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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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.

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Smart Sports Bands Projected to Grow by 350% in 2014

Girl Wearing a Fitbit Flex Smart Sports Band


by John Sealander  

Will the activity trackers of today set the stage for the smart watches of tomorrow, or will they preclude the need for smart watches?

Wearable smart bands, like the Nike Fuel, Fitbit Flex, Jawbone Up, and others, have become incredibly popular during the past year. People from all walks of life wear these fitness trackers now and their popularity continues to grow at exponential rates. Much of this growth is very recent. In the first half of 2013 roughly 200,000 of these wearable smart bands were shipped. In the second half of 2013, that number skyrocketed to 1.6 million. Shipments could reach as high as 8 million bands in 2014 and over 23 million in 2015.

Although these numbers are still quite small compared to the total number of wristwatches shipped, the rate of growth is spectacular. Experts think that there’s a reason why wearable activity trackers have exploded in popularity, while smart watches continue to languish.

Smart Sports Bands Increasing Popularity

The current crop of wearable activity trackers meets a definite need. With today’s increased focus on health and fitness, people want to know how their daily activities impact their fitness goals. These inexpensive fitness trackers meet this need, by providing accurate and timely data about the distance we move, the calories we burn, and even our sleep patterns.

They are also very simple to use and tend to have great battery life compared to typical smart watches. High cost, limited battery life and the lack of useful software have been the primary concerns of early smart watch adopters. The fact that most of the currently available smart watches aren’t stand-alone devices and require a Bluetooth connected smartphone to take advantage of their “smart” features has hindered widespread adoption as well.

Simple, inexpensive wearable activity trackers have none of these drawbacks. The internal batteries in these devices can remain charged for up to ten days. Since smart sports bands are designed for a specific purpose, they are very easy to use. Interestingly, fitness bands are not at all fashion accessories but are used as tools that helps the wearer stay fit and healthy.

Are Smart Sports Bands Here to Stay?

The market for wearable activity trackers is expected to continue its rapid growth in response to society’s increased focus on fitness and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The real question is whether the next generation of smart watches, including the inevitable iWatch from Apple, will usurp the simple fitness tracker by incorporating a similar set of features.

The jury is still out on this. Clearly, smart watches of the future will be able to track the wearer’s activities just as well as or even better than current smart bands like the Nike Fuel, Fitbit Flex, or Jawbone Up. What’s unclear at this time is whether people will be willing to pay more for the more complex smart watch.

The runaway success of today’s activity trackers has already proved that wearable technology is here to stay. It is expected that there will be one day a strong market for smart watches as well.

How popular will powerful new smart watches from Pebble, Apple, Sony, and Samsung become? That depends on whether people perceive them as a tool like an activity tracker, or a fashion accessory like a traditional wristwatch. If the general public ever decides that wearing a smart watch is cool, the market for these advanced devices will be almost unlimited.

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.