My 1990 Dick Tracy 2-Way Wristwatch... From Playmates!
Updated: Dec 1, 2022
If you read "from Playmates" in the voice of the guy who narrated the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toy commercials, you're one of my people. (If you're not familiar, watch this video and read it again!)
Sometimes you want to reclaim something from your past, without a real degree of certainty as to why. Such is the case with the featured relic from 1990. I had one when I was a kid, but it's been lost to the ages. I obtained this Dick Tracy watch on eBay for the princely sum of $12.04, including shipping. I thought it would be cool to revive "the 1990s does the 1930s" look. I intend on opening this blister pack, which has been sealed since the first Bush was in office. Destroying a time capsule is uncharacteristic of me, considering I have a room full of boxed Transformers. But there's not exactly a scarcity of unopened Dick Tracy watches, so an angry call from the Smithsonian is unlikely.
I took photos of this sealed watch immediately after receiving it. Unfortunately, after I opened the packaging up to take additional pictures, I found the camera's SD card had become corrupted. I then contacted the eBay seller, hoping she might send me the auction's photos for use in the article. Right afterwards, I figured out how to bypass eBay's zoom feature, and save the pictures. It was so easy, I felt really dumb. So, thanks to eBay seller "number245" for rescuing me with the first image, and my wife for additional photography. I feel like I'm giving an acceptance speech.
Back in '90, I was a nine year-old fanatic for Dick Tracy. I wouldn't see the movie until many years later, but I never missed the syndicated '60s cartoon (which aired really early in the morning here), and the Playmates Toys blitzkrieg left no child without yellow fever. The Dick Tracy franchise actually had me wanting to become a detective. Knowing this, my mom took me to the local police station, and I got a crash course in basic stuff like fingerprinting. These days, a kid could probably pick up more info on an episode of CSI, but the experience was a big deal at the time.
My respect for authority figures would wane dramatically in my teen years, never to return. On a related note, here's my car, another survivor of the '90s. It's hard to believe my watch had been sealed for five years when this baby rolled off the assembly line.
The racketeering-busting frenzy of 1990 would culminate with a Dick Tracy Communicator Watch from Kay-Bee Toys. I believe I purchased it with my own allowance money. The following commercial touts the watch as keeping "super-accurate time," and even Rolex ads don't go that far! I also love the "built-in working watch" line when the whole thing is a watch, and the mention of the "voice-monitoring light," as if that makes any sense. I guess you can pull off anything with a fast-talking '30s accent. Let's give it a shot: Say, what's the big idea? Get on the trolley, Charlie! Work those get-away sticks, before ya get rubbed out by a flatfoot!
Now that I've lost every reader but you, enjoy the remainder of this article.
My favorite aspect of this timepiece is its analog look, despite being digital. Of course, this all goes back to lower production costs, but it adds a nice period authenticity. I appreciated attention to detail even as a kid, as evidenced in my art projects. The watch's original batteries were dead. (Duh.)
On a fourth-grade field trip in a concert hall, I convinced other kids this thing was a real walkie-talkie. I "talked into it," held it up to my ear, and "replied." This charade went on for a couple of minutes. I'm not sure if my acting was brilliant, my classmates were dimwits, or a combination of the two. I'm leaning toward the second option, but I've been known to be mistaken. For example, I once thought I was wrong when I wasn't.
You can tell the copywriter had a lot of fun with the back of the packaging, which makes an in-joke about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and even gets borderline racy! There's no way a company would use "dame" in their copy these days: Even in this historically-accurate context, it would lead to a class-action defamation suit. This blister pack is almost cooler than the product it touts, and I'm not sure I'm going to be able to throw it away. My wife will be overjoyed.
Now for the moment which has kept me in suspense for almost a week: I once wore this watch with pride, but will the band be able to wrap around my now-adult wrist?
Not even close, but it's nothing a different strap can't fix. Ironically, the watch itself, which always felt gigantic when I was little, is now perfectly proportioned to my girth. Does that make me sound fat?
As you may be able to tell from the below photo, some of the electronics have become corroded by battery acid, so the light no longer functions. My voice will have to go un-monitored, and that's probably for the best. The watch still works. Whew!
The VHS tape came from Video Tech, one of the local rental places featured in the site's Defunct Video Store Tribute.
The grand total for the watch and parts replacement was twenty-four bucks and four cents. So for the cost of a lunch date at Five Guys, I have a piece of my childhood back. I would have liked to have gotten a red watchband, but the green one matches the face, and it wasn't the worst option the mall had. Maybe some day, I'll pick up a red strap online, but I wanted to make the purchase in person, to ensure the replacement was going to work. (Leather ended up being too thick.)