Submarine is a good example of the kind of cheap game watch you may have seen floating around at the beginning of the 1980s.
There’s no manufacturer label, it looks kind of cheap and cheerful, and if you think you’ve seen this case design before, you probably have.
There were plenty of watches in this range – the game was the same, just the LCD and front ‘crystal’ graphics were different.
They were games like Witch, Frog, Dragon, Football, Monkey, Cat and Mice, and Wild Horse. A rarer promotion-only watch from Kelloggs called The Pagemaster Richard (from the movie) also used the case and circuitboard.
Cheap doesn’t mean boring, though, and these game watches had some nice features.
You could set the time in 12 or 24 hour mode; there was a daily melody alarm (London Bridge is Falling Down); an hourly chime; and two games (Game A/B). The games were essentially the same, but Game B was a bit harder. This approach worked for Nintendo, though, so why not here?
Launching the game (you could play it with sound, or in silent mode) played Pop Goes The Weasel as the intro, then each ‘tick’ was a note from London Bridge – so the faster it went, the more you could pick the tune.
In this game you have to collect the divers/paratroopers that have been dropped from the helicopter at the top of the screen in your submarine. You have three lives/misses but when you hit 200 points (and maybe 500 points as well) all your lives are restored.
There’s also a treasure chest that appears giving you five points if you hit it (although you run the risk of dropping one of the people you’re trying to rescue if you get greedy and keep trying to get the treasure). Another nice twist is that sometimes a victim will get caught in the seaweed and swing back and forth, so won’t drop when you expect it to.
The longer you play, the faster it gets, but slows down at 100 points, then again at 250 points, and probably later too.
Way more fun than you’d expect, these watches can still be found on eBay for a reasonable price. Be warned, though, they almost always have battery corrosion damage and they’re hard to repair. Conductive paint didn’t work well on this one, so I wound up remaking traces with wire and replacing the capacitor and oscillating crystal before it would work consistently. I still suspect it will die again for good someday so play it more often than those that are more ‘bulletproof’.
Here’s a video of the gameplay…