The nerdiest wristwatches of all time
Do some programming, watch TV, and play some video games... all from your 1980s watch.
I’m going to propose an idea: The nerdy watches of the 1980s (and early 1990s) were far cooler (and far nerdier) than the smartwatches of today.
Google Wear? Apple Watch? No thanks. I’ll take a Seiko from the mid-80s, thank you very much.
What follows are, in my opinion, the absolute best of the nerdy watches. There are more — many more — such nerdy watches (which included calculators, actual transformer type toys, and more)… but these are my top picks.
The Seiko UC-2000
Released in 1984, the UC-2000 was an absolutely amazing little wearable computer.
A 50×28 resolution (monochrome) display. 4K of RAM. And, most cool of all, a keyboard dock so that you could do some programming or data entry… on your wristwatch.
The dock even had a thermal printer. So you could do some coding… then print out the results… all powered by your watch. So nifty.
Obviously there was no keyboard on the watch itself… which made the dock an absolute necessity. Still. Incredibly cool.
The Seiko Epson RC-20 Wrist Computer
What if I told you that, in 1985, we had a touch screen wristwatch computer that could run user definable software?
It’s true. Behold! The Seiko Epson RC-20 “Wrist Computer”!
This bad-boy was powered by an actual Z-80 CPU, had 2K of RAM and 8K of storage, and you could move data (including software) between it and a computer using a serial cable.
Think you can’t do anything on such a machine nowadays? Well, check this out… a port of the Google Chrome “T-Rex Offline mode game”… that plays entirely on the RC-20.
The developer even went and released the whole thing — along with details of how it was done — on GitHub.
The Seiko TV Watch
The Seiko TV Watch (which was released in 1982 in Japan, 1983 for the USA) had a 1.2 inch monochrome LCD display… that you could used to watch TV. Seriously.
The watch looked like an ordinary, mens wristwatch from the time (with a large, blank screen on the front).
The watch itself simply contained the display for watching TV… all the heavy lifting (tuning, etc.) was handled by a walkman-sized receiver. The receiver connected to the watch via a (removable) black connection dongle that sits at the top of the watch.
There was also a headphone jack so you could listen to your shows without bugging anyone else.
The Seiko TV Watch found its way into a number of movies, including 1983’s Octopussy and 1987’s Dragnet.
The Many (cheap) Video Game Watches
During the 1980s, and early 1990s, there were a great many video game (and video game themed) watches produced. These were incredibly simple “replicas” of the big named games of the time — from Super Mario to Donkey Kong and Tetris.
Lots and lots of Nintendo and Namco related watches were produced — and there’s an entire community that collects these bad boys.
The watches tended to be rather cheaply made — lots of cheap plastic — with the wrist straps often breaking quite easily. Still. Cheap video game on your wrist. As a kid in the 1980s and early 1990s… can’t go wrong with that.
Nowadays the prices for these collectible, retro wristwatches range from $10… to a few hundred dollars.
The Timex / Microsoft Data-Link
Let’s end with an extremely funky little watch: The 1994 Data-Link from Timex… and Microsoft.
What makes this was truly unique (and truly strange) is that you can load data onto it… from your computer monitor.
Seriously. You point the front of the watch at your computer screen, and bars of flashing light transmit data to the watch.
The Data-Link was pitched as an alternative to the PDAs of the time, though possessed very few features of its own (outside of looking at your address book). And, even then, you were usually talking about only being able to hold 50 phone numbers in the base model.
Despite that, it proved incredibly popular… among space travelers. Not kidding.
Various incarnations of the Data-Link line (as it continued for many years, and even eventually got a USB variant) were used on several space missions from multiple agencies.
Which, despite this being my least favorite of the nerdy watches, definitely earns it a spot on this list.