TV Cream

Bric-a-Brac: J is for...

James Bond Digital Alarm Watches

From the KP Snaps Swimming Bag to the ‘Roller Radio’ (whatever that was exactly), promotional giveaways involving the accruement of a specified quantity of empty crips packets were a proto-recycling regular occurrence in the early eighties. Thus it was that in 1983, Smiths Crisps attempted to surf a wave of James Bond hysteria in the wake of the release of Octopussy by giving away cheap flimsy digital watches with two important differences – that familiar ‘007’ logo rendered in a sort of crumbly off-yellow hue, and the ability to ‘beep’ a flat, tuneless, unrecognisable and (thanks to cost-cutting technology) virtually unstoppable rendition of the John Barry/Monty Norman/Delete Where Legally Acceptable franchise signature tune at a digitally predetermined time, only with an additional extraneous non-canon ‘beep’ at the end for no readily obvious reason. And surf that wave they certainly did – for a couple of months, playgrounds were uttertly swamped with youngsters proudly toting their Roger Moore-slanted time-telling acquisitions, leading to a teacher-infuriating cacophony of twenty three slightly-out-of-sync watch-generated Bond Themes sounding whenever the end of a lesson approached. Mercifully, so carefully tailored to the film’s theatrical lifespan were they that within a short while, failing components reduced the once-proud guitar-aping fanfare to a sort of dejected buzz, and the watches were ditched even faster than George Lazenby.



  1. MB

    January 8, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    I had one of these that must’ve lasted at least six years, as I was still using it in the first year secondary school (albeit not playing the alarm all the time as I did when I first got it, though it did still work).

  2. B B Beyer

    January 9, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    “the watches were ditched even faster than George Lazenby”

    …except that George Lazenby was never actually ditched by EON. Apparently he was offered a contract for seven movies, but was convinced by his agent that the secret agent would be archaic in the liberated 1970s and so he left the series voluntarily after just the one movie (OHMSS).

  3. TV Cream

    January 10, 2010 at 11:44 am

    Yes indeed… though sometimes facts can get in the way of whimsy!

  4. Adrian

    January 11, 2010 at 10:48 am

    The watch Bond had in Moonraker was an all time classic – it could fire two types of dart (armour piercing and cyanide tipped) and incorporated a tiny disc cutter which got Bond out of a sticky situation at least once.

    Incidentally, my first digital watch lasted 20 years (1983 to 2003).

  5. Richard Davies

    August 9, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    My brother wanted one of these, I can’t remember if he actually sent off for one or not. Either way he never got one.

    My Cousin did have one for a few years, I remember being slightly surprised by the alarm going off at an off moment.

  6. Dinoq

    August 16, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    That watch was ACE!!! I saved up for it using the old salt and shake bags of crisps. good old days

  7. Graham Pearson

    May 19, 2015 at 9:12 pm

    The 1983 incarnation of Smiths Crisps had five different flavours including Ready Salted. Please can you tell me what the other flavours were.

  8. Richard16378

    May 19, 2015 at 10:25 pm

    At a guess:

    Salt & Vinegar

    Cheese & Onion

    Roast Beef

    Smokey Bacon

  9. Tom Ronson

    March 31, 2022 at 5:29 pm

    I was slightly obsessed with the (at the time) technological wonder of the digital watch, and used to gaze admiringly at the Argos catalogue during the run up to Christmas. I had one of these James Bond watches (the bleepy rendition of the theme tune was surprisingly fine), and I also had a Pac-Man watch on which you could actually play a miniature LCD version of Pac-Man. A few of the slightly older kids at school had those very early LED digital watches, which were about the size of a Jammie Dodger mounted on your wrist and – thanks to the red on black displays – almost impossible to read outdoors in broad daylight.

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