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What Stopwatch Was Used On 60 Minutes?

The "60 Minutes" stopwatch lasted from the late 1970s to 1998, when it was donated to the Smithsonian in honor of the program's 30th anniversary. After this, it was replaced, like so many things, by a computer — specifically, a CGI rendering — and it's been digital ever since.

Most sources will tell you that this stopwatch, as well as its digital representation, is an Aristo, a watch brand founded in the early 1900s in Pforzheim, Germany. That said, there are arguments to the contrary — the scuttlebutt around the horology forums points to the watch actually being a 1978 model Heuer Trackstar.

The confusion might come from a manufacturing deal between Aristo and Heuer in which the latter created timepieces for the former, with Aristo putting its name on the finished product. Either way, it's an understandable thing to get mixed up about, since CBS elected to remove the label from the watch seen on-screen in order to avoid seeming like a bunch of shills for Big Stopwatch.

The secret history of the 60 Minutes stopwatch

The "60 Minutes" stopwatch currently basking in public adulation at the Smithsonian isn't the first one used on the show, however. In fact, there were two others before it.

While the first two episodes of "60 Minutes" went without the anxiety-inducing tik-tik-tik-tik-tik of a humble timepiece, its third, which aired in October 1968, introduced a stopwatch manufactured by Minerva, a Swiss watchmaking company with roots going back to the mid-19th century. Not long after its CBS primetime debut, the Minerva was retired, replaced by a Heuer with a difficult-to-miss logo smack down the center.

The Heuer was then replaced by the model that would go on to enjoy the longest tenure on the air. But then came progress, with its impossible-to-break CGI and special effects, and whoever was in charge of shining the stopwatch before each episode of "60 Minutes" was out of a job.