Traditional analog watches take on smart wearables with a few tech tricks of their own|
By Anand Parthasarathy
When I was two, I remember my grandfather still used a pocket watch which he secured with a chain to his coat. Before I was six, he had graduated to a wrist watch -- a Favre Leuba Swiss chronometer as it was grandly known. -- and it lasted him the rest of his life -- another 16 years.|
Last week, US researchers Strategy Analytics released findings that for the first time , global smart watch sales overtook those of the traditional Switch watch, selling just over 8 million pieces in the last quarter of 2015. Experts have started writing obituaries for the analog dial watch -- suggesting it will be as obsolete as that other Swiss achievement, the cuckoo clock. This is not the first time analog watches have faced a crisis: in the 1980s, Japanese makers like Casio, put a quartz element into the watch to replace mechanical time keeping and scooped up huge chunks of the market. Swiss watches lived to fight another day -- by emphasizing style and elegance over technology, and marketing themselves as elite brands ( like Rolex).
Now the traditional watch industry is fighting back once more -- and it has one agni astra or secret weapon: enough people prefer telling time from a dial with hour and minute arms , rather than peering at digital displays ( which for many, means putting on spectacles). They may like features like health tracking but are not ready to give up the comforting feel of a dial watch. Many sport two devices -- a health wearable on one hand and a wrist watch on the other --- awkward!
If you can't fight 'em, join 'em.: Leading analog dial watch makers have taken on the enemy in unexpected ways, cannily addressing the pain points of smart wearables. Some, like Seiko have harnessed new technologies which do away with battery changes and run for years. Others like Casio's G Max series, harness Bluetooth to access all the music and alerts you may have in your hand phone. Still others like Timex, add activity tracking features normally found only in health wearables; while Titan has launched Juxt which uses HP technology to display notifications, track activity and adjust to time zones.
We got to try out some of the 'smartened' analog watches that are now available in India and share our experience.
And just to keep track of the challenge posed by smart watches, we also put a market leader through its paces.
Interesting times lie ahead as tech meets tick tock... Watch IT!
Timex 'Metropolitan': Style meets smart activity
Timex took some of the starch out of the original Swiss watch and broadened its appeal: in 1930 it introduced the Mickey Mouse watch. Its newest model, the Metropolitan, is just as disruptive -- with its implied message: 'we give you the best of both worlds: a classic analog watch and a smart activity tracker.' What's more, it works with any make of smart phone. You download the Android or iOS app and it tracks and stores data on your steps, distances, calories. And unlike pure digital smart watches, its battery lasts for 18 months. If like me, you are a dial guy when it comes to telling time, but also aspire to keep fit , this is a great combo for Rs 9995. They supply two straps, one classic black, the other, luminous.
Seiko Premier Kinetic Perpetual: Forever and a day
Health trackers monitor every stride or jog of the wearer. Why didn't any of the makers think to convert this energy to power the device itself? Seiko has done just that. As its name suggests the Kinetic Perpetual uses the kinetic energy of your body movement, and converts this mechanical energy into electrical energy to power the watch. I am told, a tiny rotor in the Caliber D 48 model that I tried out, spins 1 lakh times a minute to convert my leisurely gait into milliamps. When not worn, it goes to sleep and when worn again ( even after 4 years) it leaps into action, updating time and date. I won't be around then, so I can only take their word for it that the watch's built-in calendar will work till 2100 AD. This chunky steel gents watch is no lightweight in any sense and costs Rs 54,500 but I saw some heavy discounts on the web.
Samsung Gear S2: Game, set and match
Extensive research at Samsung's India R&D centre has helped make the Gear S2, a smart watch for all seasons: multiple sensors, track your movements, then built-in 'analysts' assess your game and offer hints ( even diet and menu)! If you like to work out to music it has a built-in player and space for some 300 songs. With its own dual core processor, and 1.2 inch AMOLED screen it is a small computer in its own right -- even though it works with your phone -- any Android phone with 1.5 GB RAM and an Android KitKat or later OS. The design has a classic, yet very contemporary simplicity to it. It retails for Rs 24.300.