Are Casio's Old Smartwatches So Beautiful They Belong in a Museum?

Jony Ive could learn a thing or two.


Casio watches were ahead of the curve. Even though they were cluttered with minuscule buttons that only worked maybe a quarter of the time (if you had small fingers), they embraced the idea that watches were obligated to do more than tell time.

Now, the multifunctioned Casio watches will be rightly honored in a museum that’s dedicated to celebrating the inventions of the company’s creator Toshio Kashio and his three brothers. The appropriately titled Toshio Kashio Memorial Foundation in Japan is displaying more than 30 watches that date back to the 1970s.

Even though the watches couldn’t pay for your Starbucks or check in to your Delta flight to Tampa, they were technologically advanced in their own way. For example, the clunky QWO2-10 released in 1974 contained the world’s first calendar function and the CD-40 model had the amazing capability of memorizing up to 10 names and numbers. 

That doesn't sound like much now, but it was incredible at the time. And it was striking too.

With its crowded panel of buttons and uncomfortable wrist bands, it’s easy to say that the Apple Watch didn’t gain any design inspiration from them. Yet, these gadgets are beautiful in their own weird way. The exact opposite of understated, they looked what would happen if a plane’s cockpit was shrunk into a watch. And, which multiple capabilities, Casio rightfully predicted a future where watches were more than about telling the time.

Rather than pretending to be luxury goods, Casio's watches very clearly aligned themselves with all things tech and all things functional. They weren't elegant, but they were functional - and the same could be said of the people who wore them. 

The exhibition, which is sure to draw in more than a few forty-something software engineers, starts June 10.