The Amazing Live Sea-Monkeys Aquarium WatchFergus Nash
There are a lot of weird watches in the world, from a slime-powered smartwatch to one that will tell you when you’re going to die. People are always looking for something unique, to stand out as a conversation piece. But, would you resort to a watch which can carry around live animals? The Amazing Live Sea-Monkeys Aquarium Watch is exactly that, and it’s actually been around for quite a while.
Even if you never had Sea-Monkeys growing up, I’m sure you’ve seen them advertised or lining toy aisle shelves. Dating back to 1957, just after the launch and success of the Uncle Milton Ant Farm, Harold von Braunhut discovered brine shrimp being used as fish food at a pet store and realised their potential value. They were given anthropomorphic figures which looked nothing like the eerie crustaceans they were based on, the fanciful name ‘Sea-Monkeys’ and advertised on more than 3 million comic book pages per year during the 1960s and ‘70s. Able to be ordered directly by comic-reading kids with their own pocket money, they’ve been a childhood staple ever since.
The brine shrimp themselves are able to be sold as ‘instant pets’ due to something called cryptobiosis, where their eggs can become dormant for years once dried out. When their conditions are ideal again, the eggs can again be hatched. This is known to happen with a lot of plants and flower seeds, however it’s incredibly rare among animals. Given the long-lived success of Sea-Monkeys, experimentation with their packaging and marketing was inevitable. Space shuttles, pens, and even race tracks were made to keep the Sea-Monkeys experience fresh, but of course, we’re mainly interested in one kind of accessory at Time+Tide.
One of the first wearable aquariums for Sea-Monkeys was a necklace bauble from 1966 called the Sea-Gem, but the Aquarium Watch was born in the Sea-Monkeys boom of the ‘90s. They even had their own TV show in 1992 starring the likes of Howie Mandel and Gilbert Gottfried, and the bright-coloured excess of the decade was the perfect environment for novelties to flourish. The Amazing Live Sea-Monkeys Aquarium Watch of 1997 was available in five different colours, with jelly-looking straps and various artwork on each of the dials. At its core, it was a cheap digital movement with an LCD screen, and a plastic hemisphere acting as a crystal.
You could remove a rubber stopper from behind the aquarium, suck up and dispense your Sea-Monkeys with an included pipette, then seal everything up and enjoy the aquarium on your wrist. The concept raises all kinds of ethical dilemmas that are reminiscent of Disco Stu’s 1970s goldfish shoes, especially as the instructions claim you can keep the shrimp in the watch for up to 12 whole hours. Whether or not they can experience negative emotions, being shaken up for half a day doesn’t exactly sound like being kind to a living creature. You might think that it was simply a product of its time, but the Aquarium Watch was also re-released in 2015 without the LCD watch display, simply for carrying them around on a strap.
Sea-Monkey collectors aren’t very numerous, but there are enough to make certain collectibles scarce and valuable. The YouTuber Picocosmos, who you should definitely check out if you’re interested in Sea-Monkeys ephemera and history, paid US$150 for his sealed 1997 example. If you’ve read this article and decided that an Amazing Live Sea-Monkeys Aquarium Watch should be the next addition to your collection, be prepared to fight for it.