Tokima Robot Watch Overview

In the early 80s, a new range of kids watches came out - a watch that was also a robot!

One of the brands producing the watches was the Japanese toy manufacturer Popy who were formed in 1971 and were known for their robot toys.

In March 1983, the Popy company merged with their parent company Bandai, and at some point either pre- or post-merger, the Tokima Digirobo watch was born!

The Tokima Digirobo was copyrighted in 1983 by the Popy Kikakushitsu (or Kikaku) Company Ltd (aka Ginza Kikaku, or G.K.). The Popy name appears on the original models strap and watch holder, with the Bandai name on the robot itself.
Yellow Tokima Digirobo on it's original shop stand

The first Tokima Digirobo watch  is a small plastic children's size watch. When set as a watch, the robot and holder form the head of the watch, and there is a patent or plastic strap. The robot part is almost round  with the robots head folding down over the LCD display, and the robot holder is rectangular. Two small buttons on the side of the watch release the robot from the strap. To open the robot, you pull out the legs, and the arms automatically jump out, allowing you to pose the robot as you wish. To reverse the process, you need to push in the legs first, which allows the arms to latch back in (it's best to set the arms sticking out straight, push them in, and then fold them into the body).

The Japanese name for the watch is トキマ  デジタルロボット(Tokima Digital Roboto). The name Tokima comes from the Japanese way of reading the Chinese character "Jikan" which means "time" in Japanese.

Based on the American patent for the watch (number 4456384) which was issued on 26th June 1984, the watch was invented by Katsushi Murakami for Kabushiki Kaisha Bandai. It appears to have been based on several patents in Japan as early as early as 29th March 1982. The patent shows the Tokima Digirobo, but mainly with a slightly squarer form than the actual watch (although the final form does appear in the later figures), describing the principle as well as the transforming mechanism. The strap and robot holder was also included in this patent, but also covered by patent 4571199 which wasn't issued until 1986. Looking at the patents, they also refer to the Kronoform/Watch-Q robot watch patents from Takara, but were submitted in both the US and Japan before the Takara watch (which actually is the more well known design).

The watch appears to have been released in 5 colours in America, and 7 in Japan. These were red, white, yellow, blue, and shiny black, with gold and silver being the additional Japanese versions. The black, silver, and gold versions had plastic straps, with the others having a patent strap with a matching colour. Out of all of these, the blue is definitely the rarest, but as the plastic strap versions suffer from strap brittling, it can be hard to find those in undamaged condition.
Six of the Seven Tokima DigiRobo watches

Page of Tokimas from a 1995 Bandai Robot catalogue

Inside the watch is a small rectangular module with a 4 digit LCD display, and powered by an AG1 battery. The watch can display time, date, or seconds, but has no other features.

When they went on sale in 1983, they were originally sold for 4,800 yen.
Tokima Digirobo cartoon from a 1980s Japanese book on robots
More photos on the red version can be found on the blog page which can be found at the following link: link

In 1984, two more watches were released in the Bandai Tokima range - the Aquaboy, and the Alarm Tokima.

The Aquaboy watch is very similar, but slightly larger than the original Tokima Digirobo. The main difference is in the styling of the case, as it is designed to look like a scuba diver. The head of the watch is larger, and moulded to look like it has a breathing mask, and the eyes are covered by clear plastic like goggles. The back of the watch continues the theme and has moulded air bottles. To cover the larger watch, the robot holder is round and has an open back, but is still uses the same two button release mechanism. This model was released in 3 colours - red, white, and black, but I haven't seen any reference that they were released outside of Japan.
Three colours of Aquaboy Tokima robots
More of the black Aquaboy photos can be seen from it's own blog post: link

A special version of the Aquaboy also features in a Japanese kids TV show called "おもいっきり探偵団 覇悪怒組" (which translates to "Anger set evil supremacy Tanteidan restraint"??) and featured the watches with Japanese text on the front, and a fabric and velcro strap, but I don't think these were ever sold to the public

The Alarm Tokima is the most different looking version of the watch. The robot part is square, and instead of  the head covering the LCD display, there is a spring loaded cover which is released by a button on the bottom. For this version, the head is rectangular, and also pops out of the body when the legs are pulled out. This design was also covered in the American patent from 1984. Inside, it has a different module, as the watch includes an alarm (with a piezo-electric buzzer for the sound), and is powered by a larger CR 20XX battery. This model was also released in 3 colours - black, and white (with the alarm tokima name on the front), and silver (with a silver textured front), and again, I haven't seen any reference to these being sold outside of Japan.
White and Silver Alarm Tokima
More photos of the Alarm Tokima can be found on it's blog page: link

These watches were then sold for a while and I know they were still on sale in 1985, but don't know when they finally stopped.

Fast forward to 1998, and the Tokima range was reborn with the Tokima Original.

The Tokima Original looks almost identical to the original Tokima Digirobo but is much larger (about twice the size) and made of metal. It has the same mechanism for transforming between watch and robot, but a different holder. For this version (and all of the metal models), the robot holder has no back (like the Aquaboy) and uses small spring loaded clips at the top and bottom to hold the watch in place. Each clip has a small turn wheel that pulls back the holding bar and allows the robot to be taken out.

The new models also had an upgraded module, this time with a dot-matrix LCD display (31x8) and backlight, along with a stopwatch mode. The display normally shows time (in 6 digits), but randomly shows messages (in Japanese) or animations (smiling face, running man etc.). It was also possible to input your birthday, with the robot then giving you special messages on your birthday or other special occasions!

But of course, Tokima isn't just a watch, he is your companion and he has feelings :-)! The box states:
"TOKIMA is your companion in the form of a wristwatch. It can be removed from the watch as a unit and turned a robot. The screen on his chest will tell you what time it is and display messages just for you. He is a robot with feelings. And he will send you messages in accordance with the time, date, week, month, etc. TOKIMA is always close at hand on your wrist, whether you're amused, bored, happy, or sad. Be sure to take TOKIMA along with you the next time you go out. And don't forget to check once in a while to see if he's got a message for you. This is what he is waiting for."
More photos of the Tokima Original can be found on the blog page: link

Another model was also released in 1998 called Steam Head. This watch had the same internals, but had a more steam-punk theme to the design, and a different head opening. For this robot, it has wider curved arms without hands, a completely different looking head, and fake screws on the front. The head still covers the LCD, but this time requires to be rotated by 180 degrees before it is folded back on top of the body. An instruction manual for this can be found on the Old Robots site here: link

Both the Original and Steam Head came in two variants which were Stainless strap, and Urethane strap, and for each strap, there are a range of metal colours. The Original came in Silver, Black, and Gold, while the Steam Head came in Copper, Silver, and Bronze.

Advert for the Tokima Original and Steam Head

In 1998/9, two special editions were released in the Original and Steam Head ranges. These were limited editions (individually numbered) with a production run of only 3000. Both watches came in shiny silver with stanless straps, and were adorned with a swirling tribal style pattern. A lot of photos of the Steam Head special edition can be found on it's blog page which can be found here: link

An extra special version of these were produced for the World Character Convention (W.C.C.) 1999 event with white Urethane straps. All of these that I have seen also have a signed box, and I expect are even rarer than the standard Special Edition. The watches are the same as the normal Special Editions, and have the same numbering system (/3000), so it is unknown how many of this version exist.

1999 also saw the release of a new design called PII. The PII is a variant on the Steam Head design, but has a different head design which is unsymmetrical due to the eyes being different from each other. It was released in different colours than the Steam Head, and was found in matt black, shiny silver, and lightly silvery bronze variants (with  either urethane or stainless straps).

These were the last Tokima watches that were released and that was the end of the Tokima story... until 2014!

To commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Tomima watches, two more Tokima watches were released on 11th Nov 2014. The timing is a little strange as the original watches seem to be from 1983, and the 15th anniversary in 2008, so 2014 would be the 31st year unless the first two were made/copyrighted the year before they actually appeared in the shops. The release was accompanied by a statement around the watches which reads:

It's been 30 years years since then, "TOKIMA" is back from the cosmic space. Human will be beyond time and space by mounting a wristwatch-type time machine in the future. Time machine design, which is beyond the dimensions. It's the "TOKIMA".

Two different colours were released, one black and one silver, and they are a limited edition with only 1500 units per colour. They have been produced by the original designer Katsushi Murakami (who's signature is included on a signed note in the box), with the watches being sold by a company called Sky-J Co., Ltd, and have a copyright to a company called Live Works. The model numbers are SKY-95003 (black) and SKY-95004 (silver). A promo video for the watch can be found on YouTube here.

The 2014 version is an upgraded model compared to the previous models. The watch has longer arms and legs than the 1998 model, and the head is much bigger. The reason for the larger head is that this now contains a 4 digit LCD display on the back so you can read the time when the watch is completely closed. The eyes also now contain Swarovski crystals for a luxurious feel. The main LCD has also changed with the display having an LCD analogue style dial with 3 "hands", and to the side there are some LCD blocks which work with the stopwatch mode. Setting that mode on reveals two LCD digits which appear to show the seconds while the blocks appear and disappear with the seconds. The watch also has a tougher style connector on the strap with a metal bumper design, and the watch now has a woven fabric and leather strap. More info and a lot of photos can be found on the Tokima 2014 article which can be found here.

2014 Tokima with info booklet
Family photo with 1983, 1998, and 2014 black Tokima originals
So that is it for the Tokima story so far... or will we see some more for the 40th anniversary too?

So overall, the following Tokima robots were released:
Tokima DigiRobo - 7 models - 1983
Tokima Aquaboy - 3 models - 1984
Alarm Tokima - 3 models - 1984
Tokima Original - 6 models - 1998
Steam Head - 7 models - 1998
Tokima Original Special Edition - 2 models - 1999
Steam Head Special Edition - 2 models - 1999
Tokima PII - 6 models - 1999
Tokima 2014 - 2 models - 2014
Total: 38 variants!

I have almost every one of the models I've listed here, so please get in touch if you have any question about any of the robots :-D

8 comments:

  1. the screen has 2 black dots and i think the batterys dead im going to replace it but if that dont work what should i do????? send the reply to this email.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Please contact me at my email address: dalitush2001@yahoo.com
    I am VERY INTERESTED in purchasing the 1983 BANDAI TOKIMA DIGIROBO WATCH IN SILVER.
    Please let me know where I can purchase this watch or if you have it, I would like to purchase it from you.
    I sincerely appreciate your time and I do wait your reply soon. I have been searching for this watch for the past 6 months and have had no clue's with who or where to purchase this.
    Thanking you in advance for your time and I wait your reply soon.
    Most Sincere
    Dee-Dee Walker
    San Antonio, Texas HAVE A BLESSED DAY //(* - *)\\

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi. I am Japanese collector of Tokima.

    You have a wonderful collection, although lives in Norway! In particular, Aquaboy and AlarmTOKIMA is an product considerably rare in Japan too.

    I read this fun article, and I found a one mistake. So, I would like to point out the range which I know.

    It's about a type of steam head PII. There are three color of type (Gunmetal,Silver,and Brass) to PII. Also, each had a urethane strap and metal straps version, so it will be six kinds in total.

    However, PII brass version color is similar of silver tinged with gold. These are similar enough not recognize the monitor screen, so it was unavoidable your confusion I think. In fact, I made a mistake buying a brass version and silver version. Point to effective discern is the color of the seal on the bottom of the box of TOKIMA.

    I hope this becomes a reference for your collection. Have a good day!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the info! I've updated the text to cover it, and it looks like I need to keep searching!

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  4. I have (2) Tokima Digirobo Watches 1983, one in Shiny Black and the other in White. Both are NEW. I have the original cases and the Boxes they were sold in. The boxes are a bit beat up but everything else is NEW. Can you give me an idea as to how much they are worth as I want to sell them. Thanks in advance for your help.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi hi,

    You really have a great collection of TOKIMA!
    but to complete your line, you should notice that there is the 3rd generation of TOKIMA watch released this year.....

    http://www.milk.com.hk/content/tokima-robot-watch-2014

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks - I'd seen they were out, but was waiting for a special occasion to blog them - but everything is updated now!

      Delete