PARIS — René Le Coultre, who helped pioneer the world’s first quartz wristwatch, died last week at his home in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, at 100, said Jean-Daniel Pasche, president of the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry.
Dubbed Beta 1, the mechanism was invented in 1967 at the Centre Electronique Horloger in Neuchâtel, which Le Coultre cofounded. It allowed for the mass production of highly accurate quartz-based wristwatches that enabled the Swiss to compete with the Japanese and American markets. Today, three in every four timepieces produced in Switzerland are electronic quartz watches, according to the federation’s web site.
Le Coultre, who was born in Milan in 1918, was technical director of the federation from 1958 to 1971. He also served as director of research at Rolex in Geneva between 1971 and 1989.
Le Coultre had celebrated his 100th birthday in early August, according to Pasche, who said he died peacefully in his sleep. “He was a great personality of the watch industry,” he said.