As we have said before, BaselWorld is a beast waiting to be tamed. Much like the watch version of an auto show, hundreds upon hundreds of brands introduce the newest models that are set to come out in the months to follow. This year’s BaselWorld Fair in Switzerland brought us an array of new designs and concepts. However, most notable — and talked about — at the fair was the trend towards watches that integrated with smart technology. And while Apple brought the hype of a connected and intelligent watch to the public’s attention, their absence at the 2015 BaselWorld Fair symbolically tells us that the effect of the smart-watch on the horological industry is not clear cut.
April 2015 marks a month in which some of the bigger smart-watches on the market will finally be released for sale (the Apple Watch included), so we’ve dedicated this week to bringing to light the range of intelligent watches that will soon be hitting the market. The big question is: how will the advent of the smart-watch effect the watch industry as a whole. Tech giants like Apple and Samsung have stuck to their prowess and have created very technical devices that, in addition to activity trackers and notifications, also tell time. In an age where people are becoming ever more connected,the threat of smart-watches flooding the watch industry has not gone unnoticed by the more traditional watch brands. (The concept of Smart watches infiltrating traditional watch making has been likened by many to the arrival of quartz watches on the market about 35 years ago, wherein the Swiss were caught off guard and the industry was nearly decimated.)
We can only speculate how this combination of mechanical functions and technological features will play out when it comes to traditional watches. One thing’s for sure, we’re experiencing a renaissance of sorts with the births of some very alternative watch gear. On the tech savvy side of things, you have the computer software companies producing products like the Apple Watch, as well as its counterparts the Pebble and the Moto 360. But what we’re seeing are symbiotic relationships, as watch brands partner with software specialist companies — each side working within their element and coming together with a conjoined timepiece.
Back on New Year’s Day, we brought you the news of the new Montblanc e-Strap with integrated activity technology built into an interchangeable strap on the Urban Speed watch. Then, in February, we brought you the news about Frederique Constant and Alpina partnering with the tech company Fullpower to create the Swiss Horological Smartwatch Platform. Essentially producing a fusion of an analog watch with updateable/replaceable technological connectivity. This platform is being offered to other Swiss brands and has already been embraced by the iconic Swiss Railway style brand Mondaine, in their newly revealed Helvetica watch.
At BaselWorld 2015, TAG Heuer even made a ground-breaking announcement of its partnership with two of the most innovative technological corporations, Google and Intel, to create what it terms as the finest Smart watch possible. Though still in the developmental stages this is definitely something we look forward to uncovering as a clearer concept appears.
For the brands who choose to tackle the technical integration endeavor, we start to see a varying level of technological functions and connectivity. Breitling has released its B55 Connected which runs off its in-house USB rechargeable SuperQuartz ™ movement and relies on smartphone connectivity for its indications and functions. As a concept model however, the B55 Connected, with its ultra-technical look even adorned with the universal blue wifi symbol, hasn’t begun production at this point.
Later in the week we’ll bring you more in-depth looks at the Bulgari and Guess smart watches that were announced at this years BaselWorld. There is a lot of excitement in this arena, and we are happy to bring a comprehensive look at the technical variations from different brands as they unveil their takes on the connected watch. While a watch is truly a work of art, if the more affordable brands want to keep up with the changing times we’ll be seeing a lot more technological integration to keep these traditional watchmakers competitive.