However it could be argued that the calculator watch was an important step forward in the evolution of many of the hi-tech products we use today.
Its interesting to take a look back and see exactly how the calculator watch concept began.
The early calculator watches
By the mid 1970s, the electronic calculator was not only a hot new item; it was also something that almost every consumer had, which meant that manufacturers needed something new to sell in the calculator market. So it was a natural step to try and combine the calculator with the wristwatch.
Pulsar is credited with introducing the first calculator watch in 1975, it was solid gold and retailed for $3950.
Early Pulsar and HP calculator watches.
In 1976, they introduced a much cheaper stainless steel calculator watch model. But by this time, the competition was already starting to catch up. By 1977, Hewlett-Packard, National Semiconductor, Compuchron and Uranus had all released calculator watches on the market as well.
However these early models suffered from the power hungry LED displays they used. Batteries often only lasted a matter of a few weeks.
It was this limitation that doomed LED calculator watches especially once the power efficicient LCD watches arrived on the market towards the end of the late seventies.
Today, the majority of these original LED calculator watches have become unique collectors items. For example, the 1976 Uranus calculator watch is sought after, since it was the first with touch-friendly buttons, they usually required a stylus to press the small keys. The Sinclair Kit LED Calculator Watch that was released in 1977 has become a collectors item for different reasons- apart from its claim to be ‘home-assembled’, it failed on the market because most of its parts didn’t fit properly.
Calculator watch features:
The early Calculator watches often came with only the most basic arithmetic functions such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
As the buttons were so small they also came equipped with a stylus for pressing them.
The 80s and beyond
Calculator watches popularity really reached their peak during this period, when they were mass produced, reliable aswell as being in vogue.
These days, with all the technological advances, calculator watches have more of a retro or even nerdy image than the high tech one they once had. They’re still being manufactured though, the Casio Databank line of watches being the most well known version of the modern calculator watch.
With the impact of modern electronic devices such as pda’s and phones, there is no real practical purpose to calculator watch ownership, its much more of a style conscious decision, a fashion accessory. However modern Calculator watches have come a long way. The market is ruled by Casio who have combined their calculator watches with a myriad of other functions.
For instance the CMD40F (below left) comes with TV and Cable infrared remote control function. Whilst the DBC-610GA (right) also comes with not only the calculator but a 12/24-hour time option, telephone data bank with password option, calendar allowing multiple daily alarms, world clock, alarm and hourly chimes, count-down timer and stopwatch.
Modern Casio Calculator Watches
Related pages: LED watches