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The Return of the Amida Digitrend Driver’s Watch

Reviving a 1970s space-age oddity characterized by its horizontal digital display powered by a mechanical movement.

| By Xavier Markl | 4 min read |

The 1970s were a period of radical change, marked by significant events but also strong evolutions of the design language. Many different styles emerged from the period, futuristic, outlandish shapes, smooth surfaces, innovative materials, and explosions of bright colours marked the design of this wild decade. Well, if you’re 1970s-ready, a space-age oddity from the period is back in a faithful way. Here’s the return of the funky Amida Digitrend, a unique driver’s watch featuring a digital display read horizontally through an optical inverting prism, and powered by a mechanical movement.

Initially established in Grenchen during the 1920s, Amida has long focused on crafting affordable Roskopf-type watches. Yet, one of the models for which the brand is best-known for is a watch like no other, a pure product from the 1970s, the Amida Digitrend. 

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Presented in 1976, this futuristic driver’s watch had no dial but featured an innovative lateral digital time display. Its primary object was to propose a wristwatch without the need to turn the wrist to read the time, especially when driving. It was based on light-refracting inverting prisms (dubbed LRD for Light Reflecting Display), giving the digits the looks and legibility of a LED-type electronically illuminated display. Its movement operates horizontally but a prism reflects the hour and minute discs vertically.

Powered with a pin-lever or jewelled lever hand-wound movement (with 1 or 17 jewels), the 39.8mm model was an affordable mechanical alternative to the contemporary, innovative LED watches such as the Girard-Perregaux Casquette, Bulova Computron or Mido Swissonic, all introduced during the same period. Still, it has to be noted that the first patent application by Zeno Hurt (the inventor) dates back to 1973, while the affordable jumping hour-dragging minute movement (without the prism display concept) was developed and patented a few years before.

The Digitrend met enough success to become part of the watch design history, however, Amida couldn’t weather the storm of the quartz crisis, ultimately declaring bankruptcy in 1979. Giving credit where credit is due, Max Büsser and MB&F played an essential role in shining a spotlight on the Amida Digitrend, notably drawing inspiration for the HM5, HMX and HM8 models. 

The return of the Amida Digitrend

Fast forward 50 years, and with 1970s design coming back in style, the return of the Amida Digitrend is orchestrated by a trio. Matthieu Allègre; a watch designer who has worked behind the scenes for some great names in the industry. Clément Meynier; a watch aficionado and entrepreneur, founder of Koppo and Depancel. Bruno Herbet; an experienced watch movement engineer. 

The 2024 rendition of the Digitrend is pretty faithful to its 1976 predecessor. Retaining its distinctive look and technical concept, the sleek, futuristic car-body-inspired case has been subtly reworked to enhance its fluid profile. While maintaining its emblematic cover hood, the updated design now features a partially open back, offering a glimpse of the mechanical movement’s balance wheel. With a width of 39mm to 36mm, the dimensions are quite similar. The main evolution is the increased thickness at 15.60 mm (for the prism side of the case) versus 14.60mm for the original model. But you now get the practicality of an automatic movement. Water resistance is rated at 50 meters. The display has been reworked with a redesigned minute window and a new typography, still in emblematic orange though.

Its mechanical movement is based on the modern Soprod Newton P092. Presented in 2020, this automatic calibre runs at 4Hz and boasts 44 hours of power Reserve. Held under a transversal bridge, the balance wheel is positioned at 6 o’clock which, from a design perspective, was ideal for Amida to open partially the caseback. The finishes include rhodium-plating, sand-blasting, Geneva stripes and circular graining. The customized rotor is openworked. The jumping hour / dragging minute display is driven by a module developed in-house (by Bruno Herbet). Its dual-disc construction is made of only 9 components and it doubles as both a plate and a casing ring. The digits are featured in reverse/mirror printing to be read via the prism.

The Amida Digitrend Take-Off edition is presented on a charcoal Alcantara strap with an orange calfskin lining and fitted with a pin buckle. There is also an integrated wide-link bracelet option.

The Amida Digitrend Take-Off edition can be purchased on pre-order from May 28th, 2024 with deliveries planned from October 2024. It will be available online as well as with a handful of selected retailers. The price is set at CHF 2,900 (excluding taxes).

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6 responses

  1. My concern would be how the case might look after some daily wear…seems like a magnet for scratches & dents….some design elements on the case might help disguise daily wear “souvenirs”.

  2. The creator and/or bank roller of this watch should be having a panic attack. wtf.

  3. I’m
    Concerned as well about how the case will fare with daily use.

  4. From where I am, 2900 plus import taxes and VAT means I’m not too far off buying a Casquette.

  5. Imho it should be priced same as original in NOS condition, around 1300-1400 euro.

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