Although futurists in the 1970s didn’t exactly get their technological predictions right—flying cars, one of the most common conceptions of the future, still don’t exist—technology in the ’90s and early-aughts managed to impart a novel nostalgia that still holds a place in pop culture today.
Take Nixon’s watches for example.
When Nixon was founded in 1997, their goal was to make watches that more closely reflected the youth lifestyle of California. What founders Andy Laats and Chad DiNenna didn’t realize was that their vision would end up redefining what a watch could be and should do. “At the time, the watch industry was taking itself really seriously,” explained Laats. “There were these oversized watches coming out and it seemed like the bigger, more traditional, flashy watch was happening. And it wasn’t very fun.”
Nixon’s strategy was to take this trend of chunky watches and instead of making them overengineered and complicated, they landed on fun, more lighthearted concepts like making a watch that could talk back to you. They also briefly toyed with the concept of making a calculator watch, but other brands had already done it, and Nixon has a philosophy of making things they’d never seen before.
That’s when they landed on the idea for the original Dork watch, a timepiece made for the literal dork in all of us—it was the company’s first watch that spoke back to the wearer. “We couldn’t think of anything funnier than a watch that would talk to you,” explained Laats. “So that was the inspiration, like let’s get as dorky as we can, and what’s even dorkier than a calculator? Because nobody’s doing math on that thing; it’s just buttons, and weird read-outs.”
With the original Dork, it was an opportunity for Nixon to highlight its playful approach to watchmaking in a marketplace that was increasingly dominated by bulky, cookiecutter designs. The original Dork brought a certain irreverence that appealed to younger consumers who didn’t just want any shiny new toy. Hidden features like alarms voiced by pro-skater Tony Hawk and other surprise guests were unlike anything a watch had seen before. Off-the-wall phrases like James Brown’s iconic “Get Up!” jolted you out of bed, and with the recently launched Dork Too—the Dork’s smart ass successor—there are more possibilities than ever now that it’s completely rechargeable via USB.
“When you started to hear those [phrases], like Tony Hawk saying something, or one of our surfers, or another snowboarder dropping these hidden messages that people had to discover, it was like, ‘Wow, how many of these can we put in?’ That’s really where the fun began,” explained DiNenna.
While there can be over a hundred different sound bite configurations on the new Dork Too when you factor in every sound it produces, there are eight new alarm phrases preloaded that gets dictated to you at the push of a button. Come 5PM, intuitive phrases like “Beer Me” automatically remind you to unwind, or when the long weekend’s over and you’ve got to head back to the office, the watch shouts “Mondayyyyyyy” like you’re actually excited about it. Its custom digital LCD displays your usual functions like date, time, and an EL backlight, making the Dork Too the smart watch you didn’t know you wanted.
Aside from the Dork and new Dork Too, a few other watches from the Nixon archive have contributed a great deal to its appeal as a fun and irreverent watch brand that time and again thought outside the box. The Rotolog is one such watch, which featured beautiful wooden inlays and an analog face akin to a digital read-out. Its rectangular design and wood finish is inspired by the mid-century modern period of architecture and was a welcome respite to the stale designs of that era.
Another evocative timepiece that Nixon introduced in 2006 was the Dictator watch which doubled down on the retro aesthetic and allowed the wearer to record and store up to eight different voice recordings. We can think of many useful, or rather mischievous scenarios, where that feature can come in handy, but we’ll leave that to your imagination.
Although most of these styles are no longer available, Nixon’s all-new Dork Too ushers in a new era of smart watch that’s equally fun with fresh features that keeps the spirit of the original Dork alive. It’s a Nixon icon that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Get a glimpse of the new Dork Too watch and check out Nixon’s full range of timepieces at Nixon.com.
- Photography: Kosten