I've been a fan of watches for a very long time. I don’t mean stupidly expensive luxury Swiss watches. I’ve nothing against them, except their prices. But I have a strong affection for certain designs and styles. Years ago, I was deep into Swatch. Yes, Swatch. I was even a “club member” and was granted early first-dibs access to new designs as they rolled out each season. Swatch just never stops. (And don’t you love that loud ticking? I do.)
I have more G-shock Casio watches than I'd normally admit in public. Black, dark military blue, white, military green… They last forever and have that perfect balance between retro, practicality and fashion. They also step on both sides of the sporty/handy side and the nerd side, so you can blend right into society and leave everyone guessing.
But I also focus on late 70s and early 80s digital watches, too. My focus is almost entirely consumed by SEIKO, but I’ve dipped my toes into Citizen waters as well. Maybe it was born from a tech obsession perpetuated by Sir Roger Moore. In fact, I’m pretty sure of that was part of it. And pretty much any sci-fi movie that sported a digital watch I had to go hunt it down. One of my favorites is the one worn by Sigourney Weaver in Aliens. But when you research that watch, you quickly find yourself looking at the SEIKO computer watches, too. You know - the ones that came with their own keyboards.
Anyway, I just picked up a total crown jewel: a near-mint SEIKO A547-5059. Based on my research I believe this watch was released in 1981. In Japan at the time it retailed for 26,000 Yen. That would have been approximately $120 in US dollars back then. In today’s 2018 economy that translates to around $340 or so.
For a digital watch.
These watches have just enough features to be very feature-rich but not obnoxious or hard to use.
Fear not. I didn't pay the 1981 prices. I got really lucky.
It’s worth noting that this is from the Sports 100 line, which offered a more rugged build as well as water resistance. It’s not the highly coveted “SilverWave” line, which could be used for scuba diving. But it could support swimming, snorkeling and shallow diving down from 5 - 20 BARs (50 - 200 meters, which is very deep) depending on the model. The design of the waves on the back denotes the BAR potential.
My "new" watch has what I presume is a birthday from a previous owner engraved into the back. Pretty cool, IMO, as this was obviously a cherished watch. Rightly so.
In any case, it’s pretty rare to find these “ancient” watches in this kind of condition. All of the button work, the light, even the little sounds from the speaker - it’s all 100% awesome.
A lovely lady draped across the hood of a ... tank. Because that always makes sense.
I've sold many of the watches above over the years. Part of my "catch and release" program. But I've hung onto a couple. Those albums showcase about 10-20% of what I've picked up over the years. No sense in showing all of it, right? So many I got very cheaply simply because I liked the design. I'd wear it for a year (or less) then tuck it away after getting a replacement. You know - moods change.
Note: It's always feels right over on Ebay when I start to "Watch" a watch auction. And I can see there are X number of others "watching".
Yeah, I agree. The "problem" we face is digital watches cost almost nothing to produce. At least, that's somewhat true. Where things get potentially interesting is the build quality. For example, the very 80s and nearly dainty Casio F91W-1 can be bought brand new for $10. As nostalgic as that watch is, that kind of kills things market-wise for a lot of people as they perceive a lack of quality associated with digital watches. An inherent "cheapness".
But if you look at the (no longer available) Casio G-Shock 5600J, that watch cost nearly $100 ten years ago.
They don't make a U.S. version, but you can get the Japanese version for a whopping $300! Looks the same. But the build quality is supposed to be insanely high, and apparently Casio believes only the Japanese market appreciates it.
In any case, I believe if SEIKO were to follow Casio's lead - or for that matter, VW with the Beetle - they could build some very high-quality scuba or sports digital watches with the look of yesteryear and find a very nice market. And those stainless steel bands - which ran for the equivalent price of $300 back in the early 80's - could probably be matched today, too.
I know I'd be getting in line.
I mean, just imagine if the amazing SEIKO G757 from Octopussy was available brand new today. It'd be a no-brainer for me.
Also a Sports 100 model, but a bit beefier.
I had one of these amazing looking watches once. But that specific model is notorious for having screen issues. I got it, wore it once or twice, then threw it back just to get my money back before it broke down. But man it was sweet. . .
On a side note - one of the great benefits of these older watches is their thickness. Unlike trendy watches today that look ridiculously large, these older one actually fit under a shirt sleeve effortlessly.
I have a Seiko analogue watch that was given to me by my grandfather when his eyesight started to fail. Decades later it still works beautifully and I still wear it everyday. Not being a carrier of a mobile phone, I actually rely on the clunky metal thing strapped to my wrist to tell the time!
Loving those early 80s digital watches. I could easily get addicted to collecting these (along with all the other useless stuff I collect - old Amigas, records, synthesizers..)
And Ripley’s watch in Aliens - what a beauty! Wonderfully utilitarian looking, in keeping with the tech of the movie.
Super cool! I love old watches but I don't have many of them. Just remembered that I found a Casio DBC-300 in my closet recently, though, so I'm sitting here looking at it now. Pretty wicked. Thanks for the reminder of how awesome these things can be.
As some of you know, I'm a huge fan of Back to the Future (BTTF) and some of the product designs found in the first two movies. Earlier this week I started poking around to figure out the which digital watch Marty was wearing in the first movie. I've done this in the past with several James Bond movies, Alien, Aliens and others. It's kind of a fun exercise. I was home from work with a cold, so sometimes this is where bored brains go.
Back to the Future is a pretty well-documented movie at this point. It didn't take long to determine the watch I was after was a Casio, although the specific model number took a couple extra clicks. Many say it was a Casio CA-50 in BTTF, but they switched to the CA-53W in future films. Get it? Future...films?
Anyway here it is in the original movie from 1985.
Little did that big honkin' camera he's holding realize that it would soon be meeting a Video Toaster in five years.
I had a friend in 8th grade who had one of these and I'd always been rather jealous of it. I remember he used to use a #2 pencil to tap the tiny buttons to perform basic calculations, and I sat there wondering how cool it must be to be part cyborg like that.
Two years earlier in 6th grade I'd had a Nelsonic Pacman watch, which I just adored and was the envy of many of my classmates. It had four little directional buttons in the cardinal positions and a sharp LCD screen with piercing beeps and bloops. It even played (iirc) Dixie for the alarm chime. I remember not knowing how to set or deactivate the alarm and getting in a lot of trouble by a librarian when it went off once. I finally had to leave my watch at home as it kept going off in class. Not to mention it was garnering a lot of attention since I had an arcade strapped to my wrist. It ultimately got banned from class by my 6th grade teacher.
I've no idea what ever happened to that watch. It was a cheap little thing, but these days they fetch enormous sums on Ebay.
Back to BTTF, I soon discovered to my surprise that not only does Casio still produce these iconic watches, but they are dirt cheap. This has always been one of my main reasons for avoiding the Casio lines except for the high-quality G-Shocks, which I adore (snobbery!), but I figured what the heck - it's only $18!
Now it isn't the original CA-50, but the CA-53W we're looking at here which was used in the 2nd and 3rd movies. Close enough.
I got it within a couple of days and put it on. Right off the bat I was surprised at how thin (yet comfortable) the band was when I wrapped it around my wrist. It's not a head turner, but it hits a ton of those nostalgia buttons at a very small cost.
Here she is.
I see that look on your face - of raw jealousy that I can calculate how to get back to 1985.
Current status. I love this watch so much, I've changed the band 3 times. They will eventually crack after a couple of years, but you can find brand new shrinkwrapped official band replacements on Ebay.