Editorial: What is a smart watch?

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We were not at the TAG Heuer Connected launch in New York just yesterday. We did receive the Press Material and we had access to in great detail, and decided not to run a Press Release article. Hundreds of other sites did run it, flooding cyberspace. We will be getting an full hands-on and photography session of the TAG Heuer Connected soon, and will publish our in depth review when we do. But the release, and the press conference ran by Hodinkee‘s Ben Clymer, and TAG Heuer CEO and President of LVMH Watches, Jean Claude Biver caused us to think…and re-think. What is a smart watch?


Two questions


First, what is a watch? Is it a device to tell time? Of course! but it is not as simple as it seems. Your microwave oven can tell the time. So can your television, your air conditioner, your phone, your computer and just about any electronic or electrical device. Are those watches too? As a side note, more than just telling the time, many of these devices now have an IP address, and can be connected to the internet and controlled.

Keep that in mind, while we ask the second question:

Does it need to be strapped on the wrist? Maybe. If it does, we can rule out most of the other devices we mentioned in the previous paragraph. But we also rule out pocket watches, from whence the wristwatch we know today come from. Interesting conundrum.

Quo Vadis? Though definitions are tough, we guess most of us have a pretty good idea what a watch is, and should look like. These days, it generally means a device strapped to the wrist, which tells the time. So the battle for wrist real estate begins.


The smart watch: race for wrist real estate


The wrist is a natural, and comfortable place to strap a device to provide us with information. Traditionally, this space is taken by the watch.


Casio GA-100CM with a multitude of functions including a worldtimer for 48 cities with Daylight Savings, 1.1000th of a second chronograph, countdown timer, 5 daily alarms, countdown timer and perpetual calendar.

Casio GA-100CM with a multitude of functions including a worldtimer for 48 cities with Daylight Savings, 1.1000th of a second chronograph, countdown timer, 5 daily alarms, countdown timer and perpetual calendar.


Let’s consider Casio, and Suunto. They are electronic. They have a classic wrist watch form factor and are strapped to the wrist. But they are essentially mini computers. Programmed with all kinds of information from classical watch complications like alarms, perpetual calendars, chronographs, but also with non-classical ones like altitude, compass, elevation, to weather prediction. Does this make it smart?

What about Polar, Garmin and the work they are doing to display information like heart rate, calories burnt. It displays geographic data like altitude, elevation, speed, location. They can even be connected to the internet and update data on sites like Strava. Are those smart watches?

What about the Tissot Touch launched in 1999. The touch interface is quite clever. And it can display divers information. Or the Bulgari Diagonolo Magnesium or the SEVENFRIDAY V-series with the clever use of NFT to as a digital key.

And how about Moser? Edouard Meylan, CEO of Moser made a cheeky advertisement before BaselWorld 2015 with a teaser on the new Smart Watch from Moser…which when revealed later turned out to be their Perpetual 1. A pure mechanical piece. But very clever engineering makes the perpetual calendar smarter than others. Does this make it smart?


The Apple Effect

-When Apple enters a market, it tends to be the dominant product. Paraphrased from an article on The Economist: An iPopping Phenomenon (2012)


How about the  Apple Watch? These are wrist computers which communicate with your phone, and provide some clever features. And a relatively new phenomenon, which perhaps triggered this race for a smart watch. In response to a question during BaselWorld 2015 Opening Press Conference, Sylvie Ritter, Managing Director of Baselworld was asked if Apple would be allowed to take a booth at BaselWorld. Her response? Yes. if Apple would take up a booth, they would be welcome to BaselWorld.

And with the Apple salvo fired, everybody in the converging universes of computers and watches are racing for wrist real estate. We note that Apple was not the first with this concept. Samsung had their very similar Gear for a while before the Apple Watch. But when Apple enters a market, it tends to dominate. And the race began.

Montblanc was first to announce a device called the Montblanc TimeWalker Urban Speed e-Strap. Not a watch, but a quick way to add smart functionality and a limited internet connectivity to a watch strap. IWC announced their IWC Smart Connect, similar to the e-Strap.

By BaselWorld 2015, most brand CEOs have announced some form of Smart Watch. Swatch Group’s Nick Hayek Jr announces a wellness type watch which was to be delivered in 2Q or 3Q 2015. This was realized as the Swatch Touch Zero-One.

And then we come to the TAG Heuer Connected. TAG Heuer does not call it a Smart Watch. Biver calls it Connected. A watch made in the Swiss tradition connected to the past, but with US technology by Intel and Google to be connected to the future. We must say, that’s pretty good marketing. But we have come to expect that from Biver.


TAG Heuer Connected.

TAG Heuer Connected.



But it if it smells like a rose, then by any name it is a rose. From the press releases, it seems like a computer miniaturized for the wrist. It does take the physical form of what we recognize as traditional wrist watch. It runs on an Intel Atom. Biver says its the smallest computer in the world. The dial is just a high resolution screen, and can be customized as easy as your phone’s screen be changed. Having a programmable high resolution screen is not new. Slyde has made one for years, but the TAG Heuer Connected has a thing or two up its sleeve. It is connected via an Andriod phone to the outside world, and this opens up other interesting possibilities. What are these? We shall see. TAG Heuer announced a chronograph at launch time, with a realistic looking dial. Other applications will be available in the future.

We will be examining the TAG Heuer Connected soon, and will publish our thoughts and analysis in a full review.


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