Living with the Lifeclock One, Escape from New York’s head-exploding watch

(Minus actual head explosions)
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In the pages of books and on the silver screen, science fiction is filled with some interesting wearable tech. For instance, take Snake Plissken's life clock in John Carpenter's 1981 cult classic, Escape from New York. If he didn't save the president by the time the clock was up, his head would explode. Now that's a level of gamification Fitbit etc can aspire to.

Read this: The most iconic movie wearables

Despite a failed Kickstarter campaign, Ridgewood Watch Company has nabbed the exclusive rights for the Lifeclock watch from Carpenter's movie and built a replica in the form of the Lifeclock One. It's mostly a regular smartwatch, complete with alarms and notifications, but it's got a few othertricks up its sleeve.

So what's it like walking around with an incredibly accurate, massive movie prop on your wrist? We found out.

Attention grabber

Living with the Lifeclock One, Escape from New York’s head-exploding watch

The first thing you'll notice with the Lifeclock One is that it is huge, just like in the movie. I mean, it is 79mm wide. This is something that demands attention on your wrist. In fact, it might be more accurate to say that this is a watch for your forearm, not your wrist.

When I wore it, people definitely noticed. This thing invites plenty of strange looks, which is a little sad because it actually doesn't look terrible. If you didn't realize this was a replica of a watch from a great Kurt Russell and John Carpenter collaboration you'd just think it was some neat steampunk-inspired watch.

It's especially bad when the watch decides to light up. The Lifeclock foregoes any fancy OLED display in favor of Hollywood authenticity, with 77 individually powered high intensity LEDs.

I'm not joking about the high intensity part either, as the Lifeclock is extremely bright. It's so bright that if people weren't looking at your wrist before, they will definitely start looking now. It doesn't help that this kind of display also makes it look like you've got a bomb on your wrist. I don't know what the TSA would make of it if I tried taking it on a flight. I don't think I want to find out.

Living with the Lifeclock One, Escape from New York’s head-exploding watch

It really does feel sturdy. Ridgewood did not skimp on the authenticity, opting for a brass casing with leather straps. In fact, it's so accurate it hurts. This is definitely a device designed to let people know how many hours they have until they're dead from explosives lodged in their necks. If you wear this too long, or if you move your wrist in odd directions, it will cut into you a little bit.

If you're a movie nut like I am, chances are you're more likely to give the Lifeclock a chance. I also really like the thick strap - it makes me feel like an adventurer.

However, until that point you're going to feel uncomfortable. You're going to want to wear long sleeve shirts, or jackets or sweatshirts, as much as possible. You'll try to cover it up, only to find it is way, way, way too big to cover up with sleeves.

Don't think your sleeves will cover for you either. I wore it to the cinema and quickly found out that in the darkness of a movie theater, my arm turned into a beacon of distraction as the powerful LEDs shone through my shirt sleeve. I had to fumble with the buttons on the side to quickly turn it off, lest I invite the wrath of Star Wars diehards. Ironic, really, that a movie-inspired wearable distracts from another movie, but there you go.

Saving the president

Living with the Lifeclock One, Escape from New York’s head-exploding watch

The Lifeclock One isn't like other smartwatches. Well, it is, in that it'll give you some basic step tracking, while you also have your alarms and your notifications and world clocks and you can even control your phone's camera. But it's also looking to draw ideas from Escape from New York, and it does this in two ways.

First, it'll send you a quote from the movie every hour on the hour. Escape from New York isn't exactly the most quotable movie in the world. Still, it's nice touch if you're a fan - but you'll be bored of it after a day. Also, because of the LED display every single notification has to scroll across, meaning you have to stare at the watch for a few seconds if you really want to read it.

Then again, you're not really using the Lifeclock One for how convenient is, are you? It's a huge watch made out metal that is going to draw the attention of every eye around you. You're wearing this puppy because you're a massive Escape from New York fan and you've been looking for something to complete your cosplay, cause the eyepatch and long hair just aren't cutting it.

The other big feature here is the actual life clock, a countdown that starts at 22:59:59 - just like the movie. Once you start the countdown, you can't stop it. So, what happens when the clock hits zeroes? Does it blow up? Do you get an electric shock? Does the embarrassment stop?

Well, I missed it when I tested the clock - but Ridgewood tells me there's simply a buzz on your wrist. That's probably why I missed it, but the company is working on ways for the countdown to do other things via IFTTT integration. So when it hits zero, you could set it up to do more interesting things - minus blowing up the president's head. We don't know what these interesting things are yet, but considering the versatility of IFTTT there are some exciting possibilities.

Just another note: That timer is a wonderful way to terrify friends that aren't familiar with, or don't remember, Escape from New York. Just have the timer going, then strap it on their wrist and see how they react.

Escapin' it

Living with the Lifeclock One, Escape from New York’s head-exploding watch

Should you buy the Lifeclock One? At $399 it's definitely not anywhere near an impulse purchase. For the vast majority of people, there just isn't that much utility here. This watch isn't built to be a fitness tracker or even a regular smartwatch.

There are no apps, the screen isn't efficient for your notifications. You can't get LTE or payments. It's not going to help you stay away from your phone. If you want a smartwatch, you're going to be wasting your money.

However, if you're a big movie fan - or more specifically, an Escape from New York fan - then maybe it's something you'll want to own to display in your home for visitors to marvel at, even if you don't wear it. Sure, it's extremely expensive, it's a little embarrassing to wear in public and it's not the most comfortable. But it's also Snake Plissken's watch! It'll have you considering an eye patch and growing out long hair in no time.

Mostly, the Lifeclock One is an impressive accomplishment in recreating a wearable from a movie. It's so accurate and so, well, cool, that I hope Ridgewood keeps at it and makes more gadgets from the big screen. I'm rooting for the Dick Tracy watch phone next.

How we test

Husain Sumra


Husain joined Wareable in 2017 as a member of our San Fransisco based team. Husain is a movies expert, and runs his own blog, and contributes to MacRumors.

He has spent hours in the world of virtual reality, getting eyes on Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Samsung Gear VR. 

At Wareable, Husain's role is to investigate, report and write features and news about the wearable industry – from smartwatches and fitness trackers to health devices, virtual reality, augmented reality and more.

He writes buyers guides, how-to content, hardware reviews and more.

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