Here, we're taking a very liberal definition of "smartwatch" -- because the Ticka is essentially a spy camera packaged as a pocket watch. Still, it's one of the earliest examples of a timepiece incorporating additional functionality. In this case, that means the Expo sports a lens disguised as a "watch-winding stem," with a tab on the side to control exposure time. Invented by Swedish engineer Magnus Neill, the Ticka gained popularity on both sides of the Atlantic in the early 1900s, with variations made by Houghtons in England and the Expo Camera Company in the US.
Even by today's standards, the watch featured in the super-popular Dick Tracy comic strip has innovative specs. Everyone's favorite fictional detective used his two-way wrist radio to get out of trouble as early as 1946, and he eventually stepped up to a model with a built-in TV.
Back in reality, we're starting to see more companies incorporating cellular technology into their products, and some already let you make and answer calls when connected to your phone. The relevance of Dick Tracy's watch isn't lost on companies today; Samsung even referenced the gadget -- along with hardware from The Jetsons, Power Rangers and Star Trek -- in a commercial for its first Galaxy Gear in 2013.
With the Pulsar P1, released in 1972, watches moved into the digital age. This timepiece was the first LED version to hit the market, using an electronic mechanism rather than moving parts. It certainly didn't skimp on materials; the original version came in an 18k gold case and went for a cool $2,100 (comparable to the cost of a car at the time.) The watch's less lavish successor, the P2 (pictured here), was even featured in the James Bond film Live and Let Die.
A digital watch paired with a keyboard? Seiko's Data-2000 was as cool as it sounds -- just check out that awesome product packaging. The watch could store two memos with up to 1,000 characters each (hence the "2000" in the name), and the keyboard and timepiece communicated wirelessly. Seiko went on to sell additional watches with computing functionality, including the D409 with a mini on-screen keyboard and enough memory to store just 112 digits.
Sure, it came several years after Dick Tracy's wrist radio, but the device used by Penny on Inspector Gadget reflected the '80s-era love of the computer-wristwatch. Penny used the device to monitor her Uncle Gadget and communicate with Brain. Come to think of it, babysitting her uncle reminds us a bit of the functionality on LG's new KizON watch for keeping track of your children.
Germany's largest watch and clock maker, Junghans Uhren, released the world's first radio-controlled watch. The device was able to offer incredibly accurate time information by receiving signals via its built-in antenna system.
IBM first prototyped a watch running Linux in 2000, and quickly evolved into the WatchPad, made in collaboration with Japan's Citizen Watch Company. Though production for the device stopped short in 2002, the WatchPad sported some ahead-of-its-time features, including the ability to control a PC via Bluetooth and a fingerprint scanner for extra security.
We'll forgive you for failing to remember Microsoft's Smart Personal Object Technology (SPOT) initiative, but the company did present its own take on the smartwatch in the early aughts. Partnering with Fossil and Suunto, among other watchmakers, Redmond developed a timepiece that displayed information such as stock info, in addition to syncing with Outlook. There was also an annual $59 subscription fee to access all features except timekeeping -- and that might have had something to do with the SPOT's lack of staying power.
LG claims the GD910 was the first 3G watch-phone with video-calling capabilities to hit the market. The device never gained much traction, but it offered an early look at the smartwatch as we currently know it; it sported a touchscreen and a camera, and it included text-to-speech and voice-recognition features for making calls. Running on LG's proprietary Flash-based software, though, the GD910 didn't offer much in the way of apps.Like LG, Samsung released its first attempt at a watch-phone around this time -- with a similarly clumsy name to boot. The stainless-steel S9110 included a touchscreen and offered syncing with Outlook mail. Like the LG GD910, it also included voice recognition.
Credited with jump-starting the current obsession with smartwatches and other wearables, Pebble launched on crowdfunding platform Kickstarter in 2012. It became the most funded product in the site's history, and a thinner, more sophisticated version of the device, called Pebble Steel, followed in 2014.
In late 2013, Samsung debuted the Android-based Galaxy Gear smartwatch, with S Voice and a limited number of compatible apps. One of the biggest drawbacks, though, was that the Gear originally only worked with the Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy Note 10.1. The device was widely regarded as a flop, and Samsung would release several more additions to its Gear lineup before joining forces with Google for the Gear Live running on Android Wear. We've even seen one watch from the company running the open-source platform Tizen.
Using Qualcomm's Mirasol low-power color display technology, the Toq watch was produced as a proof of concept, so the company could show manufacturers how Mirasol could be implemented with an attractive design. The device boasted a touchscreen with excellent outdoor readability and long battery life. Qualcomm's still selling the Toq in black or white through its website, with a price of $250.
By introducing its own software platform for smartwatches at its I/O event in 2014, Google addressed many of the shortcomings of previous wearable devices by bringing one user experience to products made by a number of different companies. At launch, popular apps including Evernote and Lyft offered compatibility, and at-a-glance, contextual information from Google Now promised to make lives easier. Currently, the Android Wear-powered LG G Watch and Samsung Gear Live are available, with Motorola's circular Moto 360 slated for a release date in the coming months.
Oh, and let's not forget the Apple iWatch, which has been rumored since 2010. Cupertino just recruited an exec from high-end timepiece brand TAG Heuer, providing the latest piece of evidence that an Apple-branded smartwatch is in the works. Whenever that device should arrive, it will likely offer a slew of fitness features along with voice commands via Siri. In any case, Apple's certainly had time to learn from the mistakes of its competitors, so the expectation for the iWatch -- especially when it comes to an attractive design -- will be pretty darn high.