Seiko Originals: Did they make the first "smart" watch?
Seiko is a watchmaking pioneer and has made huge contributions to the global timekeeping industry. Throughout its history, the well-known Japanese watch brand has been at the forefront of watchmaking innovation.
The story of the Seiko watch was written by a 21-year-old entrepreneur, Kintaro Hattori, who chose Tokyo as the place to open his first clock repair shop in 1881.
Kintaro Hattori, a very important figure in the watchmaking industry. Source: Seiko
Over the past 130 years, Kintaro Hattori’s company has been constantly striving for watchmaking excellence, and creating cutting edge technology. In the 1960’s, the company introduced a couple of watches that almost single-handedly put the Swiss out of the watchmaking business.
The ‘80s was a period in particular when Seiko was bursting with creativity and releasing pioneering watches that seemed ahead of their time.
The first watch with a TV in it, the Seiko T001, appeared in 1983, which marks the beginning of an innovative decade not only for Seiko but also for the world of technology, wrist-worn or otherwise.
The Seiko T001 – The first smartwatch?
Over the past decade, smartwatches have become extremely popular. Some of the biggest tech companies have created a massive demand for these gadgets. The Apple watch is easy to find in the wild, and has spawned numerous imitations.
A watch that can only be described as retro-futuristic. Source: Monochrome Watches
However, it was a different story when Seiko first launched their TV watch, also known as the Seiko T001, nearly 40 years ago. It immediately gained the attention of the public at that time and still has a lasting appeal to people who love both technology and watches.
Features and Accessories
The Seiko T001 combined a portable television receiver and a 1 ¼ inch LCD screen. It is easy to see it as a predecessor to today’s smartwatches. Although its primitive LCD screen isn't much compared to a modern iWatch, in 1983, it was smashing technology.
The receiver looks comically large, but was probably seen as a revolutionary design in its day. Source: Monochrome Watches
The Seiko T001 included five main components. These components were headphones, a headphone cord, a video connector, a receiver, and the wristwatch TV itself.
The face of the watch is made up of 2 separate screens. The narrow screen on top was just designed to display the time, date, and the alarm functions. Meanwhile, the lower and bluer screen is for the video output.
Sleek and techie. Source: Watchuseek
The receiver included a power switch, tuning components, a volume control dial, band selector (it was an FM radio too), brightness control, a battery compartment, and more. The receiver also allows you to choose between your favorite VHF, UHF channels, or FM radio.
By touching the thumbwheel, you could watch or listen to all of your favorite programs wherever. While Seiko did all this with a watch launched at least 3 decades before the explosion of the same technology, the size of the rig was extremely large, and almost comical by modern standards.
To make the TV feature fully work, the receiver of the Seiko T001 had to be connected to the watch head and its headphones. Along with the TV function, the unique watch also had a calendar, stopwatch, and alarm feature.
Imagine watching Breaking Bad on this bad boy. Source: AnalogHero on Youtube
Seiko had created its first TV watch with a liquid crystal display for the screen because this technology was the best way to display small images while consuming lower amounts of power.
Its battery, which could last for up to five hours, made it a good fit for busy city dwellers who enjoyed watching TV but couldn't carry one around with them all day. If you still remember how TVs of the past looked, you know you have to be a body builder to be able to actually pull this off. In 1984, the Guinness Book of World Records recognized the T001 watch of Seiko as the smallest television in the world.
The Seiko T001 sold for over $400 back then, which is more than a thousand dollars today accounting for inflation.
The T001 is the Media - “What’s cooler than wearing the same watch as James Bond?”
The T001 was also a hot item in the media. If you are a classic Hollywood movie fan, you must remember the T001 from the James Bond film - Octopussy!
Agent 007 used a prototype version of the Seiko T001 in the 1983 James Bond film Octopussy. James Bond notices the Seiko TV watch when he is in Q's lab in India. (Spoiler alert, in the small chance you were planning to watch an 80’s Bond film but haven’t yet) The watch is also used in the last scene of the film when Bond and Octopussy attack Kamal's Palace.
007 and his fancy wristwatch. Source: Newsline
Bond and Q arrive in a hot air balloon and Bond is wearing the Seiko TV watch on his wrist. The scene shows the T001 can receive footage from cameras mounted on the hot air balloon which Q controls, helping Bond to see what's going on during the attack.
This immediately increased the popularity of the watch to the point where it is still associated with the movie today. In addition, the T001 was also worn by Actor Tom Hanks in another movie, a 1987 comedy film called Dragnet.
Most recently, we saw its appearance in an episode of Pawn Stars in 2014, which is an American television series where people buy, sell, and pawn different items.
Opinion: The guy was ripped off. Source: Pawn Stars on Youtube
In the episode, the T001 is mentioned in connection to its appearance in Octopussy, with someone on the show saying, “What’s cooler than wearing the same watch as James Bond?”. Watch the episode here to find out how much a very good condition set of the Seiko T001 sold for.
The T001 Today – A Timepiece for The True Collector
The Seiko T001 was a device ahead of its time and opened for the new era for creativity in watchmaking. Some of you may be wondering if it’s still worth the time and money to pick up and T001.
Well...it's a great vintage item. You may find one for sale online, or other vintage stores. It will be hard to find one for a reasonable price as they tend to be either super expensive or incomplete.
You can sometimes spot these on Ebay, but missing one or more accessories. Source: Watch Patrol
In addition to being a vintage item, the Seiko T001 has proven how much digital watchmaking has evolved and developed over a short amount of time. Its appearances in films make it even more attractive, as it is one of the few Seiko models to be worn by James Bond, an agent who usually favors a Rolex.
Seiko watches and Seiko T001 have been milestones not only for the company, but also for the world of watchmaking. Seiko’s efforts to constantly innovate have resulted in some of the most interesting watches ever created.
The Seiko T001 is just one of the many impressive timepieces to come out of Seiko, and we think there are others that are wonderful examples of Seiko's innovative attitude.
Speaking of innovative, one of the most interesting models for Seiko's divers watches is the Tuna, which was the first shrouded diver. The Seiko Tuna series is extremely popular and also is a great example of a groundbreaking design that stands out in the industry.
We recently added Seiko Tuna cases to help you build your own iconic diver watch at home. It uses a range of our standard aftermarket parts, and will also take some OEM SKX007 parts. You can check the all-black case here, or go with our black and gold Tuna case if you want an Anniversary edition homage.
Another interesting Seiko model was the Seiko SilverWave cockpit, which was the first square case from Seiko and one of the first few square designs of any watch brand.
The B&R case offered by namokiMODS is an high-quality square watch case that takes its design from the dashboard instruments of old airplanes and also works equally as well as a diver.
At namokiMODS, you can take the art of watch modding to a new level.
We are dedicated to creating some of the best Seiko mod parts in the market. Almost any part of a watch can be upgraded or modded with our top-quality parts. You can find all the Seiko mod tools and mod parts in one place with us so be sure to check our extensive catalog.