Rare original 'Apple Watch' from 1988 up for auction

A picture of the Seiko WristMac and a floppy disk
Astronauts wore a WristMac on board the space shuttle Atlantis in 1991. Photo credit: Supplied / ComicConnect

Tech lovers looking for a rare piece of history can now bid on an original 'Apple Watch' that was released 25 years before the touchscreen versions widely available today.

The Ex Machina/Seiko WristMac was first put on sale in 1988 and was a programmable watch that could sync to a Macintosh computer. It could store telephone numbers, take notes and set multiple alarms.

It connected with those early Macs through a cabled serial port connection, while a feature called 'AppleTalk' offered an easier way for peripherals and computers to network together.

It also played a part in the space programme, with astronauts taking advantage of the early smart watch.

The New York Times reported in 1991: "As the space shuttle Atlantis passes overhead this week, several of the astronauts are wearing WristMac watches that can display data taken from an Apple Macintosh Portable computer that is on board.

"When it is time to snap photographs of a particular feature on Earth or in the cosmos, a Wristmac will sound an alarm and display a two-line individual chore reminder."

Communication wasn't quite seamless, however. If there was an update to the astronauts' schedule, the NASA officials in Houston needed to "transfer updated files to the orbiting Mac Portable from Earth-based Macintoshes via fax modem".

The auction describes the WristMac as "a precursor to 1989's Macintosh Portable, the first battery-powered Macintosh, the first portable Apple computer, and one of the first modern laptops, as well as a visionary precursor and missing link between early cellular phones and 2015's Apple Watch".

The sellers are clearly hoping to capitalise on the premiums people are willing to pay for first-generation technology, pointing out that a rare Apple 1 computer sold for US$905,000 in 2014, while a first generation sealed iPhone sold for US$29,999 last month.

It seems unlikely that the watch, as cool and as interesting as it may be, will fetch anywhere near those prices, however.

The current winning bid on the ComicConnect website is at US$550, although prospective buyers do have another 26 days to get their bids in.

The unused WristMac comes in its original packaging, with a registration card, reference manual, cables and software on a floppy disk.