The world's fascination with the gadget watch began in the 1930's, with the introduction of the comic book character Dick Tracy.
Tracy was a hard-hitting police detective, outfitted in bright yellow garb and carried among other things, a Two-way wrist communicator that over time also included video capability.
Hamilton Pulsar was a luxury watch manufacturer that was known for its pioneering work in creating the world's first truly digital timepiece in 1970, and was featured in the James Bond movie "Live and Let Die". In 1975 the company introduced the first fully functional calculator watch.
In the 1980s, Japanese timepeice manufacturer CASIO introduced the Databank, a LCD watch line that continues to be manufactured to this day. Databanks have had many configurations over the years, including calculator watches, but primarily they have been used for limited PDA-type of functions (Appointments, Contact, Calendar) that we see as common features in today's smartphones.
In the Mid-2000's Microsoft experimented with a 1-way FM broacast radio data service known as MSN Direct.
Among the devices to use this service were SPOT watches which were made by various manufacturers. The data broadcast by MSN Direct included localized weather service, news, and traffic reports.
Microsoft shut down MSN Direct in January of 2012.
In the early 2000's, IBM Research experimented with getting the Linux kernel ported to very small microcontroller devices.
As a proof of concept, IBM built a few Linux watches to demonstrate various technologies, and showed them at various trade expositions. But the design was never commercialized.
At CES 2009, LG Electronics demonstrated the GD-910, the first true 3G phone watch with touchscreen and video calling capabilities, bringing Dick Tracy's 2-way TV phone to reality. It runs on its own proprietary OS.
At almost $1000 and with no data capabilities, the GD-910 is more of a novelty than a practical smart device.
After the 2010-era iPod Nano was introduced, it seemed natural to create a wristband encasement for it to turn the device into a full-blown smartwatch/wrist-mounted media player.
Design firm MNML created the LunaTik and TikTok bands, and through distribution partnerships managed to sell over 350,000 of these.
While the 2010-era Nano is no longer produced, bands from other companies have been created for the current version, although the solutions are not as elegant given that the current generation Nano is rectangular and larger.
In 2011, Apple filed a patent for a "Wearable Accessory Device", #20130044215.
While there is no proof any of this will be integrated in Apple products anytime soon, it's definitely an eye opener into future wearable computing developments at the company.
Released early summer of last year, SONY has the first "Watch companion" released into the wild with its MN2SW, which requires an Android phone with a Bluetooth connection.
For a review, check out CNET's in-depth look at the device.
Pebble, a new startup company, will soon be offering its low-power, E Ink-based bluetooth watch companion for iOS and Android smartphones in April-May of this year. The device will cost $150. The device contains a motion sensor and can run simple apps that display telemetric-types of output from data coming from connected Smartphones.
Based on leaked screenshots Samsung appears to be working on a smart watch known as the "Altius". Very little about this device is known and what operating system it runs on.
It is rumored that Altius will communicate via Bluetooth tethering to an Android smartphone to transmit phone calls or music.
There's been a lot of wild speculation about what Apple's rumored iWatch might look like, and what the device would be capable of. But little of what's been written so far has been grounded in any form of reality. What do we get if we anchor speculation to actual patent applications filed by Apple?
Read Adrian Kingsley-Hughes' article about a conceptual design that was created using known information about Apple's technology and design philosophy.