The story is full of devices that were ahead of their time. I do not mean literary or cinematographic machines and tablet Kubrick or multiple predictions of Verne, but other devices that were put on sale for decades and now we realize that are very similar to some of the latest gadgets in the market.
One such invention was Seiko’s TV Watch. In its day this oddity was considered and recognized as the world’s smallest television, and even made appearances in films, but today no one can escape his striking resemblance to the current smart watches, and somehow could say that we Before a distant relative.
In search of the revolution
The history of this device began in 1972, but the first step was not given by Seiko but another American company called Hamilton. They were the creators of Pulsar P1, the first digital wristwatch in history. The Japanese acquired Americans, and began their own way to the digital age launching its first watch of this kind in 1973.
At that time it was said that society was moving toward a revolution in visual information, and to join it with its new range of watches the Japanese company began working on the research and development of panels of liquid crystal display (LCD) matrix active they were able to reproduce moving images.
During the following years these efforts helped to make their watches become smaller and thinner, with a greater density in their components and more energy efficient. Also they were implementing new features like stopwatches and calculators.
After three years of development and invested hundreds of millions of yen, the summer of 1982 Seiko announced in Tokyo a new watch. It was the Watch TV, the first to get that finally we could watch TV on our wrist.
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That was Seiko’s TV Watch
A watch that you can watch TV. Today this concept seems simple, but at that time, being able to carry it out was a little more complicated. The TV Watch was composed of three different elements that had to be connected together to make it work. The result was a science fiction product, yes, but a little awkward to wear.
On the one hand, we had the clock, but this had to connect to a radio and television the size of a walkman. We also needed headphones, and these also had to be connected to the signal receiver. And how could you carry so much cable over a fairly comfortable way? Very simple, attentive to this drawing that appeared in your manual.
You see the trick was to put the receiver cable below the sleeve to connect the clock. But in case we did not want to complicate our lives, TV Watch also had a function to listen only to the audio of television broadcasts.
The clock itself had dimensions of 40 x 49 x 10 millimeters and a weight of 80 grams, and all its magic was focused on its innovative 1.2-inch LCD in white and blue with a resolution of 32k pixels and 10 shades of gray. He also had a second smaller screen on which we could see the time, set the alarm and use the stopwatch as with any other digital watch.
During the presentation of the device, its creators had to give certain explanations on how they had obtained such ingenuity. They said their new panels controlled the molecular arrangement of liquid crystal in an electric field, and that this made it possible to create thumbnails with a very low consumption of energy. Especially if compared to the cathode ray tubes of conventional televisions.
The receiver had measures of 74.5 x 125 x 19 millimeters and a weight of 140 grams. This made it too large to carry in your back pocket, but perfect for the inside pocket of his jacket. Its battery consisted of two AA batteries that gave a five hour autonomy, and tuned both FM radio and TV on VHF & UHF channels.
What could have been and was not?
TV Watch hit the Japanese market in December 1982 with a single model DXA001 that cost 108,000 yen, but later came a second model DXA002 more economical. The difference between the two was that the second included a headset instead of headphones, and its price fell to 98,000 yen. By contrast, these two models today would be worth around 600 and 500 dollars respectively.
The presentation of the device managed to generate much interest, and the clock occupied front pages in newspapers and headlines on television. It was considered an innovative product for allowing access to a wealth of information in real time , and both noticed that ended a year later also reaching the US market.
During its release in Japan Seiko managed to sell 2,200 units, and the president of the US subsidiary of the company said the host of the US media had been so good that he thought he could sell all to produce goods. This optimism resulted in the production of between 15,000 and 20,000 units ready to be exported.
But not everyone saw TV Watch as an invention called to revolutionize the market. In fact, it is known that Sony even said that their laboratories have the capacity to develop a similar product, but they did not believe there was a big enough market for these devices. In the end it turns out they were right, and the clock did not end up becoming a successful product.
In the curriculum of TV Watch, we find several dates. In 1982 he won the Award Nikkei Products and Services Superior Quality, and a year later made an appearance in Octopussy, the new James Bond film. The watch ended his career in 1984 to enter the Guinness Book of Records as the smallest TV in the world.
In 1983 Seiko used the technology they had developed to go one step further and present the first liquid crystal display color. This new screen was implemented in the natural successor of its successful watch, which ended up being called Color Pocket TV. But this is another story.