So I have been meaning to get around to doing this review of Mark's comlink watch for a couple weeks now, but I was holding off until I could get him a photo of Glen Larson holding his amazing watch first. I think it's important before I get into this particular review to emphasize how difficult it is to make various Knight Rider merchandise availible when you're a creator or supplier to the hobby. I mean replicas are one thing, there's a lot of different producers out there making K.I.T.T. parts but when it comes to the more rare and unique items like television props for instance, it takes two things to make these things availible to the fans - passion and financial risk. In order to create things for this fandom, you as a merchandiser much always assume a certain level of production cost and risk.
These kind of things, they don't make anymore of. I think it is important to commend Mark on making this and other products of his availible for the fans who desire to get just a step closer to the series they admire. From his show accurate California blue 82' KNIGHT license plates to his new comlink watch, Mark is a man striving to keep the spirit of Knight Rider alive by making products availible with the limited resources he has availible. I commend his efforts to not only create such fantastic merchandise but also make it at a price point, we fans can afford in these troubling times.
With that being said, I think fans need to understand while we would like to have all the bells and whistles, this watch is as close to the original as you can get today without spending a fortune on it. You won't find soundchips, lights, functional radios, or other such features - much like a high end replica from Star Wars or Star Trek, what you'll get is a recreation of history meant mostly for display but still functional enough to survive in the real world.
As you can see, recently I gave Glen his watch on Mark's behalf (and also my black leatherette) and thinks it's great. Glen said that one of the things he insisted on carrying through the motion picture is making sure Michael has a communicator watch. It was one of his favorite details from working on the original pilot. Glen was very pleased to receive the watch and it's now placed in his office inside a glass display cabinet which has all the goodies fans have given him and other achievements from his career he can reflect on as he writes his scripts.
Well let's see, where to start...THE ORIGINAL COMLINK WATCH - A BRIEF HISTORY
As I understand it through various research and talking to crew, the original comlink watch given to David Hasselhoff was based on an AM Radio watch created by a company called Advanced
(Made in Hong Kong - See lower left b/w photo). The original watch face was covered up by a silk screened label for two reasons. Firstly, so it could stand up to the wear and tear of production and secondly it was made with a matte black finish so that nothing would be reflected into the camera. Only the silver paint had a slight shine to it. It's also important to point out that the lettering and artwork was silver and not white so it would not distract from the camera's focus on the time display.
This was a specially created decal by the Universal art department that was sized to cover up the unecessary displays in the lower portion of the LCD unit. If you look at the screen captures of Michael Knight's comlink watch, you will see that the edge of the sticker is lined up to create a nice frame around the time display - but conceals the additional features on the original watch face
. This particular style of watch was very popular at the time and other companies leaped on Advance's innovative space-age concept of combining a AM radio and headphone jack within a wrist watch.
Another company called Gala
(see upper left watch in second image) created a knock off of the comlink AM watch body but designed a different LCD module to make the watch more practical for day to day use and a different wristband and face detail. Bradley
(right and middle) which is most famous for their Star Wars AM Radio headphone watches built their watch design off of Gala's original LCD look - I believe they used the same manufacturer in Hong Kong. You can spot the difference between a Bradley Watch and an original Advanced watch by the placement of the "seconds" on the LCD face. The correct placement is in the upper corner
(As Mark's watch shows) the Bradley unit design has the seconds in the lower right corner
. This is because the LCD unit was not the original Advanced model which had more features below the time placement.
I'd like to also address that while I was recreating the face art of the comlink watch for The Knight Rider Companion
, Mark pointed out to me the difference between the Bradley watch and the Advanced radio watches which helped me to correct a potential error in my research of the watch. I thank him considerably for his note and made the changes to my artwork accordingly. This shows just how much research Mark has put into making sure his watch is as authentic as it gets. After Mark's notes to me, I did further research and located rare photos of all three "comlink" watch types - the Advanced, Gala, and Bradley watches.
For some reason it's exceptionally difficult to track down photos of these watches so I've provided them for you in this post. I couldn't find a working close up of the Bradley watch so you'll just have to take my word for it about the seconds being in the wrong spot. You could probably google it.DELIVERY AND PACKAGING
Upon arrival, I found my a USPS small flat rate box inside (I'm domestic) my mailbox and when I opened it up, Mark's watch was protected in bubble wrap, and also covered by a thin plastic sleeve containing the directions for use. What can I really say about packaging? As a merchandiser myself shipping a book that weighs about 4 pounds, protecting your stuff in shipment is paramount and Mark spares no attention to detail when shipping out his merchandise. You may notice when you order a watch that it might have a blue tint to the front - that is actually another level of protection Mark offers his customers and is a thin layer of protective film that you can peel off with your fingernail.
He goes out of his way to make sure things are delivered as damage free as possible. That's class.
So for me, I've seen the "comlink" watch before in person from fans across the world mostly based on the Bradley body design, so I recognize that the watch is actually smaller than it appears on the show. You however might be surprised and how small the comlink watch really is when you first hold it in your hand. You see, cameras are very good at making things look bigger than they really are. I can assure you with all confidence that Mark has the correct 1:1 scale of the original comlink watch. I took a close up of the comlink on my wrist to show you what I mean about cameras and close ups. (below Glen on the left)
The body of his model is spot on to the original Advanced look and he spent considerable expense to reproduce the body as closely as possible to the original. As I understand it he had acquired a bunch of the original Advanced watches and sent them as samples to his watch manufacturer to show them exactly what he was looking for. I can tell you from talking to Mark at length over the phone that he had a uphill battle with this company to get them to create the watch "show accurate". They kept wanting to modify things and add extra features that would destroy the show accurate nature of the piece. Mark went through considerable trouble to ensure that you fans are given the most screen accurate reproduction possible, but also a practical one.THE DECAL ART
How does Mark's watch stack up to the original "decal"? Well first off, he designed his watch with the "decal art" beneath a protective plastic cover. Unlike the original watch which just had decals slapped over the top of it (and were prone to scratches and other damage), Mark has taken the time to make sure the watch art is well protected. He also has made all the fonts and artwork sized as close as possible to the original label art. I suppose the face would get scratched up with heavy use but because his artwork is underneath, it ensures that the artwork will remain clean and visable. Mark has created a design that is meant to last.
In my opinion Mark gives you both options - whether you want to be Michael Knight and walk around wearing the watch or if you want to me more of a collector and just display the watch as a conversation piece. For me, I'm a collector and while I love the vintage feel of the watch, it's not practical for my day to day needs where I need a light, date displayed, and so on. This leads me to my next section of the review.FUNCTIONALITY
For the average user who wants to use the watch as a functional time piece, you can easily set the time and month/date using the two functional silver buttons on the right side of the watch. Mark provides clear instructions on how to set things up. It doesn't get much easier than that - you hold one button to set and press another button to adjust - simple. "A" and "B"
Mark's watch has been stripped down from the original Advanced in order to keep costs down. Yes, it would be nice to have a radio watch or a watch with sound clips or some sort of blue-tooth capability but let's be honest here - it's a digital watch. Not only that but it's a SMALL digital watch. If you take off the back panel and remove the four tiny screws securing it, the entire LCD unit pops out. Very simple battery replacement but there is no room to add anything new inside the case. Every inch of it is taken up by the white plastic unit housing the LCD display piece. If you remove the timepiece unit and put the back panel back on - you essentially have an empty shell with a tiny little window to see through. Even the faux radio dial tiny as it is, is secured into the body of the watch itself by a small post
Let's discuss the radio dial a momemt. Your first impression will likely be that it is probably too loose for your liking and could "snap off". I have to tell you, if you're going to wear this watch as a day to day timepiece, you're accepting the risk that will come with that. It's likely the dial could snag and snap off - but that's the same of any small device with fragile parts. The dial IS NOT that fragile, it would take a good amount of force to break it off. My particular dial is fairly loose in terms of spinning around but not falling out. For me, I took a small piece of artist kneaded eraser and wrapped it around the tiny gap between the dial and the watch body to create just enough friction to keep the dial turning steady. Some people might try to snap off the dial and glue it back into position - that's fine if you do that but keep in mind you'd need a clean break since the dial is secured by a post. If you snap it at the wrong angle, good luck lining it up to face with the "AM" upside down like the show did. I would not recommend damaging any kind of collectable but that's me. I try to keep things as pristine as possible.
You've seen the photos I posted of how I display the watch in my collection, so I won't put more of those up. I just gave you a nice close up below Glen on the right. (outside of my lightsaber case).
There is a speaker jack but there is no radio or speaker unit in the watch - its just a hole in the side that shows part of the inner LCD housing and likewise with the small "speaker" hole on the face. The radio "function" is purely cosmetic. This watch is designed to act just like it did in the series - secure to your wrist and display the time. Other than that, nothing special here. Speaking of the speaker hole - because part of the inner unit is exposed, its clearly obvious the watch IS NOT waterproof. This is also indicated in the directions Mark provides.THE WRIST BAND
Like most "new" digital watches using plastic bands - its stiff and will take time to adjust to your particular body type. I have huge wrists and large hands so for me it doesn't sit exactly flush on my wrist but I honestly don't intend to wear my watch - I just like mine for display. For people who do choose to wear the comlink watches (probably to show off for Knight Rider events) just understand you'll have to break in the band a bit before it will feel comfortable. Near as I can tell the band itself is pretty durable and I don't see risks of cracking or it snapping off despite how rigid it is. I imagine with enough wear and tear, like any other watch it would need to be replaced at some point.
There are plenty of holes to choose from in the band to fit your particular wrist size and the clasp is made of strong metal so it should handle anything you throw at it. Not much else I can say about the band other than unlike the Gala watch or Bradley watch - Mark's wristband matches the one used on the show and that makes a huge difference when you want to feel like you are a part of it. When it comes to matching "the look" of the original series, Mark has done his homework well.THE BACKPLATE
I know that Mark created a unique backplate exclusive to his watch and I applaud him for not only making it exceptionally easy to replace the watch battery but also give us fans a little piece of visual history to identify with. He has a great reproduction of the pilot Semi Knight Industries Logo which I believe matches his KI license plate stamped into the backplate and Model # - MP-001, which you should know what it stands for. It's a nice little touch, plus he also provides the type of battery (LR21) so you don't have to guess what type it is when it needs replacing. Very cool stuff.CONCLUSION
Well what else is there left to say without repeating myself too much? I think Mark has done a fantastic job capturing a piece of Knight Rider history in his reproduction of the watch, we as kids always wanted to have. If you want to relive the fantasy of being Michael Knight, this is as close as you can get to his watch without having to struggle with trying to track down an actual Advanced or Bradley AM radio watch and create a sticker to modify it. For me, I don't need the bells and whistles because the affordable price point of 49.95 speaks for itself.
Mark isn't Master Replicas, Sideshow Collectables
or some other high end replica creator. He's not trying to pocket your money and produce these watches on the cheap. He clearly has gone out of his way to create a replica that will last even if you choose to wear it rather than just put it on display. He's been kind enough to create instructions which are quite frankly pretty much common sense along with warnings on what not to do to make your watch last. I wouldn't suggest getting involved in high speed foot pursuits, getting thrown into hot dog stands, or climbing barb wire fences with the watch on either
Remember the watch is NOT waterproof and while functional, it's not designed for heavy use. Don't go hitting it with hammers to test some invisable MBS or smacking it into walls or a den of snakes. This is a watch that is meant to be handled with care.
If you have any questions about his products, ask him about it. He wants to help you enjoy your buying experience and to enjoy your product whether it's a watch, license plate, or whatever else me might come up with.
There might come a day others are knocking off Mark's work trying to find ways to improve it but in this hobby and in life itself there are very few firsts - Mark can rest easy knowing he's the first fan of Knight Rider who had the courage and financial risk to create a watch reproduction fans could enjoy for years to come and I for one think his work and his customer service reputation speaks for itself. Mark knows props and he knows Knight Rider. Because of his influence we have accurate KNIGHT plates to grace our K.I.T.T. replicas or brighten up our collector shelves. We have products to show the cast and crew of Knight Rider to amaze and astound them because these original items existed and were lost years ago.
Because of people like Mark's passion and creative risk, you can be closer to Michael Knight and your replica can be closer to K.I.T.T. than ever before.
In my humble opinion, Mark has created a watch that shouldn't exist and every fan of Knight Rider should have at least one or more in their collection.
This is a piece you'll be able to pass on to future generations and share why its so special. Get your watch before they disappear forever. Mark may be making them affordable to flood the market now
but remember nothing lasts forever. This is a true piece of reproduced history and I highly encourage you to get your piece of Knight Rider history today before it disappears into the sunset tomorrow.
Nearly 30 years ago:
Glen Larson created Knight Rider.
Michael Scheffe designed and built K.I.T.T.
David Hasselhoff gave us Michael Knight.
William Daniels gave K.I.T.T. his soul
Today in our generation...
Mark Puette has recreated Knight Rider props that will last a lifetime.
And that makes all the difference.
Author/Designer of The Knight Rider Companion