70S Design That the Decade Just Wasn't Ready for ; Mechanical Digital Face on a Wedge-Shaped Case Gets Reverent Makeover

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

A '70S Design That the Decade Just Wasn't Ready for ; Mechanical Digital Face on a Wedge-Shaped Case Gets Reverent Makeover

Article excerpt

The "jumping hours" of the HM5 by MB&F will remind aficionados of the Amida Digitrend.

In 1972, as European watchmakers faced the full onslaught of Japanese quartz watches, the Swiss watch brand Amida decided to fight back, designing a futuristic-looking mechanical digital watch that it named the Digitrend.

Instead of revolving hands, the watch featured hour and minute numerals painted onto two rotating disks -- a novelty design known as jumping hours and minutes -- to be viewed through a window set into the case.

The wedge-shaped case, holding the movement and the horizontal display discs, was designed with gadget lovers in mind, while the hour and minute numbers were painted orange to mimic the appearance of newly fashionable light-emitting diode displays. Even more unusual, the numbers were printed backward, for display through a prism and mirror combination that allowed them to be read correctly in the crystal window set into the vertical front "dashboard" face of the case.

Amida's rearguard action failed, and the company folded 18 months later, recalled Max Busser, owner and creative director of the independent watchmaker MB&F, during a recent interview.

The Digitrend "was not only mechanical, which at the time was considered completely old-school, but it was also extremely difficult to read," Mr. Busser said.

Yet, more than 40 years later, Amida's design and concept has been resuscitated and re-explored in MB&F's new model, the HM5 "On the Road Again."

Amida's watch "was a great idea poorly executed, and at the absolutely wrong time," Mr. Busser said.

From a design perspective, the 1970s were a great era for creative watchmaking, he said. "Up till then watch designs were pretty boring because they were really devoted only to practicality - - with the exception of the Art Deco '30s era. …

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