Sir CLive Sinclair's Best and Worst Inventions
by Mark Nobes, chief editor
Sir Clive Sinclair in 1992 (public domain image - free for reuse)
Pocket Radios and Hi-Fi Systems
Sinclair Black Watch image by Prof. Dr. Jens Kirchoff. Can be reused with attribution.
However, it proved to be a disaster for the company, with the watch itself being unreliable and innacurate with a poor battery life of just 10 days, they were also very fiddly to replace. The LCD display was also difficult to see in daylight, and the kits proved to be too difficult to make for the average hobbyist. The circuitry was also over-sensitive to static shock.
The company was also struggling to fulfil orders and almost went bankrupt through this product. It was saved by the labour government's National Enterprise Board (NEB).
Sinclair Radiophonics was left with a stockpile of unsold watches, so it cleverly launched the Microquartz car clock in 1977, which used the circuitry from the watches, and they actually sold quite well.
Sinclair FM Radio Watch
Microvision MINI TVs
ZX Home Computers
ZX Spectrum +
ZX Spectrum 128
Sinclair Vehicles was founded in March 1983, with an investment of £8.6 million, with the former DeLorean manager, Barrie Wills, appointed as managing director. Depsite this, just one vehicle was manufactured, the ill-conceived C5.
Was it an electric tricycle or an an electric car? Well, nobody was quite sure, and this uncertainty was just the start of its problems. The C5's short range (20 miles if you were lucky!), lack of speed (max 15mph), no weatherproofing and safety concerns all contributed to its notorious failure.
Its small size and flimsy looks were a major problem, and being so low to the ground gave a feeling of vulnerability, making it only ideal for anyone who enjoyed the risk of being crushed by an HGV.
There was a dramatic, glitzy launch at Alexandra Palace in London, with oodles of promotional products (hats, mugs, T-shirts etc.) and attractive females bursting out of boxes. Unfortunately, many of the demonstration models didn't work, with a Guardian newspaper reporter experiencing a flat battery after just seven minutes. It was, quite frankly, a disaster!
14,000 were made but just 5,000 were sold, despite a tempting price tag of £399. Sinclair announced that "sales have not been entirely up to expectations". That was the understatement of the year!
Nonetheless, the C5 has since gained a cult following, with owners creating highly modified vehicles, adding big wheels, and bigger electric engines, achieving speeds of up to 150mph! Rocket-powered C5
R.I.P. Sir Clive Sinclair (30 July 1940 – 16 September 2021)