The Receptor was a message watch produced by Seiko in the United States allegedly taking four years to develop. It was introduced on July 16, 1990.
When it was introduced, the Seiko Receptor was a breakthrough in personal communications but not in package design.
The full packaging set included the watch, manual, service area maps, service specifications and cards with number codes to share with friends who will be calling your Receptor. Missing from the packaging pictured is the individual card with phone and ID numbers.
Seiko Communications Systems, Inc. in Beaverton, Oregon managed the receptor watch communications. The operation have since been discontinued.
Picture credit http://www.beans-around-the-world.com/beaverton.html
The Receptor was simply a pager in a wristwatch, so while the general concept (pagers) wasn’t revolutionary at the time, fitting one into a wristwatch was. As you can see from the manual excerpt below, the system relied on a central message server which connected to the Receptor watches using a FM based radio system. Communications were one way. The Receptor could receive but not send messages.
Service was carried through dedicated transmitters, so coverage was limited. Upon release, coverage was restricted to the Seattle and Portland areas, but Seiko had plans for nationwide US coverage. I have not found any indication that the service was ever expanded outside the initial areas.
In addition to the message services, the Receptor also provided informational messages in which slightly cryptic displays (due to the Receptors 16 character size limitations) updated you on the important events of the day. Based on the selection of services provided, we can surmise that Receptor customers were primarily skiing stockbrokers with a gambling habit and interests in local sports.
After paying $255.00 for the watch, buyers then paid a $12.50 per month fee for the service subscription. This seems like a small amount for a product that allowed you, in Seiko’s words to “Stay in Touch with Life. ” I’m particularly fond of the two first paragraphs in the manual which state: “Being on the go and in the know can actually leave us feeling disconnected and out of sync. But do not fear, help is at hand; Your SEIKO RECEPTOR MessageWatch can help you sort through frenzy and find balance – in the work, world and at home.” Remember, this was in 1990, where very few people had even heard of a mobile phone.
I think Seiko did a decent job with the design of this watch, especially the early metal versions. The Receptor has a bit of a 90’s feel to it with its slightly streamlined look and the grey/metal colour combination.
The designers must have worked hard to fit a FM receiver and watch into this relatively small case. The watch fits well on the arm and does not feel large. Weight is about 150 grams. Battery life is said to be about one year which probably also was an excellent technological achievement.
In order to improve reception, the Receptor had an antenna built into the strap!
The strap antenna required a bit of tweaking when putting the watch on, and Seiko thought the procedure needed an extra page in the manual. It is actually the same clasp as a lot of Seiko watches with metal straps from the 1970’s. If the strap fitting was too complicated, one could always call customer service for help. I wonder if Seiko gets clasp fastening questions nowadays?
As with all dinosaurs, the Receptor eventually became extinct. Seiko shut down the FM service in Seattle at the end of 1999 making the Receptor watch today just an ordinary watch with a cool history.
I found no information on how many Receptors were sold, but because they are not uncommon on eBay, my guess is that there were at least a few thousand produced. I see many of them come up for sale unused so I think sales must not have been as high as expected.