Being one of the hottest releases of the summer, Stranger Things is back and as nostalgic as ever. In the at-home cinematic world, Stranger Things is no stranger to being “Vice” by bringing back favorite aesthetics of the tech-laden and affluent 80s. Featuring synth-pop soundtracks and favorite pop songs of the decade, Stranger Things is a neon-swirled coming-of-age sci-fi that is pleasing to lovers of all things 80s, retro (that’s right Gen-Xers), and stylistically cinematic. With D&D youngsters fighting the forces of evil on a damn-near daily basis, it has been important for this television series to stay true to the geekdom of this American era. This is where the wardrobe really shines—even in the subtlest ways. In terms of watches, smaller motherboards and quartz movements made the 80s a great time of experimentation in digital timekeeping. Science fiction itself still feels the effects of these techy endeavors—with many current reboots/sequels being released of favorite franchises (Terminator, Alien, Judge Dredd, etc..)—which feature more advanced technology than even the coolest calculator watch. This includes Stranger Things, which certainly employs plenty of techy wristwatches on multiple beloved characters. For the sake of some brevity, we will be highlighting three Upside Down traveling timepieces today. After all, it would take a full D&D campaign length body of writing to highlight every wristwatch featured on-screen. So ahead, before any further musings or digressions (and fangirling, which this writer is prone to do), let’s look at Mike; Will; and Dustin’s digital wristwatches from season one—to the most current installment.
Being neck and neck with Eleven as the series’s key protagonist (with his DM powers locked down tight), Mike is a character who has frequently made calculated moves to keep his friend group—and his entire town—from succumbing to the forces of evil. And yes, the series’s creators must have been equally as calculating when they developed Mike, because he sports a calculator wristwatch in all three streaming seasons of Stranger Things. As a sort of crown-jewel of geek timekeeping in the 1980s, a calculator watch was a great way to make math easy on the go. Although the calculator complication was the highlight of this style, these watches can/could also store phone numbers; act as stopwatches; and of course—tell the time. Though Mike doesn’t wear an official Casio in the early seasons, this third Stranger Things endeavor has a more model-specific designation. By season three, Mike is rocking a proper Casio CA53W-1. With Stranger Things being so well researched, this is a very smart choice for this era-specific series. In fact, Marty McFly rocked this watch in the original Back to the Future film in 1985—the year in which season three takes place. Thus we can all be proud of Mike for this one. He does a great job of reinforcing the 80s adage, “it’s hip to be square.”
A brief opinion: Dustin is by far one of the most endearing and lovable characters from any film or television series—without question. His unwavering optimism, comedic timing, and charming lisp make him the series’s darling boy. In regard to charm, and watch-world popularity, it might be no surprise to many wristwatch enthusiasts that the Casio F91W made it onto Stranger Things. Still popular today, Dustin’s digital wristwatch can still be purchased for as low as $10 at many retail outlets. With so much affordability, and digital function, this watch is a great workhorse—from Demogorgons to dungeon crawls. Sporting split-time stopwatch functions and a fair amount of water resistance, this easy-to-own wristwatch has a timeless charm. Much like Dustin, this watch captures a winning persona that goes beyond the nostalgia of the 1980s—but benefits from it quite well.
Will’s Nelsonic Q*Bert Watch
We promise, Casio doesn’t wholly own the screen regarding Stranger Things watches. Although they were commonly worn in the 80s, Casio wasn’t the only innovator in digital watch displays. Here enters Will’s Nelsonic Q*Bert watch. Another testament to the research that goes into the series, Will’s watch comes from a company that began making video game watches in the mid 80s. Making its Stranger Things debut in season three, this Nelsonic is not only a down-to-the-year appropriate piece, it also plays perfectly into the geek culture of the era. With video game tech getting down to wrist-sized capability, Nelsonic’s original gaming watches were a way to take an arcade cabinet anywhere. With an understandably worrisome mother—and enough trauma to fuel multiple lifetimes of nightmares—Will can definitely use the catharsis of this gaming wrist-piece. Featuring a simple interface and arcade legends to boot, these Nelsonic watches make for a great distraction from the stranger things in life.
Perhaps later we’ll have a look at some more character watches from Stranger Things; We beg many apologies to the rest of the cast and wardrobe for such a brief nod. Until any future updates from us, keep an eye out for some old school smart-tech and gaming watches in the Stranger Things franchise. With so much variety in this affluent decade, in terms of personal digital timekeeping, the co-creators of this franchise have plenty of props to work with. And for horological collectors—if you dig any of these classic pieces—all of them are still available today. Casio itself is surely not going anywhere anytime soon, with over 268billion Yen in annual sales (~2.5billion USD). Nelsonic went under in 1999, but their watches are still sold all over the World Wide Web (if this writer might date themself). So before you and your ride-or-die friends team up to raid dungeons, fight nefarious monsters, or just plain sit down to watch Stranger Things, try boasting some “futuristic” watch-tech from the 1980s. These pieces look extra impressive with a sporty top, some blue jeans, and playing cards on your bicycle spokes—no matter how strange the world may become.
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