[ Retro Scan of the Week ] The Nintendo Smartwatch

September 15th, 2014 by Benj Edwards

Nelsonic Nintendo Game Watches Zelda Watch Super Mario Bros. Watch Service Merchandise catalog advertisement - 1989Why not put LZDN1WBF and LSMN1WBF on your Xmas wishlist?

As you probably know, Apple recently introduced the Apple Watch. That got me thinking about other nerdy watches of yore, and I remembered something I recently found in my mom’s attic.

Last month, my mother and I searched through boxes and boxes of my grandmother’s old dishes to see what might be of use to me now. The dishes had been sitting in my parents’ attic untouched for two decades. Many of them were padded with old newspaper from eastern Tennessee, which is where my grandmother lived until she died in 1992.

Among the usual black-ink-on-yellowing-paper fare, I found a handful of gloriously full-color advertisement circulars. A December 1989 mini-catalog for Service Merchandise caught my attention immediately because it featured a pair of Nelsonic Game Watches licensed by Nintendo. (That segment of the circular is what you see scanned above.)

Each of these two watches, which sold for ($19.97 a piece — or $38.37 today when adjusted for inflation) played a simplified prefab-LCD interpretation of its console namesake. If you remember Tiger’s LCD handheld games, you’re on the right track. In the Zelda watch game, you were forever trapped in a dungeon, and in Super Mario Bros. you forever hopped between platforms.

While these watch games were limited at the time, it was amazing to think you could fit a portable, battery-powered “video game” on your wrist and play it wherever you liked. I personally recall seeing more than one of these watches getting confiscated by teachers during my elementary school days.

That desire to carry functional video games with us has never abated. Heck, I bet that within days of the Apple Watch’s release next year, someone will hack it to play emulated versions of Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda — allowing us to finally have the full NES experience on our wrists. It may be 25 years too late, but it will be amusing to see how things have come full circle.

[ From Service Merchandise Circular (IE499J), Dec 1989, p.11]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever owned a watch that played a game? Tell us about it.

9 Responses to “[ Retro Scan of the Week ] The Nintendo Smartwatch”

  1. Eagles409 Says:

    The GCE gamewatch (sports). I got it for Christmas and the first day back to school the teacher took it away. I eventually got it back, but they were poorly made and it didn’t last long in the hands of an 11 year old.

  2. Derek Says:

    A friend of mine had the Plane and Tank Battle watch, which I lusted after: http://www.gamewatchguys.com/game_watch_details.php?toggle2=off&watchid=41

  3. Zoyous Says:

    I had (still have, actually) the Nelsonic Pac-Man watch that has a little joystick (as opposed to the ones that have a sort of d-pad). It actually plays quite a serviceable version of Pac-Man in spite of the inherent limitations of the LCD display. Never got in trouble for wearing it in elementary school, but I was pretty good about only playing with it during recess or lunch. Here’s a picture of the same model from someone’s tumblr (I just found it via Google Image search): http://27.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_llbts33jQ51qjabppo1_400.jpg

  4. cozfer Says:

    I also still have the same watch as Zoyous. There are actually little plastic joysticks that plug into that silver base, but I lost mine over the years. You can still play it fine with just that silver base, though.

  5. Moondog Says:

    I used to have a Casio calculator watch, and it had a game where numbers would scroll across the screen, and you’d press a button to get a number in an upper row to match the first number in the row in order to zap it. As the levels increased the numbers would scroll faster across the screen.

  6. Jim Says:

    I didn’t have a game watch, but I did have a watch that doubled as a universal remote!

  7. Ant Says:

    I always wanted a game watch back in the (19)80s as a callow ant.

  8. Hector Says:

    No game watch, but one of my friends in college (22 years ago) had a watch where you could swipe the face with your finger, Palm Graffiti-style, making numbers & symbols to do simple math. It was incredible. Never seen anything like it, before or since.

  9. mickeyla Says:

    Wow, this brings back memories. As a teenager in the 80`s, i had about 10 lcd game watches. Off the top of my head they included……

    Pacman: both the one with the little joystick and the one with 4 buttons like in the pic. The joystick one had changing mazes wheras the other one had a static maze printed on the screen. I think I lost the joystick as it wasnt fixed in very well. The buttoned one was the same as the nelsonic but rebranded (cgl?) for the uk market.
    Car race: very cool into the screen racer with left/right controls. I also had the handheld version.
    Football: Proper football (soccer) game by casio. It was a top down view with a yellowish pitch and not very good.
    invader: Another casio or timex (i forget) that involved shooting a single ufo space invaders style.

    Had a few calculator watches and an am radio one as well.

    Wish I kept them now, most got swapped for other stuff long ago.

Leave a Reply