Moving forward technologically, but remaining true to its original purpose –– the paradox of a watch.
In similar fashion to cell phones, watches are undergoing a technological advancement aimed towards versatility and convenience. These smartwatches are able to provide a number of services including phone notifications, weather updates, navigational assistance, voice command and other mobile functions –– all from your wrist.
Smartwatches were introduced in the early 2000’s by tech giants like Samsung, IBM and Microsoft, but it wasn’t until 2014 that the wrist revolution truly began. Many new smartwatches were released from various small companies alongside the big players like LG, Samsung and Apple (now the market leader among smartwatches, accounting for half of all smartwatch sales, and more than three-quarters of smartwatch revenues). Smartwatches have been on the market for a few years now, and they have been met with positive reaction and criticism, for the most part.
Now in its second series, Apple Watch 2 is the hybrid between an iPhone and a classic watch that enables users to read emails, summon Siri, make and receive phone calls, and other various iPhone functions. The sleek, slender watch has a built-in GPS chip that can provide directions to a destination, and also water resistant, so you can send and receive text messages in the shower. There’s a custom sensor that consistently measures your heart rate during a workout, providing recorded information like number of footsteps, miles, and beats per minute. With more than 71 combinations of customizations –– everything from the case material, color, size and type of band (sport, nylon, leather, and steel) –– Apple offers more room for personalization with their smartwatches compared to their iPhones. According to Jony Ivy, Apple’s chief design officer, “I think Apple’s contribution has always been at its most significant when it’s trying to make personal products. And this watch is clearly the most personal product we’ve made.”
But aside from the technological advancements, smartwatch manufacturers are embarking on a new creative development: their aesthetic. As much as smartwatches are admired for their digital capabilities, many consumers have voiced concern regarding the physical appeal of these watches. Sometimes they appear too “tech” due to their digital dials/screens that can be reminiscent of sport watches; what you have appears to be a cross between a Livestrong band and a wrist pedometer.
There is an apparent lack of panache and the elegance of classic watches. The stylistic function of a watch can fail to succeed if it creates a strong contrast between wardrobe and wrist. Imagine wearing your best suit or dress alongside a sportwatch, or your gym attire with a Rolex; there’s a strange juxtaposition that can create a flaw in appearance.
Those that desire the image of a classic, luxury watch, intertwined with the benefits of a smartwatch will certainly be enticed by Tag Heuer and other established watchmakers. Most of these watches operate on Google’s new software, Android Wear 2.0. but appear inconspicuous as smartwatches. Unlike Apple, Google has collaborated with both tech companies and luxury watch brands to create exclusive smartwatches. Its new update offers the ability to run apps without needing a smartphone nearby, as well as customizable watch face combinations, access to Google Play Store, and an updated Google Fit. The new operating system also features GPS tracking, NFC for mobile payments, and new designs that strive to look like classic watches. Popular brands like Samsung, Sony, Nixon, LG, and Casio, have followed in suit with the operating system, featuring cutting-edge designs that emanate a clean, minimalist appearance.
Tag Heuer’s first line of smartwatches was met with favorable reviews, and the company came back with its second-generation launch earlier this year. Combining Tag Heuer’s signature craftsmanship with Google’s sophisticated software system, the Modular 45 Smartwatch offers the best of both worlds; pay for your espresso with a swipe of your watch, scribble messages on the screen to send as texts, or ask Google about the nearest Korean barbeque restaurant, all by way of a refined, classy smartwatch that doesn’t yell smartwatch. The ‘45’ indicates the size of the watch body at 45 mm, with a titanium body and a sapphire crystal display that most other smartwatches haven’t been able to replicate. Calfskin, ceramic or titanium straps, lugs set of diamonds or titanium with rose gold, black or titanium buckets –– consumers still have the ability to personalize through customization of over 60 types of luxury straps, modules and lugs.
Fashion-foward thinking has paved the way for top designer brands to seize an ideal opportunity and create their own Android wear watches; including Gucci, Emporio Armani and Tommy Hilfiger. Louis Vuitton is the latest to join the ranks of the luxury smartwatch phenomenon with the debut of their new Tambour Horizon. The Horizon follows suit with most other smartwatches, but with less features –– it alerts you to email and texts, works as a pedometer, provides city guides, but like most does not contain a heart monitor. Its short list of features is a result of Louis Vuitton’s fashion-first attitude, focusing on offering stylish straps and cases made from high-end materials that can’t be found in the average smartwatch.
“Look, the internet of things is really only going to get bigger,” claims Louis Vuitton chief executive Michael Burke. “You can sit on the sidelines and watch, or dive in and participate and try to influence where things go. We’re diving in.”
The Tambour Horizon comes in a 1.2 inch AMOLED screen, with three choices of brushed steel, stainless steel and black steel, with a selection of over 60 different styles of premium Louis Vuitton straps. While its price is more demanding than the Apple Watch or other standard smartwatches, this is the result of designer products that put more emphasis on appearance rather than functionality.
It seems that a compromise has been made for both the tech-savvy and fashionistas. In this era of wrist revolution, other luxury watch brands, including Rolex and Montblanc, are seizing the opportunity to create a new line of smartwatches that emanate their signature style and engineering with smartwatch features. The success of these high end smartwatches is yet to be revealed, but with new innovations in both technology and style, it seems to have become a market favorite. In quite a literal sense, only time will tell.