The first digital pocket watch was the invention of Austrian engineer Josef Pallweber who created his "jump-hour" mechanism in 1883. Instead of a conventional dial, the jump-hour featured two windows in an enamel dial, through which the hours and minutes are visible on rotating discs. The second hand remained conventional. By 1885 Pallweber mechanism was already on the market in pocket watches by Cortébert and IWC; arguably contributing to the subsequent rise and commercial success of IWC. The principles of Pallweber jump-hour movement had appeared in wristwatches by the 1920s (Cortébert) and are still used today (Chronoswiss Digiteur). While the original inventor didn't have a watch brand at the time, his name has since been resurrected by a newly established watch manufacturer.
Plato clocks used a similar idea but a different layout. These spring-wound pieces consisted of a glass cylinder with a column inside, affixed to which were small digital cards with numbers printed on them, which flipped as time passed. The Plato clocks were introduced at the St. Louis World Fair in 1904, produced by Ansonia Clock Company. Eugene Fitch of New York patented the clock design in 1903. 13 years earlier Josef Pallweber had patented the same invention using digital cards (different from his 1885 patent using moving disks) in Germany (DRP No. 54093). The German factory Aktiengesellschaft für Uhrenfabrikation Lenzkirch made such digital clocks in 1893 and 1894.
The earliest patent for a digital alarm clock was registered by D.E Protzmann and others on October 23, 1956, in the United States. Protzmann and his associates also patented another digital clock in 1970, which was said to use a minimal amount of moving parts. Two side-plates held digital numerals between them, while an electric motor and cam gear outside controlled movement.
In 1970, the first digital wristwatch with an LED display was mass-produced. Called the Pulsar, and produced by the Hamilton Watch Company, this watch was hinted at two years prior when the same company created a prototype digital watch for Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Throughout the 1970s, despite the initial hefty cost of digital watches, the popularity of said devices steadily rose.
Over the years, many different types of digital alarm clocks have been developed.
In the Soviet Union, the 7-segment digital clocks were known as Elektronika 7.