Let’s celebrate the color and quality of the 1980’s with this troika of airplane watches. First, let’s begin in 1980 during a trip to Kmart. I saw the yellow watch in the case for $4. Dad wouldn’t buy it because the battery was dead. I never forgot about it and always wished I had it in my collection. I hadn’t seen anything like it since. Next, its 1999 and eBay is alive with a grand total of about 300 watches posted. Yellow shows up one day and we’ve been together since! Little did I know, this was a manual wind watch- not a battery! I remembered back to Kmart and the other colors available. In 2008 I found Red and in 2009 I found White. What makes these guys cool is the silver, shiney airplane that circles the bubble crystal every minute. The face on each is a map of different state or country. Yellow is USA, Red is Europe and White is California. The band is a painted metal bracelet style, and the manufacturer is Out of Time. The case back is engraved with the following, “Hand Wind Every Day & Forever & Ever & Ever.” Don’t mind if I do!
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The only reason to look through the Sunday paper as a child, was because of the adds. In the 80s, there were many mail order premiums for new products or advertisements that were only found in the paper. That’s when I saw the advertisement for the LCD Electronic Piano Watch. A one-page, color advertisement listed the watch for $14.99. It wasn’t that I didn’t have the money to order what was sure to become the prize in my collection, but I didn’t have a checkbook. It took a year for me to convince my parents to write me a check. By the time they did, the watch had been marked down to $4.99. After what seemed like another year, it showed up complete with a small book of songs. I was already into electronics as a geeky kid. Combining my love for watches with a mini electronic piano was such a cool thing, I didn’t even try to take it apart for about a month! This was one of the first dozen watches I started my collection with and it remains in the top 10 favorites of my collection. It takes three LR44s to power this guy up and yes, I can still crank out Long, Long Ago like your great aunt Bess.
You won’t find one of these new. Your best bet is a MP3 player watch like this one by Skullcandy.
This is another one of my favorite watches, style-wise. It was a promotional item commemorating Donald Duck’s 50th birthday, available from Donald Duck Orange Juice in 1984. The style is what makes this watch. It has the typical Bradley style of the timeframe with the round, metal case and digital display. The colors and Donald Duck perched at the top of the digital display are perfect. Interesting that it doesn’t say anything about the product. If I had two of these I would wear this watch. That says a lot about this piece. It also makes my Corum jealous.
This is perhaps the best of the best of mail order promotional watches. Tic tac had a promotion where you needed to collect points from the back of their packages. They showed a picture of the watch on the mail order form, but didn’t show the nice tin it would arrive in. Watches in cool packaging like tins, boxes and plastic shapes hold far more value for the collector. That’s not the only reason why this is the best mail order promo, the watch itself is really pretty cool. The band is a bright, kelly green plastic that’s stuffed and then stitched, just like a leather band. The case and buckle are brushed aluminum, while the face bears reverse embossed numbers and tic tac logo. Lastly, the crown is at the 4 o’clock position, making it more refined than your typical mail order promo. This is one of the watches in my collection that I constantly take out and look at. They only offered it in this color and for a short period of time in the late 90s. I have all the original packaging for this one, and I also picked up another one recently from a collector, so now I have two. Attention to detail is what makes this watch valuable. I opened it up to take a peek at the movement and guess what…even thought it’s quartz, the movement case is all metal instead of the typical black plastic. Now that’s just going above and beyond to impress.
If you find a mail order promotion, try to get more than one. The promotion will be short-lived and the watch will only increase in value. You can’t buy this watch. I did find you a watch that will store your tic tacs, though. How’s this Freestyle Men’s lockdown hidden compartment watch?
Will the real Wheel of Fortune watch please stand up? Here it is. The first and original watch from the game show of the same name. Made in the 80’s, when Wheel of Fortune was the show to watch, this watch wasn’t considered a novelty or an advertising watch. It was a legitimate, high-quality timepiece from Sharp. I had to wait until my birthday to get this watch because it was $24.00. For a kid, that was a lot for a wristwatch in the early 80’s. It came in black and white, and it included a game booklet. Inside the booklet are 50 unsolved phrases, questions, nouns, etc., from the show. Using the crown to stop the seconds wheel from turning, you can imitate a spin, play the game and try to solve the puzzle. All the answers are in the back of the booklet. I call this the real Wheel of Fortune watch because a 2nd watch came out in the 90’s that is similar. The 90’s version came in a tin and was much cheaper looking. It was called a “collectible” but is a far cry from this original Sharp model. The easiest way to tell is that the wheel on the cheap version was not a direct replica of the wheel on the game show. The cheap version can be found in abundance on eBay and still at some stores today. This original version is hard to find. I bought a few of the original Sharp models from eBay over the years so now I have a few black and white models. But this, this is the original one I received on my birthday. It still has the Sears price tag on it. This is quite possibly the watch that made me realize I needed to start collecting. I love this watch.
DON’T BUY THIS ONE!
If you’re a real Chronophile, you’ve already taken apart an old wind-up and likely lost a few Incabloc springs. I’m no different, but before I’d even done that, I came across Clockbox. For someone who grew up with a love for kits, (electronics kit, woodburning kit) this is the one I dreamed about. The kit came in this excellent packaging, showing you everything you need to put the watch together. There were several different designs to pick from but Cromo was the best. You can see from the pic that there’s not too much to it. It takes 11 steps to put it together with the detailed instructions. In fact, this would be an excellent gift for a junior horologist. I’ve never put this Cromo together, but I did buy another one for a friend and got to see how it came together. Now that you’re in love, I’ll have to give you the good news and the bad news. The bad news is that I don’t believe this kit is available anymore. The good news…they’ve made the kit into a promotional/marketing product. You can put your own logo on it and package it with your own promotional CD/DVD media! I love this idea because I work with a bunch of engineers. See where I’m going with this?
Junior Chronophiles can start with this kit.
A Rolex is still a Rolex even when you add the word McDonald’s or Maytag on the face. But you have to admit you feel like you’re staring at a church or something sacred that someone graffitied. Okay. Not only is this not a Rolex, it’s not even a Lorus. It is, however, a watch manufacturer you’ve heard of before. I found this on eBay and had to have it. Or rescue it. I can’t say I’ve seen any other Cheez-it watch out there. I have a special fascination for advertising watches that are from a name brand watch manufacturer. That’s probably why I bought it. Cheap, little Cheez-its found their way to the big time.
This was the original or first macaroni and cheese promotional wristwatch. In the late 80’s, Kraft had a promotion for this wristwatch in exchange for 3 UPC symbols from the back of the box. I love this watch because of the shape. It’s long and rectangular just like a box of mac & cheese. I also like that they had a nice image on the face of the watch and kept true to the colors of the product. The only thing I cannot figure out is how to change the battery. There are no physical indications on the back of the watch for opening the case. The only think I can guess is that you go in from the face or you simply don’t ever change the battery. I’m not about to mar the watch just to get to the battery so the three I have will stay non-working. There was a second wristwatch promotion that came out a few years later, but the watch is no where near as interesting.
I know what happened. Al loved Mary. He loved her so much that when he saw the ad in the back of Reader’s Digest magazine for the mechanical beating heart wristwatch, he had to get it. It was in the mid-1980’s, and what better way to show your true feelings than with a Swiss timepiece engraved with your name? The only catch was that the name had to be less than 8 characters. “No problem”, thought Al. “If I put mine and Mary’s name on it, that leaves an extra space in the middle. Perfect.” So he carefully filled in the proper items on the order from, including filling in a block for each letter of the engraving. He sent in the $8.00 S&H and waited. Every day he read the advertisement, awaiting the arrival of the wind-up Swiss watch with, quite literally, a beating heart window. Each second of the day could be counted by the little white lever pumping up and down. The thin, leather strap attached to the gold case would look lovely on Mary’s thin wrists as she gazed at the wannabe-guilloche pattern on the face. But the people at the assembly plant turned it all around. Or perhaps the engraving machine couldn’t handle spaces. When it arrived, Al was devastated. This simply wouldn’t do- his love message now turned into a one-word, made-up name?! The beating heart wristwatch was banished to a drawer. It never met Mary or got to be placed upon her wrist. Years later, it wound up in a thrift store on the far west side, only to be rescued by a Chronophile. Brand new love.