Today, as we see the launch of new technology such as the “Fit Bit” and the “Apple Watch,” it is important to acknowledge that Apple was not the first company to bring health conscientiousness to our wrists. It was as early as the 1920’s that people began monitoring their health with a watch. It was the creation of the Pulsometer, also known as the Pulsograph that allowed those in the medical profession to simplify the process of taking a pulse through a convenient scale marked on the watch. The construction was not as great technologically speaking, but the complications and intricacies of the movements inside the Pulsometer watches were arguably as complex and innovative. The technology has been greatly improved upon and simplified into new processes today, but the Pulsometer began some of the first connections between health and watches.
The Pulsometer scale is normally located along the exterior of the dial, though it is sometimes found closer to the center of the display. The scale’s unique aesthetics beg the question: how does a Pulsometer function work? The pulsation scale is designed to measure heart beats per minute. It is generally accompanied by a chronograph to assist with determining the patient’s pulse. There are also some examples that are non-chronographs that utilize the Pulsometer scale. The tachymeter style scale is typically calibrated for 15 or 30 heart beats. After the chronograph is started, the second hand is stopped at the patient’s 15th or 30th heartbeat and the dial will then indicate the frequency per minute without having to multiply by four through mental math. Seen below is a rare vintage Longines 13ZN Chronograph with mono-pusher. It features a two-tone pulsation dial, and was sold to Argentina in 1939. Crown & Caliber inventory to be listed soon.
As mentioned before, there are some non-chronograph versions of this watch. Without a chronograph stop-start function, one must wait until the second hand reaches the start of the scale on the watch and then count the number of pulsations and make a note of the position of the second hand. Seen here, the Slava Medical watch is an example of a Pulsometer without a chronograph. The Slava features two divided scales to ensure that a physician will not wait more than a few seconds before being able to restart taking a pulse at the beginning of the scale.
In case this doesn’t sound like a very great achievement, the more common way of taking a pulse rate is to count the number of pulsations over 15 seconds and multiply by 4. Using one of these watches allows the direct reading of the rate without needing to do multiplication in your head. While a multiplication shortcut might not seem like much, it does save time, but most importantly it will reduce human error which directly affects patient care.
With many options on the market today, the Pulsometer watch might not be the most practical to monitor your health. Regardless, it should still be appreciated for being an innovation, as are the Apple watch and various other fitness watches we see today. As of late, the Pulsometer scale has made a resurgence thanks to its aesthetic appeal. One notable 2014 release featuring the Pulsometer Scale is the Montblanc Meisterstück Heritage Pulsograph. It appears that the history of the Pulsometer has certainly lived on even if the functionality has not.
See Pulsometers Below:
Below is a Breitling Top Time Chronograph currently in Crown & Caliber owned inventory.
Shown here is one of the earlier Pulsometers on record in the form of a pocket watch that dates to around 1930. This watch sold in 2009 for $4800 CHF at Antiquorum’s Auction House. Alongside the pocket watch to the right is another Rolex Pulsometer scale featured on a Daytona. Made in 1969; this piece sold for a whopping 167,200 CHF at Antiquorum’s auction house in 2008.
Here is the new 2014 release of the Montblanc Meisterstück Heritage Pulsograph in rose gold as seen on “ablogtowatch.” The pulsation scale is located on the outer edge of the dial to add an aesthetic element.
It was not long ago, back in 2013, that Longines also decided to release an Ashmometer-Pulsometer as a throw back to its 1963 predecessor used as a medical watch. This was featured in Hodinkee back in 2013. The article shows a great visual comparison of the new and old watch, both very sterile looking using stainless steel with red and blue on a white background.
For comparison, here is a new innovative fitness watch recently featured on aBlogtoWatch, shown monitoring the wearer’s pulse. There is certainly something to be said about the aesthetic beauty of the Pulsograph, but we still cannot discredit the functionality and technology of the new fitness watches and smart watches.