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Lot No. 4
Lot No. 4
Estimate  300 - 3,000 €
Price Realised  2,800 €
This is a lot of the last auction!

Junghans electronic "ASTRO-CHRON"

, Case No. 00638, 205 x 115 x 60 mm, circa 1967

A rare and early table clock with quartz movement - the first clock with quartz movement developed for private use

Case: brass, rhodium-plated. Dial: silvered. Movm.: precision quartz movement.

Quartz clocks are generally regarded as a product of the 1970s, when they became a relatively low-cost mass product that competed against the traditional mechanical timepieces and plunged the horological industry into a deep crisis. The history of the quartz clock, however, goes back much further in the 20th century: In 1927, Bell Laboratories in New York presented the first quartz clock and from 1932 on quartz timepieces were used in research laboratories in Germany, from 1938 on also in Great Britain.

The Black Forest manufacturer Junghans was a pioneer in this field and began developing a quartz clock for use in private homes in the late 1950s; the company received a number of patents for this technology between 1963 and 1968. When the result of their research was ready to be presented to the public, Junghans used a special marketing campaign to launch the "ASTRO-CHRON" clock: A clock that had been sealed by a notary on January 1, 1967 was presented to the press on March 15; the time error in the three months past only came to approximately three seconds – which was at the time a sensational achievement and Junghans fully expected to conquer the market with their novel timekeeper.

The movement is vastly different to what sits inside a modern quartz timepiece today. First, the quartz was installed in a glass cylinder in the shape and size of an old-fashioned electron tube, and second, the clock was not driven by a stepper motor but by an electronic oscillator rotating visibly and fast, thus ensuring the continuous running of the second hand (which was an untypical feature in a quartz clock). In combination with the eleven upright plates, the whole arrangement looks, to modern eyes, rather like a movement or demonstration model.

To convey the high standards Junghans was aiming for, the technology – which was, compared to today’s clocks taking up extravagant amounts of space more in line with a demonstration model than an everyday timepiece – was housed in a heavy, high-value case of solid brass designed in a clear-cut, bold design that still appeals to the eye today. The sober, plain dial is surrounded by representations of the world time zones, while a disc on the back of the clock determines the time in the capitals of the world. The high-quality configuration had its price: 785 marks were a considerable sum to pay for a timepiece – and eventually the reason why Junghans’ engineering marvel did not turn into a commercial success. In comparison, a VW Beetle for example cost 4500 DM in 1967.

Only approximately 5,000 examples of the "ASTRON-CHRON" models were produced in total – making this first commercially produced quartz clock a rare piece of technical history.
Case: very good
Dial: very good
Movm.: very good, capable of running

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