As a rule, we rarely cover battery-powered watches on MONOCHROME – but rules are made to be broken, or at least make exceptions. And the quirky Gelfman IN-16 Nixie provided the perfect opportunity. With its retro-futuristic design, this digital display watch is simply in a class of its own… as the jury of the GPHG confirmed in 2022, nominating it for the Petite Aiguille. I have always been fascinated by clocks using Nixie tubes, and the idea to strap a watch using such a display on my wrist was really tempting!
The future is not what you thought it would be… Seemingly a blend of old-fashioned retro styles with futuristic technology, the Gelfman IN-16 Nixie is a perfect example of how the tension between the past and future can produce some of the quirkiest and most fascinating designs. This space-age creation relies on yesteryear digital technology with two nixie tubes held in a quirky hand-polished stainless-steel case.
The name of the watch is featured on one side of the case, and the individual limited-edition number on the other. With dimensions of 45.9mm x 47.8mm, this beast of a watch is definitely not for the faint of heart. If it won’t slip under your cuff, it feels great on the wrist and these oversized proportions are actually part of the unique charm of the Gelfman IN-16 Nixie. And it is definitely a great conversation starter on the wrist…
As said, the time is displayed digitally by two Nixie tubes and their grid of wire mesh shaped to form numerals in glowing orange. Nixie are cold cathode tubes, using a glow discharge and a variant of the neon lamp. The name Nixie was derived by Burroughs corporation which commercialized these, from “NIX1”, an abbreviation of “Numerical Indicator Experiment No. 1”. These early digital displays have been eclipsed by LEDs, but their quirky glow has such an irreplaceable charm.
If the display relies on one of the oldest digital display technologies (Swiss manufacturer Gelfman AG has acquired old stock Nixie tubes from the 1980s to manufacture these watches), we’re talking about a watch from the 21st century. The Gelfman IN-16 Nixie can be controlled and programmed via computer. The user can choose the time format, the preferred backlight, adjust the brightness, and many more thanks to an intuitive, user-friendly interface. The watch is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery offering a 7-day power reserve and that can be charged thanks to a USB magnetic charging cable.
Like for early LED wristwatches, a push-piece activates the display (among other reasons to avoid depleting the battery too quickly). Pressing it once or twice allows you to display the hours and minutes successively or the date and month. The percentage of battery left can be checked by pressing it three times. The watch also incorporates an accelerometer, so you can also illuminate the display shaking your wrist.
The Gelfman IN-16 Nixie is worn on a dark grey rubber strap fitted with a steel double pin buckle. It is delivered in a cool rocket-inspired presentation case. Released in a limited edition of 999 pieces, it is available exclusively online with Gelfman. The price is set at EUR 6,999. If the design is definitely polarizing, the watch is smartly thought-out, beautifully crafted and meticulously finished. As far as I am concerned, I love it!
For more information, please visit www.gelfman.ch.