Smartwatch timeline: The devices that paved the way for the Apple Watch

From 1927 to 2017 - here are the 19 most important smartwatches in history
Smartwatch timeline
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The Apple Watch may well be the highest profile smartwatch launch in history but let's not forget that the Cupertino giant is a latecomer to the ever expanding genre.

And we're not just talking about Apple being a few months behind the likes of Samsung and Sony and the Android Wear brigade. In fact, the first smartwatch dates back to 1927 and there was a real boom in the 80s and 90s.

Here's the 19 most important smartwatches ever, the ones that paved the way for Apple's latest gadget….

1927: Plus Four Wristlet Route Indicator

smartwatch history

There's no GPS built into this absolute beaut from the 1920s, but it would still help you get from A to B. Simply slot in the scroll map cartridge for your set route (London to Bournemouth sounds lovely) and away you go. Sure, you have to do some manual knob turning, but at least you didn't have to charge it every night.

1972: Pulsar

smartwatch history

Fifty years later the first all-electric digital watch arrived, from the Hamilton Watch Company, wrapped up in 18-carat gold. It boasted LEDs and you had to push a button to see the time. A bargain at $2,100 back in 1972.

1982: Seiko TV Watch

smartwatch history

As worn by James Bond in Octopussy, this 'smart' watch needed an adapter and a whopping great receiver box in order to show grainy TV images below the digital time display. It cost about £500 and your TV action was presented in ten shades of grey. That's not a softcore porno, that's the display.

1983: Seiko Data-2000

smartwatch history

Slick looking, right? The Data-2000 could store memos (well, two of them) and calendar entries and also acted as a calculator. You had to make use of the clip on keyboard but hey, that was part of the fun. Seiko was pretty prolific in the smartwatch arena in the 80s. It also launched the UC-2000, the RC-1000, the Memo Diary and the UC-3000 within a year of the Data-2000.

1985: Sinclair FM Wristwatch Radio

smartwatch history

A damn shame that this never made it past the prototype stage, this monster from the British company behind the massively successful ZX Spectrum, working alongside watch specialist Timex, had three separate sections: an LCD watch, piezoelectric speaker and FM tuner, along with a battery compartment in the clasp. It was cancelled as a result of Sinclair's financial woes, with only 11,000 being produced.

1995: Seiko MessageWatch

smartwatch history

Not only could this watch display caller IDs (using FM sideband frequencies), it could also display updates on a variety of subjects ranging from sports scores, stock prices and weather forecasts. That's pretty much Google Now, right? Only 20 years before and not so colourful.

1995: Breitling Emergency Watch

smartwatch history

Packing a distress signal that could be picked up from anywhere within 90 nautical miles, the Breitling Emergency Watch was credited in helping in the rescue of two British pilots after their helicopter crashed in Antarctica in 2003. In 2013, the Emergency II was launched and can be bought for around £9,000.

1998: Linux Wristwatch

smartwatch history

The 'father of wearable computing', Steve Mann built the first Linux-powered watch in 1998 and a prototype was launched by IBM two years later. “Designed to communicate wirelessly with PCs, cell phones and other wireless-enabled devices, the 'smart watch' will have the ability to view condensed email messages and directly receive pager-like messages," read the fact-sheet. “Future enhancements will include a high-resolution screen and applications that will allow the watch to be used as an access device for various Internet-based services such as up-to-the-minute information about weather, traffic conditions, the stock market, sports results and so on." That's why Mann is the daddy.

2002: Fossil Palm Pilot

smartwatch history

Fossil is looking to get back into the wearable tech game – it was recently revealed that the US watch company will be teaming up with Intel for a smartwatch assault. It was 12 years ago that it had its first crack. Awarded 'best of Comdex 2002' it featured a 160 x 160 display, 2MB of internal memory and Palm apps such as address book, memo pad, to-do list and a calculator. It had a stylus integrated into the strap. Samsung Gear Note anyone?

2003: Microsoft SPOT

smartwatch history

Microsoft is rumoured to be working on a new wearable for 2015 but, over a decade ago, it was working with the likes of Citizen, Timex, Fossil and Suunto on these 'Smart Personal Object Technology' devices. They were discontinued in 2008, the idea of a $59 a year subscription fee for updates never really proved popular.

2003: Garmin Forerunner

smartwatch history

Garmin has a pretty strong foothold in the GPS sports watch arena; it's an area it's been involved in for over 10 years. The original Forerunner range paved the way for the likes of the Forerunner 15 by measuring speed, distance, pace and calories burned, and it ran from a pair of AAA batteries – which would get you around 14 hours of action.

2012: Nike+ Fuelband

smartwatch history

A jump into this decade now and the hugely successful Nike+ Fuelband. It tracked your steps, earning you Fuel Points throughout the day. It offered automatic syncing using Bluetooth and the second edition, which launched in 2013, improved the ambient light settings so it glowed brighter in darker situations.

2012: Sony SmartWatch

smartwatch history

The original Sony SmartWatch was a companion device for the Xperia smartphone range, running a modified version of Android. It had a 1.3-inch OLED display and was well received by the tech press despite its tendency to crash for no apparent reason. It was succeeded by the SmartWatch 2 in 2013 and the Android-Wear toting SmartWatch 3 was recently unveiled at IFA.

2013: Pebble

Until very recently the most successful Kickstarter campaign ever, the Pebble put smartwatches back in the map. Capable of a range of notifications, the Pebble can also act as a remote controller for your smartphone, or for devices such as the GoPro camera. The Pebble app store has over 1,000 applications – check out our favourites.

2013: Samsung Galaxy Gear

The Gear that kickstarted Samsung's smartwatch assault, this device was announced at IFA 2013. A year later and we now have six Samsung smartwatches. It seems the trusted Sammy method of saturating the market with its devices is being applied to the smartwatch genre. The original Gear was a critical flop and very much stank of a product released just to beat Apple to the punch.

2014: Samsung Gear Fit

The original Gear did pave the way for some great Gear devices though and the Gear Fit created some wow factor for the market with its gorgeous curved OLED display. It was unveiled at MWC 2014, along with the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo devices.

2014: Moto 360

Android Wear was announced in March 2014 at the Google I/O conference and the pick of the trio of launch devices was, undoubtedly, Motorola's round effort. The Moto 360 took on an almost mythical status thanks to its round design and the fact it looked so much more sleek than the other two Android Wear debutants. It'll cost you £199.

2014: Samsung Gear S

The Samsung Gear S boasts 3G connectivity, which means it can operate without an accompanying smartphone – a first for Samsung smartwatches, which before now required a Galaxy handset. Samsung's new smartwatch certainly looks the business, with a 2-inch rounded face that makes use of the curved Super AMOLED face found on the Samsung Gear Fit. The 360 x 480 resolution is one of the best out there, and keeps maintains Samsung's dominance in the display department.

2015: Apple Watch

The artist formerly known as iWatch was officially unveiled to an expectant crowd in Cupertino in September 2014 along with a duo of new iPhones and we now know that it will go on sale on 24 April. Read our Apple Watch hands on review for our early impressions and take a look at our guide for everything you should know about Apple's new smartwatch.