The Fashionable Future of Smart Watches

Moto 360 Smartwatch


by Adrian Herscovici  

The Shapes of Things to Come

So called smartwatches are appearing at an accelerated pace on the production lines of tech manufacturers and traditional watch manufacturers alike. Fueled by the desire to make headway into the market for new and different portable technology, each manufacturer hopes to be the first to design a device that consumers feel they actually need. But what should the ultimate smartwatch look like? The answer: it doesn’t matter, because function will dictate form.

The Latest Smartwatches

On January 1, 2015 Montblanc introduced its e-Strap, with smartwatch technology built into the strap rather than into the watch itself. Theoretically the e-Strap is interchangeable with all sorts of watches, and could therefore be classified as more of a smartwatch accessory. The e-Strap uses Bluetooth wireless technology to provide notifications and track physical activity in conjunction with a smartphone.

Montblanc E-Straps Adds Functionality to Luxury Watches
Montblanc E-Straps Adds Functionality to Luxury Watches
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Other companies are opting to integrate smartwatch technology directly into more traditional looking cases, which may be an attractive compromise for people who want high-tech functionality but don’t want an unattractive gadget on their wrists. The Withings Activaté watch is a good example; it has a stainless steel case mounted on a fine leather strap, a Swiss made dial and a sapphire crystal. The Activaté is also compatible with a smartphone.

Withings Activaté Watches
Withings Activaté Watches
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And last year the world took note when Apple made its first foray into smartwatches with the introduction of the Apple Watch, a unique device that is at once totally futuristic in appearance but incorporates classic elements of watch design including high-end case finishing, interchangeable straps and an external crown. The Apple Watch rolls out this year and, no surprise, works exclusively with an iPhone.

Apple Smartwatches
Apple Smartwatches
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Ambiguous Value Propositions

The one thing that all of the aforementioned examples have in common (along with the numerous other smartwatches on the market), is that their “smart” functions work only with a smartphone – the human race’s standard equipment in every demographic from pre-teen to septuagenarian. If the smartwatch is going to complement, let alone eclipse, the smartphone, it needs to work more independently or offer more meaningful enhancements.

Sure, there are tech-savvy people who will adopt smartwatches immediately; yes, there are purists who have no interest whatsoever in wearing a wrist computer; and yes, there are those in between who require a compelling reason to consider switching from what they already wear, or to wearing any watch at all.

Sony Smartwatch User
Sony Smartwatch User
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Current smartwatches offer few luxuries of convenience to drive anyone’s willingness to adopt them as mandatory equipment. Figuring out the value of the smartwatch to the consumer is therefore the obvious million-dollar question. Whatever the “ultimate” smartwatch does, be certain that this functionality will have a greater impact on dictating its shape than whether or not the device is 50 or 100 mm wide. Ultimately, the decision to wear a smartwatch is about function, not form.

Function First

Companies like HYT, MB&F and Urwerk already produce mechanical watches that stretch the imagination about how a watch looks and displays time. Some of the watches by these companies are impractical and all of them are exclusive and expensive, but they do indicate that people have an inherent interest in new shapes, sizes and designs if the device’s purpose is clear – all of the watches by these companies are high-end timepieces designed to tell time and appeal to their respective audience.

Once there is a smartwatch with a clear purpose that offers essential advantages to the wearer, fashion will adopt the form and people will make the shape – whatever it is – fit within their daily lives, just like smartphones. The bottom line is: first, create something that people need and then experiment and refine the shape and style.

Maybe designing a strap to attach a smartphone to the wrist is a smarter approach than trying to transform the smartphone into some type of wrist device; maybe shirts with custom sleeve lengths to accommodate such a smartphone strap will become commonplace. We’ll find out soon enough.

About Gevril Group

Gevril GroupGevril Group, watchmaker and wholesale watch distributor, is the exclusive U.S. agent for exquisitely designed and crafted European luxury and fashion watch brands, distributing and servicing some of the best affordable luxury and Swiss watches and trendy fashion watches. Gevril Group also operates a full-service watch repair, staffed by master Swiss watchmakers. Contact Gevril Group by email or by calling 845-425-9882.

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Will Google Win the Smartwatch War?

Google Android Wear


by John Sealander  

Will the company with the best hardware win the smartwatch wars? Or will it be the company with the most data?

GoogleAlmost everybody agrees that wearable technology will be the next big thing. What is unclear at this point is who will come up with the winning formula for a successful smartwatch. Pundits and industry insiders could learn a lot by looking at what has happened to Blackberry. This popular platform actually incorporated very sophisticated technology when it was introduced. It was left behind in the dust however, when other manufacturers discovered that software was much more important to smartphone customers than the hardware.

Innovative, inexpensive and even free apps turned the modern smartphone into a versatile tool that could do virtually anything. Ten years later, the same thing could be happening with the emerging market for wearable technology. This time, it won’t be the apps that make the difference; it will be how effectively these apps will be able to access and utilize vast amounts of data.

A Data Goldmine

Who has access to the most data these days? One company stands head and shoulders above the rest is Google. Google has access to such an enormous amount of data that they already have the capacity to do things that other companies can’t. This is why when Google announced recently that it was exploring a new line of Android Wear, it caused a lot of speculation within the watch industry.

Imagine a watch with motion sensors and a microphone. It might figure out that you’re dancing and tell you what song is playing. A Google smartwatch could interface with your online calendar and not only remind you about upcoming events, it could also suggest what you might bring to the party, based on what stores are nearby. Google is all about putting data in context. Instead of a long list of Apple style apps, a Google smartwatch might continually track what you are doing and suggest an appropriate response, based on the context of your actions at the time.

Instead of traditional apps, a Google smartwatch will probably be based on a set of actions. This is what Google is already exploring with its innovative Google Glass wearable project. Using context based actions, you could quickly and easily use your watch for calling a cab, exploring a new city, finding nearby friends, or planning an alternate route to the airport. Google’s innovative creative team lives in a world where cyborgs are cool and talking to your gadgets is as normal as striking up a conversation with the person next to you. They want to go beyond technology and create a watch that becomes an extension of you.

Google in the Driver’s Seat?

Just as Apple understood what a new generation of customers wanted better than Blackberry, Google seems to understand what future generations are going to want better than most current technology companies.

The smartwatch wars have just begun and there won’t be a single winner. Companies as diverse as Sony, Apple, Motorola, Samsung, and even watchmaking giant Swatch, are all planning to introduce their own versions of wearable technology in the near future. Anything could happen at this point, but it would be unwise to count Google out. Google has something that other companies don’t. Google has all the data.

About Gevril Group

Gevril GroupGevril Group, watchmaker and wholesale watch distributor, is the exclusive U.S. agent for exquisitely designed and crafted European luxury and fashion watch brands, distributing and servicing some of the best affordable luxury and Swiss watches and trendy fashion watches. Gevril Group also operates a full-service watch repair, staffed by master Swiss watchmakers. Contact Gevril Group by email or by calling 845-425-9882.

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Forget About Tourbillons! Watch Aficionados Finally Embrace Technology

Seiko Astron GPS Watch


by John Sealander  

A Brief History of High-Tech Watches

There have been high-tech timepieces for almost as long as there have been advancements in technology. First to become popular in the early 1970’s were watches that displayed the time using LED diodes like the Hamilton Pulsar worn by Roger Moore in “Live and Let Die.” Later, calculator watches, fitness watches, and hiking and adventure watches became popular for a time.

Although some of these timepieces are still prized by collectors, very few were ever taken seriously by watch aficionados. Sophisticated watch fans have always preferred the precision gears, jeweled bearings, and tiny springs found in traditional mechanical movements.

The love of old world craftsmanship is still strong, but there is a new appreciation for technology among fans of luxury timepieces. High-tech timepieces are finally beginning to be taken seriously.

A New Generation of High Tech Watches

The current crop of high-tech timepieces has caught the attention of prestigious watch journals and sophisticated fans with their unique combination of great design, superb craftsmanship, and advanced features. Watches like the Casio Pro Trek PRW6000, the Seiko Astron, and the Citizen Skyhawk AT are getting rave reviews by offering battery-free solar power, atomic clock accuracy, and sophisticated chronograph features in a beautiful, well-designed package that rivals the best high-end mechanical watches.

In a world where your cell phone and computer always display the correct time to the exact second, many younger watch aficionados are starting to expect the same type of accuracy from the watch on their wrist. Unlike earlier generations of technology watches that displayed their information in an ugly plastic case, the latest high-tech watches are beautifully crafted masterpieces.

Seiko’s Foresight and Continuing Excellence

When Seiko introduced the Astron, the first commercially available quartz timepiece in 1969, they said “Someday, all watches will be made this way.” Now Seiko is saying the same thing about a brand new Astron. This amazing timepiece, housed in a stylish titanium case, is powered by the sun, automatically adjusts to the time zone you’re in using GPS satellite signals, and features a perpetual calendar that is always correct until February 28, 2100.

The Astron recognizes all 39 of the world’s time zones by determining its current location using GPS, then comparing that information with an onboard database that divides the Earth’s surface into one million squares, each of which is assigned to a particular time zone. This is something even $100,000 mechanical watches can’t do. Even the most sophisticated mechanical watch will only display 37 time zones with a manual reset.

High-Tech Watch Popularity Continues to Grow

Less expensive high tech watches like the Casio Pro Trek PRW6000 and Citizen Skyhawk AT use radio signals from an atomic clock instead of GPS satellites to maintain split-second accuracy. What they share with the Seiko Astron is great design and superbly crafted cases. Maybe that’s why they are showing up on the wrists of more and more sophisticated watch aficionados.

The latest generation of high-tech timepieces has raised the bar for all timepieces. When it becomes possible to provide more, people tend to expect more. There will always be a place for traditional mechanical timepieces, but these types of watches are already becoming fashion items instead of functional tools. Although the best mechanical watches are already just as collectible as a vintage Ferrari or couture gown, you might not be wearing one to work much longer. They are ultimately museum pieces. When you can wear a precisely crafted, impeccably styled timepiece that runs forever on solar power and tells you the exact time to the millisecond even if you are in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, why would you want to wear anything else?

About Gevril Group

Gevril GroupGevril Group, watchmaker and wholesale watch distributor, is the exclusive U.S. agent for exquisitely designed and crafted European luxury and fashion watch brands, distributing and servicing some of the best affordable luxury and Swiss watches and trendy fashion watches. Gevril Group also operates a full-service watch repair, staffed by master Swiss watchmakers. Contact Gevril Group by email or by calling 845-425-9882.

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5 Reasons Why Every Millennial Needs a Good Watch

Millennials


by Bonnie McEwan  

When Your Phone Is Not Enough

Picture a classroom full of undergraduates at one of New York City’s progressive universities. Everyone in the room is of the Millennial Generation, which means they were born between 1982 and 2000. Most students are about 19 years old. Many are hoping to snare summer internships in the city’s fashion, financial or professional service sectors.

The professor has forgotten her watch and, unaware that she is about to show her age, asks for the time by saying, “Does anyone have a watch?” Several students pull out their smart phones and call out the time. “We have our phones,” someone says, “not watches.” It turns out that, of 25 students, only one is wearing a watch. This is more than just a sign of the times. For aspiring Millennials, it’s a lost opportunity.

Here are five reasons why every Millennial should have a good watch:

1) A watch is functional and easy to access. With just a twist of your wrist you learn the time and, depending on what brand you choose, perhaps the current phase of the moon or how many seconds it took you to chase after that cross town bus. No rummaging around in your pocket or backpack for a phone. No moving through multiple screens before you can simply find out what time it is.

2) A watch makes a statement. It signals what kind of person you are — a focused minimalist (Johan Eric); a fashion-forward creative (Versus Versace); an athletic executive (GV2). An interesting watch is a conversation starter. It gives little hints about your unique blend of professionalism and personality. A watch is distinctive.

3) A good watch is a fashion accessory. You can change watches to match outfits. Watches offer thousands of options and features for you to choose from. Colors, shapes, dials, metals, leather, diamonds, solar, atomic, bangles and buttons, in just about any combination you can imagine. Meanwhile, everyone’s phones look pretty much the same.

4) Watches signal achievement. They say you got that great job. Passed the bar. Made it to an office with a real door that closes. A good watch is a gift worthy of marking an occasion. Engrave it, treasure it, wear it as an emblem of success.

5) A quality watch becomes a family heirloom. If you’re lucky, you inherit one from your grandfather. If not, start your own tradition by investing in a watch you love that you can pass down to your children. Watches get better with time, but nobody hands down an old smartphone.

There’s one other big advantage of a watch over a phone. Watchmakers don’t take their customers hostage with a two-year contract. They don’t send you a bill every month and no matter how much you use your watch, there will never be any overage charges.

About Gevril Group

Gevril GroupGevril Group, watchmaker and wholesale watch distributor, is the exclusive U.S. agent for exquisitely designed and crafted European luxury and fashion watch brands, distributing and servicing some of the best affordable luxury and Swiss watches and trendy fashion watches. Gevril Group also operates a full-service watch repair, staffed by master Swiss watchmakers. Contact Gevril Group by email or by calling 845-425-9882.

Join the conversation! Follow Gevril Group on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Please subscribe to the Gevril Group newsletter and blog digest.

Hublot Chairman Accuses Apple of Stealing Watchmakers

Hublot Watchmakers


by John Sealander  

Will your next smartwatch say “Swiss made” on the dial?

When Jean-Claude Biver, the head of the Watches and Jewelry division of LVMH and the Chairman of luxury watch brand Hublot, accused Apple of trying to poach some of his best Hublot employees, it started a firestorm of speculation within the watch industry. What was Apple up to? It has long been anticipated that Apple will instantly become a major player in the burgeoning smartwatch category when it introduces its almost inevitable iWatch. Why was the company looking to Switzerland?

Although nobody knows when an iWatch will reach the market, almost everybody agrees that it is coming. With Apple’s design expertise and proven record at popularizing new technology, expectations for Apple’s upcoming smartwatch are high. The market clearly expects something spectacular from the Cupertino giant.

What the Swiss Have to Offer

While nobody expects Apple to include a tourbillon or a moon phase complication in its upcoming iWatch, there is still a lot that Swiss watch experts have to offer a potential smartwatch powerhouse. Watchmakers take metallurgy seriously. For hundreds of years, Swiss watchmakers have been experts at creating entirely new metals and alloys, just to solve a watchmaking problem.

Hublot Watch with Magic GoldOne of these high tech alloys is called Magic Gold, and it was developed by the very Hublot that Jean-Claude Biver says Apple was trying to raid. Magic Gold is a proprietary combination of ceramic and gold that Hublot has used to make watchcases virtually scratch proof. Is it just coincidence that Apple tried to license this special alloy for use in the iPhone 5 in 2013? Later that year, Apple released an all-new gold version of its popular phone and it is still looking for a way to make its cases scratchproof.

Some industry experts say that Apple may want their upcoming iWatch to say Swiss made on the dial. While this is a possibility, it is highly unlikely, since the company has always been extremely proud of its California roots. The term “Swiss made,” which has long been associated with high quality mechanical watches, would hold little value to a customer buying wearable technology. There are no springs and gears in a smartwatch and there never will be.

Swiss Expertise

What is more likely is that Apple is considering opening a new R&D facility in Switzerland. Steve Jobs was always fond of borrowing ideas from other disciplines and incorporating them in Apple designs. “Good artists copy. Great artists steal,” he said once, lending credence rumors that Apple actually is poaching talent from leading Swiss watchmakers.

It makes sense. The Swiss have been experts in manufacturing all sorts of things for hundreds of years. In Switzerland, Apple could recruit from an amazing pool of watchmaking talent. While Apple doesn’t need the Swiss to put a tourbillon in a smartwatch, they do need Swiss process engineering, ergonomics, metallurgy, and miniaturization expertise. Hiring the best talent they can find from well-respected companies like Hublot, might just give them the competitive edge they are looking for.

While it is fun to speculate whether your new iWatch will say “Swiss made” on the dial, the accusations of talent poaching do have serious implications. Watchmaking is a billion dollar industry and the market for wearable technology is potentially even larger. The Swiss should actually be happy that Apple is looking at them. If Apple hires a few watch experts from Hublot, it won’t hurt the industry. Instead, it will probably help. By acknowledging Swiss expertise, Apple is telling the world what watch aficionados have known all along: Swiss watchmakers are the best in the world at what they do.

About Gevril Group

Gevril GroupGevril Group, watchmaker and wholesale watch distributor, is the exclusive U.S. agent for exquisitely designed and crafted European luxury and fashion watch brands, distributing and servicing some of the best affordable luxury and Swiss watches and trendy fashion watches. Gevril Group also operates a full-service watch repair, staffed by master Swiss watchmakers. Contact Gevril Group by email or by calling 845-425-9882.

Join the conversation! Follow Gevril Group on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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What’s Behind Retail Store Closings?

Retail Store Closing


by Bonnie McEwan  

Out of the Malls and Onto the Internet

Most of us who follow the retail industry are aware of the wave of store closings that has taken place over the last few years. Since closings occur intermittently, however, you may not realize that roughly 5,759 stores in the US have shuttered since 2012. These include apparel companies like Jones Group and The Gap, restaurants (Wendy’s, Qdoba, Applebee’s), home furnishing stores (Kirkland, Pier One) groceries (Food Lion, Kroger, Stop ‘n Shop), toy and entertainment outfits (Build-A Bear, Game Stop) and tech companies (Cellular One, Apple). You can find an alphabetical list of all US retail store closings through September 25, 2013 here.

Certainly the Great Recession has something to do with this, but that doesn’t account for the fact that many of the same companies closing brick-and-mortar stores are expanding their online operations. These moves to the Internet have dramatic consequences that reach well beyond employees and consumers to affect communities and related industries, and not in good ways.

Shopping Malls

The obvious example is shopping malls. Most real estate professionals acknowledge that vacancy rates are high in many malls across the country and rents are depressed. Green Street Advisors, an analysis firm that tracks commercial real estate funds, predicts that 10% of the 1,000 largest malls in the U.S. will fail within the next 10 years. Some mall CEOs think that’s a conservative figure.

There’s a website called Dead Malls that tracks those shopping centers that are already abandoned or well on their way. Of the 33 JC Penney stores slated for closing, three are on the Dead Malls site: Muscatine Mall in Muscatine, Iowa, Military Circle Mall in Norfolk, Virginia, and Singing River Mall in Gautier, Mississippi. Macy’s plans to close stores in two more: Fiesta Mall in Mesa, Arizona, and Medley Center in Irondequoit, New York. Abercrombie & Fitch is closing a store in yet another mall on the endangered list, Oaks Mall in Gainesville, Florida.

It appears that these particular malls, along with most of the others listed, while not going gentle into that good night, they are slouching toward oblivion, dragging community spirits down with them. Part of their woes are caused by the oversupply of mall real estate. The US has so many malls that when one closes shoppers can easily drive 10 or 20 miles to another. Add to this the ‘smart growth’ and walkable cities emphases in current urban planning theory and you easily see that the curtain is descending on the malls’ last act.

Malls Repurposed

So what happens to these dinosaurs littering the suburban landscape, becoming eyesores in the communities they once served? Sometimes mall owners just call in the demolition equipment. Occasionally, though, more creative solutions are devised. Although not located in a mall, an abandoned Wal-Mart in McAllen, Texas was turned into the largest, single-story library in the country by Minneapolis-based architects Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle, Ltd. The conversion plan included space to establish a community gathering place, which serves as an updated version of the town square.

Wal-Mart, once roundly criticized for letting its abandoned stores lie empty to prevent competitors from moving in, now has a subsidiary called Wal-Mart Realty. According to its website, “Walmart Realty’s mission is to find businesses to open in our former stores and clubs and to locate in available property around our stores. At Walmart Realty, we believe we have a responsibility to work with communities to find a use that generates economic growth and opportunity.”

Online Rising

While this is a positive development, it assumes that there are companies interested in opening brick-and-mortar stores, a debatable idea. “If I were thinking of starting a new retail brand right now, I would unquestionably start it online,” writes Jeff Jordan, a partner at Andreessen Horowitz and board member for several online retailers. He points out that online retail will continue to steal business from brick-and-mortar stores and that will place even greater pressure on shopping malls.

Even online retailers that do move offline to open physical stores are doing them as Internet showrooms, where customers view samples and then place orders. This is a stark departure from the traditional retailer that stocks inventory in its stores. Jordan cites two, Bonobos and Warby Parker, that began online and are now employing this showroom model.

There’s a joke going around that says Best Buy, which recently closed 10 stores, has become a showroom for amazon.com. Consumers visit Best Buy, check out the product they’re considering, then go home and order* their preferred model online. I’ll admit that I’m guilty of doing this exact thing when shopping for a high-definition television, not because Amazon had a cheaper price, but because the delivery is so much less hassle than dragging a TV home myself. It’s small conveniences like this — and probably others that are less apparent — that are driving consumers online.

All this does not mean that the retail industry is in trouble. Only that the mechanics of selling are changing. As Bette Davis said, “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

*Or order then and there from their Smart phone.

About Gevril Group

Gevril GroupWatchmaker and wholesale watch distributor Gevril Group is the exclusive U.S. agent for exquisitely designed and crafted European luxury and fashion watch brands, distributing and servicing some of the best affordable luxury, Swiss and fashion watches. Gevril Group also operates a full-service watch repair, staffed by master Swiss watchmakers. Contact Gevril Group by email or by calling 845-425-9882.

Join the conversation! Follow Gevril Group on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Please subscribe to the Gevril Group newsletter and blog digest.