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HP made a smartwatch in 1977, and you can buy a prototype for $14,500

HP made a smartwatch in 1977, and you can buy a prototype for $14,500

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Long before we were debating the merits of Android Wear and the rumored iWatch, companies were experimenting with quartz technology, LEDs, and miniaturized circuits to create the ancestors of the modern wearable. HP — which made some of the most important calculators back when calculators were a big deal — pitched in with the HP-01, a busy hunk of metal that took the crown as the world's first calculator watch (long before the days of the Casio you might have in your desk drawer). According to the Museum of HP Calculators, it cost $600 in 1977 dollars, weighed a third of a pound, and could be had in your choice of gold or stainless steel.

Today, the HP-01 is a bona fide collector's item — doubly so when it's being sold in an unreleased color. An eBay seller alleges to have a prototype HP-01 in chrome (as if a third-pound watch with 28 buttons on its face isn't attention-grabbing enough). Chrome never seems to have been made available as a production option, which makes this a rare bird indeed.

Rare enough to sell for the asking price of $14,500, though? That's a lot of Gear Lives.