The Casio Calculator Watch: a ‘huge’ dose of nostalgia

It still collects dust just like it used to in the 1980’s

If you want to purchase a new product today to experience a genuine hit of nostalgia from your youth (if you are around 50 years of age in my case) it is very hard to do because so few products are still in production that were made in the 1980’s.

Perhaps you need to pick up a Casio CA-53W-1ER which can be bought for less than £20 in the UK and even cheaper in other countries. You could then be sporting the same watch that Marty McFly was wearing in 1985.

This mythical, and legendary, character wore this watch 36 years ago in one of the biggest movies of all time and you can still buy it today which is extraordinary.

It may have many small improvements inside since that time, but it is still effectively the same watch which is unusual for any digital product. Thankfully it is easily attainable and it gives me the opportunity to go back to those moments in the classroom when I would stare at this watch and calculate things while thinking that the future had arrived.

Arguably it is a calculator that can only be used efficiently by children because the keys are so small, but when you do put it on and give it a try all of the memories come flooding back in the blink of an eye.

It is ultimately a watch with calculator functionality, but you also get a daily alarm, day and date display, dual time zones and 50 metres of water resistance. The 5 year battery is handy and it is extremely light at only 25 grams, but alas there is no backlight on this particular model.

Little of the above matters though because this watch is an inexpensive trip down memory lane and it is one that is hardy enough to cope with most that will be thrown at it and to make for a perfectly adequate daily timekeeper. It would not be a stretch to say that this is as cool a watch as you can wear in 2021.

Is it one of the first smartwatches? No, it isn’t. Many say that it is, but to be fair the functionality is limited to the point of gimmickry and despite wowing many of us back in the 1980’s it is more of a curiosity in the 2020’s.

The thing is that it does not look out of place next to an Apple Watch. They are vastly different in terms of design, functionality and price, but they share an overriding visual resemblance that I find hard to shake. I know that they are completely different products in almost every way, but when I look at them together I can’t help but see the Casio as a descendent of the Apple Watch.

They share a natural square / curved corner form of course, but it is deeper than that. It is the way they wear and they way your eyes fall on them that makes them feel related. I realise that this sounds weird, but to wear both is to know the feeling.

Square watches have never really been popular, but there are designs where this form works and the below three are good examples of this.

Casio has made use of the space very well and created a watch that displays the date and time perfectly well while allowing space for a useable (just) keyboard to make your calculations with. The reality is, however, that the keyboard does dominate and from a design perspective it is poor in practical terms. Just like the pre-iPhone smartphones that Steve Jobs mocked, it is truly of its time and in this case that is not a bad thing.

The first bonus is being able to do the following again.

This was the height of computer programming a few years back and still makes me chuckle inside, but it is just one of many. Feel free to have your own (hilarious?) fun with this list.

Back to the design. The dominating keyboard is practically not great, but it is what makes this watch. Wear it and most people will know what it is. It’s offers others a glimpse of your personality; maybe slightly geeky, but in a cool way? Appreciating of retro styling, but in a watch that is still brand new and maybe simply not caring about showing off wealth or what others think.

Unusually, this watch is more likely to be noticed by others than a Rolex or any one of a number of other luxury timepieces because it is so different and it is so well known. At no point can it be criticised, it is above criticism. This sounds over the top, but where would you go when mocking a watch that costs less than £20, that everyone knows, is from a revered brand and which has appeared in a few classic movies? Seriously, where would you go?

This watch is a symbol of the time in which it was born and it has not lost any of the freshness it came with originally. It is remarkable that more than 30 years later it does not look out of place for one moment and if anything it is cooler today than it ever was.



Categories: Articles, Vintage Watches, Watch Reviews, Watches

6 replies

  1. Ah yes, 55378008. And the accompanying “Maths story” with 13844502 x 4.

    I have my old Casio calculator (DBC-82) watch as well, can’t find the strap pins or a battery, missing the back screws and I think the little “speaker connector springs” but I still can’t bring myself to throw it out.

  2. Less classic but I feel my childhood was more dominated by thoughts of the transforming robot watches: https://boingboing.net/2020/04/15/this-80s-robot-watch-is-nift.html

  3. I still have my Casio calculator watch, which I bought in the 90s. The battery is dead of course and it’s been sitting in a drawer for almost 20 years. Someday I’ll show it to my grandkids. I switched to a basic Casio when I got my first Palm in 2000.

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