News, Culture & Society

Ultra-rare 1988 ‘WristMac,’ grandaddy of Apple Watch, expected to sell for nearly $50,000 at auction

Decades before Apple unveiled its first wearable in 2015, the ‘WristMac’ smart watch hit the market in 1988.

Now a rare, never-worn WristMac in its original packaging has gone up for auction today and is expected to garner between $25,000 and $50,000.

While the programmable watch was made by Seiko and Ex Machina, it connected via the now-discontinued ‘AppleTalk’ protocol to a Macintosh computer and could set alarms, store telephone numbers and take notes. 

The info generated on the watch could then be exported to a disk as a text file.

‘It was a precursor to 1989’s Macintosh Portable, the first battery-powered Macintosh, the first portable Apple computer, and one of the first modern laptops,’ according to the official release from auction site, which referred to the WristMac as the ‘missing link’ between early cell phones and them modern Apple Watch.

The first email from space was sent by NASA astronauts aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis in 1991, using a WristMac to coordinate with Macintosh Portable and Apple Link software aboard the spacecraft.

‘When it is time to snap photographs of a particular feature on Earth or in the cosmos,’ The New York Times reported at the time, ‘a WristMac will sound an alarm and display a two-line individual chore reminder.’

The unnamed seller purchased the first-gen device for less than $50 at a closeout sale at a Connecticut Mac warehouse, according to Apple Insider, and it has never been resold.

The lot includes the watch and its original box, as well as a never-filled-out registration card, a tutorial and reference manual, original cables, a WristMac 1.2 floppy disk, and a holder for stability when plugged into a computer. 


A rare, never-worn WristMac from 1988 in its original packaging has gone up for auction and is expected to garner between $25,000 and $50,000

ComicsConnect CEO  Stephen Fishler called the unworn, unopened WristMac ‘an extremely rare and obscure piece of tech history, and an incredible find for collectors, investors, and Apple fans.’ 

‘It has rarely been seen since its inception over 30 years ago, and it will likely be years before another one comes to auction anywhere,’ Fishler said in the release. ‘This is a can’t-miss piece of computer history.’ 

A new Apple Watch could also have the feature

More than a quarter-century before the Apple Watch (pictured) debuted in 2015, the WristMac allowed users to take notes, set alarms and store telephone numbers. 

Fishler added that the vintage wearable is so rare, in fact, that ‘it’s hard to predict what it will sell for. We couldn’t find any recent confirmed sales.’

As its name suggests, ComicConnect mostly traffics in comic books: a ‘very good’ condition of Action Comics #1, featuring the first appearance of Superman, is also on the site, valued at least $394,500.

However, early Apple tech has become a hot commodity in the auction market in recent memory. 

Earlier this month a rare Apple 1, the first model computer ever built by co-founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, sold for $400,000— or more than 600 times the $666.66 it retailed for back in 1976.

A rare Apple 1 encased in koa wood sold for $400,000 earlier in November, or more than 600 times the $666.66 it retailed for back in 1976.

A rare Apple 1 encased in koa wood sold for $400,000 earlier in November, or more than 600 times the $666.66 it retailed for back in 1976.

The first-gen computer was encased in koa wood and came with a 1986 Panasonic video monitor, a Xerox copy of the Apple-1 Basic manual, the operations guide and a MOS 6502 programming manual.

This past August, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay paid more than $787,000 at auction for an Apple II manual signed by Jobs in 1980. 

In 2014, a rare Apple-1 computer sold at auction for $905,000, while a pair of first-generation black 8GB iPhones went for $30,000 on eBay that same year