Digitally Curious - A Vintage LCD Watch Blog

Digitally Curious - A Vintage LCD Watch Blog

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  • Monday, July 13th, 2009 - 2:27 pm
  • Casio first plastic F-100 [52] chronograph alien watch

  • I'm baaack! :) Sorry for the long wait, I had to settle down before I could break out my watch box and get back to the collection. I still don't have my normal photo setup, but I hope the pictures are okay.

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    What is the typical Casio watch?

    Even though I do not own one, the F-91W is probably the most ubiquitous Casio watch out there. That small rectangular black resin case has been a staple of Casio's watch design for decades, and this is what most people think of when they think of Casio watches. (Besides the G-Shock/Protrek nuts out there.)

    But it wasn't always like that.

    When Casio first started making watches in the mid 70's, they started out with heavy stainless steel watches like the Casiotron R 17. In fact all of their early models were made of solid stainless steel, and you had to dig into the electronics to find any plastic. It wasn't until 1977 that Casio started using plastic as their watch case material.

    I learned from other collectors that this move was based on marketing/financial reasons, since plastic cases drastically reduced component costs. Therefore Casio could produce value-priced watches that could be sold to the mass market. I don't have any proof, but that story seems true enough to me. :)

    And so it was, Casio produced their very first plastic watch, the F-100, in 1977.



    The F-100 was actually one the first vintage Casio watches I acquired as a collector. It was an accidental discovery from a pile of junk I bought on ebay.



    Compared to the $100~$300 price tag on the Casiotrons of 1976, the Casio F-100 sold for a meager $39.99 (Some say $29.99, I don't know exactly).

    Was it a digital sensation? Did they sell millions of these? Well I don't know, but I did manage to acquire an old promotional leaflet that details the watch.





    Look how the advert makes a huge fuss about the chronograph capable of measuring 1/100 of a second. Why is that a big deal? Nowadays, anybody can pick up a digital watch with a 1/100 stopwatch for $10 at the local shop. But in 1977, a 1/100 stopwatch was unheard of! Keep in mind that most mechanical chronographs use 1/20 second timing, and some of the older Casiotrons were only capable of full-second chronographs (not even 1/10 seconds).

    Although very simple by today's standards, the 52 module was well ahead of its time.

    It has a built in light, (remember, it's 1977)



    with a 1/100 second stopwatch, (remember, it's 1977)



    that has a lap function, (remember, it's 1977)



    and shows the full calendar info with a two-character ENGLISH day display, (remember, it's 1977)



    AND, the color coded buttons are placed on the front.



    Um.. what's with the buttons? Just imagine that it's 1977 and most of the watches out there have CROWNS and pushers on the side. What's this? a watch with buttons on the FRONT? How weird is that?!

    As for the color codes, I'm not sure what the motivation was. Being a plastic watch, it was easier to make groves and paint the color on the case--maybe Casio was trying to prove that engineering feat, or just trying to make a fashion statement. Well either way, it's pretty. :)

    Ahem.. anyway... The watch was so futuristic and unconventional that it was used in the 1979 movie Alien and worn by Sigourney Weaver's character. What you see on screen is actually a modified F-100; The moviemakers glued two F-100 watches together and painted the button codes red and blue.

    Fans of the movie will buy two F-100's and glue them together whenever they get a chance, which makes the original F-100 very scarce. In fact I would put them on the list of endangered models.

    I love the movie Alien. But for me, the true historic value of this watch is that it was Casio's first all-plastic case. I actually own two F-100's, but I would never glue them together. :p







    Oh and check this out, even the caseback is plastic.



    The plastic caseback is, in my opinion, bad engineering. The molded plastic clip that holds the caseback in place breaks off very easily on this watch (I know, I've had 4 and 3 of them broke). By the early 80's, Casio would settle on a hybrid design, using a plastic case with a metal caseback. I guess Casio learned their lesson after this one. It's a good thing for Casio that casebacks can be made from cheap sheet metal.

    By the way, you see those two metal versions of this watch in that pamphlet? I have those too. :D

  • Filed under: watch
  • Comments!
  • » Is this the model worn by the Warrant Officer Ripley character in ALIEN? If so, is it next to impossible to locate/buy? Thanks for entertaining my amateur questions.
  • by: JANIS JONES, submitted Sunday, November 22nd, 2009 - 5:58 am
  • » Janis,
    Yes it is the watch worn by Ripley in the movie. The watch is hard to locate, it only shows up only once or twice on ebay per year. Good luck!
  • by: admin, submitted Sunday, November 22nd, 2009 - 9:26 pm
  • » I too have one of these bought when it came out - unfortunately the strap is missing!
  • by: Malc, submitted Monday, June 13th, 2011 - 6:16 am
  • » I bought one of these back in 1979. It seemed very cutting edge back then. As an indication of this it was worn by one of the presenters of the Tomorrow's World programme on the BBC (Keiran Prendeville I think). I still have it, though the strap fell off a long time ago. It has sat in a drawer since the beginning of the 80s. I'm going to get a battery & strap for it & see what people think of it now.
  • by: Mark , submitted Wednesday, April 25th, 2012 - 3:35 am
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