Watchmaking can be just as much about nostalgia as it is about innovation and creativity. Horology is a practice built on a rich history of technological achievement—which is often revisited to pay homage to stand-out pieces—or to bring reality to timekeeping that was only thought to be fiction in the past. In fiction, it seems like every generation has some level of fascination with how technology might evolve into the future. People in the early-to-mid 20th century might not have envisioned “smart” technologies of today, instead fascinated by the new breakthroughs in radio and eventually television. These vogue gadgets felt so personal that folks began writing stories and depicting characters utilizing these technologies in unique ways. In steps comic-strip legend Dick Tracy. His relationship with horological radio devices wasn’t there in his first strips—but his iconic radio timepiece came to fascinate fans for decades. So much so that now, over 70 years after its first appearance in Dick Tracy, Tracy’s watch has been officially licensed and put to market.
“Plainclothes” Tracy (Some Brief History)
-October 4th, 1931—Dick Tracy (originally to be named “Plainclothes” Tracy) is formally introduced to the public. Among adult comic readers he became a huge sensation. His pulpy noir narratives captivated audiences, making Tracy a top contender against other comic-strip giants Popeye and Little Orphan Annie.
-1930s and 40s—Multiple radio appearances and pressed-wax recordings of the crime-solving Tracy make their way into the homes of millions of Americans.
-January 13th, 1946—The 2-way radio watch was introduced to the comic strip!
-1950s—Creators try to play the character’s home-life up, but critics of this narrative dynamic point out a seemingly opulent lifestyle for such a gritty policeman (how can he afford these gadgets?). Some backstory is explained in later comic strips. Eventually the critics’ voices die down.
-1960s and 70s—Tracy, 2-way radio watch in tow, takes on space-age technology like flying moon vehicles. By the 1970s the space-age tech wore off and Tracy received longer hair, a mustache, and a hippy side-kick. Only the side-kick would make appearances in later years.
-1990—Warren Beatty took up the trench coat, fedora, and radio watch with a decent amount of critical praise. His on-screen depiction of the crime-fighting cop worked to further solidify the character in the American consciousness. Although Tracy had been appearing in film since the 1930s, Beatty’s performance/directing is the most recent silver-screen adaptation of Tracy’s exploits
Nick and Charlie Mathis Make the Watch
To pay respects to the classic comic character, an official Dick Tracy watch designed by Nick Mathis was released in 2016. This 70 year commemorative created by both Nick and Charlie Mathis has shipped and sold all over the world. However, the first iteration of the piece did not have any actual radio capability—the brass speaker cover was merely for aesthetics. To follow it up the brothers have teamed up with INDIEGOGO contributors (you can join in!), engineers/manufacturers ELITE Manufacturing, and watchmaker Longio since 2018. New prototypes include the same 316L stainless steel case, Miyota 5R32 quartz movement, and sapphire crystal found in the 2016 model. The upcoming release of their latest edition, however, has a functioning bluetooth-capable speakerphone. Pairing with a smartphone, the wristwatch will be able to make phone calls—as well as function as a solid time-teller.
Because of the authentic look, this official watch has been drawn into new Dick Tracy comics since it began its development. There are current discounts available for all INDIEGOGO investors in the doppelganger timepiece—dropping its price from the suggested retail $499 down to $475. Topping off this release is official cosplay bundles, limited edition cases, and tons more Dick Tracy gear to go along with the watch. Some of these promotional packages, set up pre-release, are limited to 100 patrons. So if you’re a superfan—now is the time to act and invest. There are only 1,000 of these watches being made and they’re set to release come December 2019.
Creative Retro Flair
The nostalgia factor of these Dick Tracy watches is huge, with the Mathis brothers taking on classic comic book frames for all of their online marketing. It’s really cool to have this release coming up among news of fresh smartwatch tech to be released in 2019. Without this crime-stopping piece, among other smartwatch precursors, how we understand the modern wristwatch may not have ever been envisioned. The creative forces of fiction, no matter how pulpy or campy they may be, can spark the imagination of engineers/watchmakers of all ilks. Nowadays Dick likely gets the skinny on villains a little quicker with GPS and smart-sleuthing—on top of his streetwise grit. But it’s good to know that his 1946 detective device is still getting the star treatment. So stick ‘em up, get ready to get what’s coming to yuh—a bees-knees ticker that’ll sport well with any attire you choose to pair with your mug and facade.
Times Ticking has been in operation for more than 30 years, since 1982. We have performed watch repair for customers both locally and internationally. If it Ticks! We KNOW it! Our team of watch repair technicians have a combined experience in watchmaking of over 120 years.