Written by Michele Wheat
Fiction has given the possibility for creatives to run wild with different fashion ideas. With budget constraints removed, the imagination can flow in a way that not even the most experimental fashion labels can match. This article aims to cover some of the coolest ways that wristwear has been used in fiction (in no particular order).
James Bond Watch
The most classic of this collection, the James Bond superwatch is more of a concept than any one single watch. It’s a Rolex as circular saw, Seiko as printer, Omega as explosive. The idea of the James Bond watch is what remains throughout the years as the technology fades. It’s optimism cased in the future, the idea and temptation of the new placed in the high-capital world of the now. Beyond that, the watches look COOL, a kind of cool that only develops over 26 movies and a half-century of pop culture dominance. It has a certain cultural cachet that is unlikely to be beaten by any other movie or franchise, and for that, it will live on in history.
Black Widow Gauntlets
Black Widow’s gauntlets are sleek. A small piece of superhero memorabilia, they are used to shoot out a cable (like a grappling hook but worse in most conceivable ways), and fire Widow’s signature move, the electrostatic charge called Widow’s Bite. Now, it’s a glut of technology. Explosives, knockout gas, a real grappling hook, tear gas, and a motion tracker all have popped up in recent comics, and with the power of S.H.I.E.L.D., anything can be retconned in! Sarcasm aside, these deserve recognition for sheer ingenuity, with their current powers leaning towards that of superhero belts.
Spider-Man’s web shooters are not only a great power, but a great stylistic decision – sleek and vibrant, the cold steel of Peter Parker’s signature fashionwear. The small pressurized button inside it, first seen in the Amazing Fantasy #15 comic 55 years ago, shoots out pressurized fluid (at an impressive 300 psi) that turns into a web that reportedly acts similar to nylon. The web can be destroyed after one hour, creating a sticky situation for any enemies caught inside it. The web, with some practice, can be turned into a variety of different objects. Shields, parachutes, skis, rafts, and even physical weapons like clubs can be fashioned out of the material, and its position as the symbol of the Spider-Man franchise has led to updates like voice command and tracers (not unlike an iPhone).
Dick Tracy Radio Watch
The oldest of the wristwear here, the radio watch worn by legendary detective Dick Tracy practically invented the ‘fictional wristwear’ category – tech reporters seem to take any mention of a smart watch and compare it to the fictional gadget. Originally a simple two-way radio embedded into a watch, it transformed and moved into a wrist TV (in 1964). Iconic in the most literal sense, it's represented everything we find cool about spies, technology, and the combinations the two can make.
Yu-Gi-Oh Duel Disks
It’s time to d-d-d-d-duel! The main item of the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise looks like a cross between a falconer’s glove and the millennium falcon, and draws from Egyptian imagery (in-series, the Ancient Egyptians used ancient versions of Duel Disks that drew from their life force to play… children’s card games?) in a dramatic fashion. Eventually for the sake of the cartoon, the whole play-this-game-and-die mechanic was removed, but the duel disk concept stayed. While this may not have been the most ridiculous thing in the series (card games… on motorcycles), it set the tone for the mania to come.
Spy Kids Watch
The childhood envy of kids everywhere, the Spy Kids watch was like a Audemars Piguet for the preteen set. It was 2002 when the aesthetic distilled into one concept – a hopeful future where advanced gadgets held multiple holographic menus, chunky lettering and even chunkier plastic. The watch feels just as dated as the Justin Timberlake / Britney Spears AMA denim debacle, and frankly about as well designed. It didn’t even tell time – the ticking noise was actually the sound of the keyboards of 1,000,000 suburban moms searching ‘spy kids 2 watch idea’ on Google (or Askjeeves. It was a different time).
Time is a ball of… you know the rest. The vortex manipulator is the lacrosse stick for said ball, capable of tossing someone through time and the universe as they see fit. In this case, the ‘they’ is primarily Jack Harkness, who uses the tiny device to keep multiple versions of himself on earth at once, to jump into the TARDIS from anywhere, and generally pop up anywhere and everywhere (until the Doctor gives him a firm slap on the wrist). While not as universal as the sonic screwdriver, it makes it on this list for being involved in so much of the plot, as well as flat-out looking cool. The leather straps give a surprisingly organic feel to something so technologically advanced, and there’s an almost Indiana Jones-esque look to the whole device (if, say, Indy fought against aliens instead of Kali Ma). And yes, the 10th doctor may think it was uninspired, and tried to gatekeep Jack and disparage the manipulator, but at the end of the day, it’s FREAKING TIME TRAVEL, and that is cool. Indisputably.
The wasteland is lonely. This is a fact. Fallout 1 – 4 beat said fact that into you repeatedly. To hear Bethesda studios tell it, the wasteland is you, a whole host of mutants, lots of guns, and a small device on your wrist called a Pip-Boy. Developed by a shadowy RoboCorp, the Pip-Boy acts as your companion, Geiger counter and inventory manager, among other things. The smiley vault-boy, the mascot of the entire Fallout series, feels your pain and takes on your ailments, providing a surprising sense of companionship for what is really a line-drawn picture of a nondescript boy. War never changes, but the Pip-Boy does – there’s always hope for the future (even in a post-apocalyptic wasteland).
The show is the watch. The Omnitrix (the big watch that Ben, the titular protagonist wears) is the entire catalyst for any action to occur in the Omniverse, allowing Ben to transform into 10 different aliens. Side note: this show loved really stupid number puns. His name is Ben 10 because he’s 10 years old and can turn into 10 different aliens. The main enemy? An eleven-year-old kid named… Kevin Levin (who absorbs Ben 10’s 10 powers to become an eleventh, separate form of alien called Kevin Eleven). Regardless of the head-smackingly dumb characters, Ben 10 has stayed around. As the longest running show that’s a Cartoon Network exclusive, it’s become iconic from sheer longevity – you may not like it, but you know it.
TF2 Spy Watch
He’s sneaky. He’s stylish. He’s… invisible? Known to over 2 million active players of Team Fortress 2, the French assassin is never seen without some kind invisibility watch, a sleek bit of invisibility tech. It turns the Spy invisible for a limited amount of time, allowing him to sneak through areas undetected and stab friends (enemies) in the back. This device has shown up in countless cosplays and videos, remaining a piece of pop culture all the while. It may not have the realism of the other wristwear shown above - how does a watch turn you invisible (while also reducing damage taken)? After 10 years, we still don’t really know.
Buzz Lightyear Wrist
Buzz Lightyear’s wrist laser was one of the most pivotal setpieces in Toy Story 1, allowing him to cut open the helmet of Kane, who has had his face covered by a terrifying alien that goes onto be one of the most popular villains of 1980’s science fiction. It sets up a disturbing creature, replete with acid blood that can cut through metal with ease… this is the plot to Ridley Scott’s 1979 horror classic Alien, not Toy Story, contrary to what I was originally notified. Buzz’s laser wrist beam actually is completely useless as it is made out of plastic and nothing else. My sincerest apologies.
Wristwear has the unique quality of being mostly utilitarian over style – outside of regular watches, there is almost no aesthetic-focused wristwear. This is just a sampler of some of the coolest things fiction has to offer. The most interesting is yet to come – stay tuned!