The future is here! With the recent flood of the Apple iWatch in the market, it certainly is! But the traditional world of watchmaking is taking slow, somewhat ponderous steps towards this new world. Montblanc fired the first salvo with the smart buckle which CEO Jérôme Lambert was seen sporting around in SIHH 2015. Tag Heuer announced a partnership with Google, but had nothing to show at BaselWorld 2015. Swatch announced a wellness watch, which is targetted to hit the market mid this year. And there is precious little else, safe the brilliant, but tongue in cheek proclaimation by the now infamous Moser teaser, which finally revealed that their Perpetual 1 is indeed a smart watch. Until now. Bulgari showed an interesting twist to the iWatch/Samsumg styled phone watch interface with a clever innovation. To use the watch as a key to a vault in the phone for storing sensitive data. Introducing the Bulgari Diagono Mangnesium Wrist-vault.
The concept is simple, partner with a security expert, in this case Wisekey. The technology uses a cryptographic chip and invisible antenna which uses NFC (Near Field Communication). This chip is embedded in the watch to transmit a digital certificate to a Bulgari Vault application residing on an iOS or Android phone. The validation of the digital certificate allows the vault in the phone to be open, and access given to the data within. NFC technology is the most secure in the realm of data transmission as it requires the two devices to be very close together in order to connect.
The watch used to demonstrate this techology is the Bulgari tested Diagono Magnesium. The mechanical self winding watch carries this electronic passport to connect the watch and its wearer to the smart phone. The watch itself is a proven design, based on the Diagono Magnesium, a rather innovative use of a metal not normally associated for use in a watch case. Magnesium is extremely light, and strong, but it can be reactive, sometimes voilently producing a bright white light when it ignites. To use magnesium as a case material is a magnesium allow, and is further protected by an advanced technology in the form of PEEK (PolyEtherEtherKetone), a technique which gives the magnesium exceptionally robust characteristics.
Rather discrete at 41mm in diameter, the case is in steel, with case middle in magnesium and PEEK, a ceramic bezel engraved the double Bulgari logo. The caseback is black PVD steel as is the crown with a black ceramic lozenge. The watch looks curiously classical and avant garde at the same time. Classical due to the proportions. Avant garde due to the unusual colour of the case and the use of ceramic. In the watch shown in the photograph has a rather handsome brown Motorlac colour with a matching dial. The movement is a standard Bulgari movement running at 28,800 bph with a power reserve of 42 hours.
Conclusion – further thoughts
We find this a novel way to introduce technology into the traditional mechanical wristwatch. Will this be the final form that the traditional watchmaking industry will take in embracing smart technology as forced on it by the likes of Apple and Samsung and Google? Probably not. But this is a useful, first blush. And we think it is rather promising, albeit perhaps a bit long in the tooth. What do you think?