Nothing lasts forever. And when it comes to rubber watchbands, you can probably put a finite life of around 20 years on them.
Some defy the odds and are still ‘usable’ 30, 40 years later; but others perish long before that time meaning a replacement is necessary in order to wear the watch with any confidence.
And in 90% of cases this isn’t a problem because even if the original watch band can’t be found, the odds are pretty good you’ll be able to find an acceptable facsimile.
It’s the other 10% which is a pain, and the Tomy Wristbowling (and, in fact, the whole Tomy Watchman range) falls into that category.
These watches used a slide-in design for the rubber/resin band much like the GCE ‘time’ range of watches.
You can see why Tomy did this, and why a few other manufacturers followed suit.
For game watches with front buttons, it is far more comfortable to remove the band entirely and play the watch’s games flat on a table rather than having to deal with a bendy strap. It’s a small but useful difference to traditional watch bands and was used on the GCE watches, Tomys, Conso Space Shuttle, Michael Jackson watches and Omni voice watch among others.
But they perish, and finding a replacement is pretty much impossible.
I had a small stack of bands for the GCE watches that, when I sold them, fetched around USD150 from memory, which I thought was a lot at the time. It wasn’t.
There are a couple of things you can do to try and workaround a broken slide-in band. Get what’s left of the original and cut new slideable segments into it (which is what I did with this one). It would have worked ok if the band wasn’t so perished — as soon as I wrapped it around the watch holder for the photo, it started splitting again.
The other is to get a traditional band of the same, or similar, dimensions, cut it into a slidable band, and hope for the best. That’s what I’m going to do next, as soon as I locate a 22mm rubber/resin band of about the same thickness.
The manufacturers of these watches probably didn’t expect the watch to outlive the band, hence why they didn’t make replacements. The Tomy has a very robust module though and it will be running for a good many years yet.
Of the Watchman watches (the others include wrestling, golf, pirates and fishing plus a Pacman and Space Attacker clone with different cases) the bowling is my favourite. You can play a single frame with multiple players, according to the manual, or a traditional 10-frame game.
It’s not hard to get a strike or two, but near impossible to do it consistently. Making 200 points in a game sounds a fanfare but the ultimate would be to somehow bowl 300 — I don’t know anyone who’s managed that though.
Other features include stopwatch and alarm. Plus, the time display is pretty cool and not documented.
You get the hour and minute, but can also work out the seconds by what is lit up on the screen. You get one pin for each 10 seconds elapsed then depending how many LCD segments are lit up depends what second it’s on. For example, the photo at the top of the page is 5:50:48.
These are rare but not impossible to find, usual price is somewhere between USD80 and USD120.
If you have a spare original watch band, or know a better way to repurpose an aftermarket band, please let me know.
UPDATE: I did manage to repair this, and it was a good fix. You have about zero chance of finding an original band, in good condition. And it’s a 22mm band at that, which I think was unique to Tomy. I’ve never seen another watch with a slide-in band that big. So the solution was to find a new band of the right width and somehow make it work. There are some good quality after-market replacements for Casio’s 22mm calculator watches which, while not perfect, are pretty good, and I had a spare to play with.
I also had to find the right glue. Given the flex the band has, which is different to traditional non-sliding bands, the glue had to be more flexible too – more like silicone than glue.
The product I found is called Selleys Ultra Repair. It has the consistency of aeroplane glue (those people who have ever built a model aeroplane or model car will know what I’m talking about) but dries flexible.
I cut a section from the underside of the band so it would slide (with some encouragement) into the slot, applied the Ultra Repair liberally and waited. It’s fast-drying and has done the trick perfectly. If I had to do another it would be better still, but I’m more than happy with this repair, particularly since the watch now sits on a stand without breaking, or can lie flat, or be worn without a problem.