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CEH Researchers

In the 1960s an interdisciplinary group of researchers within CEH strove to design a completely new product based on untested technology in a very short time.

Some of the researchers came fresh from Swiss university programs in physics or electrical engineering. Others were seasoned scientific investigators, most with Swiss educations and work experience in cutting-edge American laboratories. At CEH the researchers worked in secrecy and under pressure to succeed.

The researchers named their first quartz wristwatch prototypes Beta 1 and Beta 2. The two kinds of prototypes, constructed with integrated circuits developed and fabricated at CEH, differed from each other in the way they rotated the watch hands.

The Beta 1 prototypes used a tiny "stepping" motor to turn the hands in one--second steps, rather than in a smooth circle. The Beta 2 prototypes turned the hands smoothly, with a vibrating motor and ratchet mechanism, and consumed less power than the Beta 1.

When the prototypes proved the feasibility of the new electronics technology for watches in time trials at the Neuchâtel Observatory in 1967, the lab went on to design a commercial quartz wristwatch containing the Beta 21 module.

Armin Frei was one of the Swiss-educated researchers that CEH Director Roger Wellinger repatriated from the United States. Frei, who had received his Ph.D. at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich worked for RCA at what is now the David Sarnoff Research Center in Princeton, N. J., and at Varian Associates in Palo Alto, Calif., a firm that pioneered atomic time standards. At CEH Frei investigated the feasibility of using a miniaturized quartz crystal as a time standard for wristwatches in 1965 and 1966. He developed a workable high-quality resonator-a bar-shaped piece of quartz that vibrated at a stable 8,192 Hz (times per second) when proper voltage was applied. He also developed an integrated low-power oscillator circuit on a chip to keep the quartz vibrating and a device with integrated electronics for fine-tuning the quartz frequency. Quartz oscillators with these basic features would remain the CEH standard through a series of prototypes tested at the Neuchâtel Observatory and for the first 6000 watches manufactured for sale.

Rolf Lochinger was another of the CEH scientists who received his Ph.D. at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and then went to work for RCA in the United States, at what is now the Sarnoff Research Center in Princeton, N.J.. Collaborating with Armin Frei at CEH, Lochinger studied and designed circuits that enabled the watch's quartz unit to work together with other components necessary for keeping time. He focused special attention on a workable circuit for dividing down the 8,192 Hz of the quartz to one pulse per second to rotate the hands of the watch. He also studied stepping micromotors for moving the hands and designed driver circuits for them.

Beginning in 1966 Jean Hermann, an electrical engineer educated in Switzerland, supervised the technical process for entering CEH prototypes in the observatory time trials. During the process he developed, with technician François Niklès, a stepping micromotor to turn the hands of the Beta 1 prototypes. Hermann also had help from other colleagues, including Jean Fellrath, in developing the integrated circuits used in the Beta 1 to divide down the frequency of the quartz to make it usable in a wristwatch. Hermann himself developed an integrated circuit to compensate for variations in quartz frequency caused by temperature changes. After the trials, he improved features of the quartz resonator to make it suitable for manufacturing in large numbers.

Henri Oguey, with a background in electrical engineering and a doctorate from the technical university in Zurich, had worked for IBM in both Zurich and New York. At CEH, with technician Rolf Lüdin, he developed a vibrating micromotor to turn the hands on the Beta 2 watch prototypes. In contrast to the stepping micromotor of the Beta 1 prototypes, Oguey's vibrating motor turned the hands smoothly, rather than in jumps. Oguey also had help from his colleague Jean Fellrath to devise an integrated driver circuit for the vibrating motor. Once the prototype with the vibrating motor he had designed demonstrated its suitability, Oguey went on to improve the electronics and organize the manufacturing of what would become the commercial product, Beta 21 module.

Eric Vittoz
In 1962-1963, in CEH's earliest days, electronics engineer Eric Vittoz had demonstrated the feasibility of using quartz as a time base in a small clock that required very little power. Prototype
He became an expert in the electronics of frequency division, that is, schemes for dividing down the high frequency of a quartz oscillator to a much lower one usable to drive the hands in a watch. And as his colleagues were preparing the prototypes for the observatory trials and first production runs, Vittoz completed his doctorate and began developing the next generation of Swiss watch electronics-frequency dividers and quartz oscillator circuits with very low-voltage CMOS (complementary metal oxide semiconductor) integrated circuits.

CEH Managers ~ Before 1960 ~ After 1960

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