In 1954, Superman first gave his pal, Jimmy Olsen, a signal-watch
with which to call him in emergencies. Though it looks like an
ordinary time-piece, it is actually quite unique; for, by pressing a
hidden signal-button, Jimmy can send a "zee-zee" sound which is
inaudible to the human ear, but which is easily picked up by the Man
of Steel's super-hearing. By altering the frequency, Jimmy can
also send signals attuned to the ears of either Supergirl
or Krypto the Superdog.
The original signal-watch was
an analog watch, with the addition of an ultrasonic frequency generator. This version of the signal-watch had a leather wrist-strap. For much of the watch's history throughout the 1960s to the 1980s, the strap had been upgraded to a flex-metal band, usually gold colored. More recently, the signal-watch has been portrayed as a multi-functional personal electronic device.
In 1965, it was reported that Silver, platinum and gold were used in the construction of the signal-watch, as well as
Tulanium from the planet Zumoor, Morabalt from Xenon, and Deronium, an
artificial element unknown in our time, but which Superman brought
back from the 30th century, where he had been visiting the Legion of
Super-Heroes. From the space ship which brought the Kryptonian
villain Gra-Mo to Earth, Superman took a rare mineral, Tuhanite, found
only on his home planet. He thought all the rest of this substance
had perished when Krypton exploded; but later, after rescuing the
bottle-city of Kandor from the space-villain
Brainiac, he found this
tiny Kryptonian metropolis had large supplies of it - though
reduced to microsopic size. However, this is one part of the watch
which will never have to be replaced, since, like other things from
Krypton, it is indestructible under Earth's yellow sun.
One might imagine that this device would ensure Jimmy's safety at all
times; but this is not true. Its signal cannot reach through space,
nor can it operate across the time-barrier. Once, Superman improved
the watch so its signal could carry through space, but the first time
Jimmy used it, the new part, made of a very rare element, Zenalite,
burned and could not be replaced. However, more recently, Jimmy has used
the watch from the Moon to signal Superman back on Earth. Another time, when Superman was at the
Earth's core on a mission, the signal was stopped by a large deposit
of lead; on another occasion, high mountains blocked it. Also, powerful
electrical disturbances can jam the signal. Thus, Jimmy cannot
always count on Superman to respond to his signal, and so must use his
wits to get himself out of difficulties.
Criminals plotting against the Man of Steel often try to steal the
watch so they can use it to lure their super-foe into Kryptonite
traps. Jimmy's ingenuity has thwarted more than one such villain.
In one instance a pickpocket lifted the watch and, not knowing what
kind it was, accidently called Superman with it.
On several occasions, the signal-watch has been broken or damaged, and
Superman, while reparing it, has sometimes remodeled and improved it.
For this reason, the watch looks a bit different in many of the
Oh, yes - in case you're wondering, the watch tells time, too!
Original text on this page taken from 80 PAGE GIANT #13, August 1965; with additions and modifications.
First appearance of Jimmy's Signal-Watch: Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #1, 1954.