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Kairos Mechanical Smart Watches & Kairos T-Band Smart Strap Near Production

Kairos Mechanical Smart Watches & Kairos T-Band Smart Strap Near Production Hands-On

About a year ago, aBlogtoWatch offered an exclusive first look at the Kairos Mechanical Smartwatch here. The idea proposed by Kairos founder Sam Yang was that technology could be melded with traditional watch movements in a way that allowed mechanical watch enthusiasts to enjoy a sort of hybrid device that offered the pleasure of a traditional analog watch with the utility of a modern smartwatch. Hence the brand’s slogan, “mechanical smart watch hybrid.”

Kairos’ announcement predated the Apple Watch as well as a number of other devices which are now available. aBlogtoWatch met with the Kairos team and founder Sam Yang recently to discuss the steady progress of the brand’s products, as well as to understand a bit about the complex challenges inherent in their original, and highly ambitious concept.

Kairos Mechanical Smart Watches & Kairos T-Band Smart Strap Near Production Hands-On

Kairos Mechanical Smart Watches & Kairos T-Band Smart Strap Near Production Hands-On

Kairos currently has a lot of eager pre-orderes who are patiently (well not all are patient) waiting for their products to ship. Kairos admits that the project was a lot to bite off, but they have come close to finalizing a family of timepieces that should easily satisfy the people who invested in the brand. With that said, it appears that the resulting Kairos products will perhaps be a bit more diverse that the founders originally anticipated. Late last year, for example, Kairos debuted yet another product family – even before the release of their watches – that would add an entirely new type of product to their company. That was the Kairos T-Band “smart” strap that aBlogtoWatch debuted here.

Kairos Mechanical Smart Watches & Kairos T-Band Smart Strap Near Production Hands-On

Kairos Mechanical Smart Watches & Kairos T-Band Smart Strap Near Production Hands-On

The Kairos T-Band is perhaps the Kairos product with the widest reach, and they will be a series of watch straps with built-in smart functionality. Currently, three Kairos T-Bands are in development, the most simple of which having no screen (but it will have internal sensors), and then two other versions with one including a hidden “LED” display, and another with a colorful PMOLED display. During our meeting, Kairos didn’t have a finished T-Band yet but they did have most of the components of them available, and it was very interesting to see the PMOLED screen in action.

The basic concept of the Kairos T-Band is that the battery and electronics are all in the strap – which makes it possible for the watch case itself to be anything you want – ideally, something traditional and mechanical. According to Kairos, the expected shipping date of the Kairos T-Bands is August 2015 – and we can’t wait to check these out. Prices for the Kairos T-Bands will range from $199 – $299.

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Kairos Mechanical Smart Watches & Kairos T-Band Smart Strap Near Production Hands-On

Kairos Mechanical Smart Watches & Kairos T-Band Smart Strap Near Production Hands-On

I don’t think that Kairos originally thought it would be in the business of producing strictly mechanical watches. The notion, of course, was to put special digital displays on top of traditional analog watch dials in order to create the “hybrid” concept which the company is known for. Nevertheless, after all this development, Kairos decided to produce watches without any electronics at all. These are the core Kairos watch designs in a purist format for those who simply like the look of what the brand is offering.

True enough, the Kairos MSW115 and Kairos SSW158 watches are modern and interesting looking with a look that is very unique to the brand. I really have to point out a fun little detail that a lot of aBlogtoWatch fans will approve of – the screws on the bezel are all aligned! At 46mm wide and 17.1mm thick, these are large timepieces in their steel cases (available in natural steel, “double” rose gold-plated, or DLC-coated black). Of course, the size was meant to incorporate some special electronic components, but you can have the watches without the tech if you like.

Kairos Mechanical Smart Watches & Kairos T-Band Smart Strap Near Production Hands-On

Kairos Mechanical Smart Watches & Kairos T-Band Smart Strap Near Production Hands-On

The difference between the Kairos MSW115 and the Kairos SSW158 watches is the dial as well as the movement. The Kairos MSW115 watches contain Japanese Miyota caliber 82S7 automatic mechanical movements (the same as in SevenFriday watches) and the Kairos SSW158 watches contain Swiss Soprod A-10 automatic mechanical movements. Prices for the Kairos MSW115 watches range from $899 – $1049, and the Kairos SSW158 watches range in price from $1,899 – $2,049. These are also meant to ship in August 2015.

One of the big reasons that Kairos is offering exclusively mechanical watches is because they are making the Kairos T-Band. While the “hybrid” watches combine an analog and digital dial, the Kairos T-Bands are the smart function which allows the watch part of the product to remain traditional. Thus, one of the flagship products from Kairos will be the Kairos SSW158 or Kairos MSW115 watches (in all the case color versions) available with any of the Kairos T-Bands (all three options). That means there are no fewer than 18 variants when you consider all the watch/strap combinations available. I don’t totally understand the pricing in some instances, as some watches with the Kairos T-Bands seem to be priced more than if you buy the items separately. Though, there could be some special hardware or components involved that I am not aware of. Nevertheless, I think that a good amount of watch lovers are going to gravitate toward this option, since it is perhaps best to experience the Kairos T-Band attached to a Kairos mechanical watch. Prices for the mechanical watches with the Kairos T-Bands range in price from $1,089 – $2,548. Again, planned shipping dates are in August 2015.

I’d like to speak about the functionality and performance of the Kairos smart watches and the Kairos T-Bands, but what we saw was frankly still to early to play with. I do like the delicate dedication the brand appears to have to their products and the care involved in producing these items. You get the impression that these are detail-oriented watch guys melding into the world of technology, rather than smartwatch guys looking for another way to find a sticking smartwatch product.

Kairos Mechanical Smart Watches & Kairos T-Band Smart Strap Near Production Hands-On

Kairos Mechanical Smart Watches & Kairos T-Band Smart Strap Near Production Hands-On

Kairos even mentioned that other companies are interested in their technology and that their developments might show up in other products. With that said, a lot of what Kairos has developed it has had to more or less invent or find ways to get working. For example, Kairos needs to purchase available screens that exist on the market for its Kairos T-Bands and hybrid watches. Those screens, however, aren’t always made for these purposes, and there is no shortage of engineering struggle to get everything functioning properly. In a few years, however, things will be different. More and more suppliers will begin to produce components specifically for use by the growing smartwatch industry, with brands like Kairos really proving themselves as early pioneers.

The flagship products aside from the Kairos T-Bands are Kairos’ Hybrid Smart Watches which place a special mostly transparent digital screen as the crystal over the analog dials. These come in two forms as well – an icon-based TOLED display or a dot matrix TOLED display. There are pluses and minuses to each. The dot matrix display offers more detailed and varied information, but the display is only 40% transparent where as the “icon type” display is 60% transparent (which means the analog dial underneath is easier to see).

Kairos Mechanical Smart Watches & Kairos T-Band Smart Strap Near Production Hands-On

Kairos Mechanical Smart Watches & Kairos T-Band Smart Strap Near Production Hands-On

Each of these smart systems runs on Kairos’ own proprietary OS and is controlled via Bluetooth 4.0. Interestingly enough, it does not appear that there are any buttons or pushers to control the smart watch functions on the watch, even though the system is said to respond to gesture controls, and all of the Kairos smart products include Misfit-based activity tracking functionality. The system uses an Arm Cortex M4 processor and the 160mAh battery is said to last between 2-3 days. Further, Kairos promises compatibility across Apple iOS, Google Android, and Windows Phone OS.

In the past, I’ve said that one thing I really like about the Kairos system is that you can, theoretically, retain one of the most important elements of a traditional watch – and that is the “always on” aspect of the dial which allows you to view the time without having to activate a screen. Moreover, doing so helps retain battery life because you don’t need the smart functionality to see the time, and further, you can feel as though your timepiece says something important and unique about you because, at heart, the Kairos watches are still very much “designed” and contain artistic, communicative value above and beyond most available smartwatches today. The Kairos Hybrid MSW115 and Kairos Hybrid SSW158 watches have the typical assortment of options and range in price from $1,199 – $2,549. kairoswatches.com

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  • iamcalledryan

    Really interesting take on the mech-smart hybrid. I like the direction they are going in but need to continue to refine both the mechanical peice and the interface. Far more encouraging than the smart-pin of IWC and the band of MontBlanc.

  • It was very interesting to meet the Kairos guys at BaselWorld. They are working on some great stuff. As with all electronics, in the future circuitry will be become smaller in general and once the hardware design “freezes” they can move to custom more highly integrated chipsets. As is, the in-development strap is sort of thick but still wearable. The hybrid watches need more height than a solely mechanical watch and it shows in the case thickness. And the current case wears large too (I’m talking about the lugs size/placement). But they are off to a great start and I told them that when they have a production strap to let me know and I want to buy and see if all of the smart watch promise will actually improve my life or just be another gizmo to charge up all of the time. But keeping my watches has to be part of the plan, so the strap would be the item for me. I do find their watches interesting, but I think the cases need to become a bit more svelte. But it’s cool to have a real mechanical watch and also have the icons (nice and bright) or the dot matrix (which supports text as well as dot matrix icons) for even more flexibility but not as clean of a look for the icons and as Ariel mentioned, the mechanical watch part is harder to see. But these issues (resolution and transparency) will only improve.

    • Michael Fortier

      They are working at nothing. No deliveries no refunds nothing but the same old reply to the backers posts on FB. No updates just lies. Stay clear of this company and anything they are selling. 2 years and all I received was a pack of lies.

  • WimadS

    Love the brand. It is certainly an interesting concept, and they seem determined to execute it porperly. With the current state of technology, I’m not yet convinced though, but I am certain that over time, with their gained experience, better transparent displays and smaller electronic components, they will come up with a superb design.

  • WillyChu

    My fantasy…

    High end swiss watchmakers, under pressure from the success of smartwatches lead by Apple, come together and develop a standard “electronic” watch crystal.  This would be sapphire with a touchscreen fused to the underside.  The touchscreen would remain clear until power is applied, where upon it would become opaque and display information, just like a smartwatch screen. The power and display feed would be though tiny apposing ports on the inside surfaces of one pair of lugs.  Standardized, quick-change watchbands with retractable “plugs” would insert into these lug ports, just like current spring bars do.  The thin, flexible electronic circuitry and battery would be sandwiched within a leather or rubber watchband (for metal bracelets everything would be imbedded inside the links.  Hey, it’s my fantasy).  A stealth smartwatch.  As technology advanced, you would upgrade the watch band.  You could keep a spare one on the charger.

    So if JLC,  Lange, IWC or Patek were to build this technology into their current collections, you could have your cake and eat it!

    • resonator resonator

      Love your thinking. It’s a good fantasy to have, and I bet one that will be realized within our lifetimes.

  • Tomasina Covell

    Bingo!

  • OnPointFirearms

    Beats the pants off the Apple Watch.  Stunning design.  This is a smart watch I can look forward to!  Smart pricing too!

    • resonator resonator

      In terms of functionality, you can’t beat the Apple watch. Trust me, I was very very skeptical about even accepting it as a gift at first. I felt like I was betraying the industry I’m working in, and spitting on the grave of A.L. Breguet. Within five days of use, I was sold, and sold hard. I might add, that I am not a fan of Apple as a company, or their products. I do use iPhones, but only because I like to keep things simple, was an early adopter, and don’t like any unneeded change. My internal conflict was the product of my desire to hold onto the preservation of old-world craftsmanship and engineering. I really do appreciate, respect, and am extremely passionate about purist ideals when it comes to horology. I used to be the kind of guy who thought you were a hack if you were not lapping your own jewels, making your hairsprings, etc. You know, the George Daniels/Rodger Smith way of doing things. I’ve let go that line of thinking to a large degree now. That being said, the first person to design a mid-range, mechanical, Swiss watch that has a band that your Apple gadget can snap into below the main dial, will sure be welcome to take my money. I’ve seen the design here on Ablogtowatch, where the Apple watch is on the back of the band, but that just seemed like a designer trying to make a quick buck on a really lazy design effort. Ultimately, the apple watch is just a very helpful gadget that fits my needs well, makes my life better/easier in several ways, and just happens to be worn on my wrist. As far as it’s classification, I’d say it’s about as much of a wristwatch as my iPhone is.

  • Edward L. Guan Woei

    this is genius, this is the one watch i need. the uniqueness of a watch movement and the advance of technology. it’s best of both worlds.

    • resonator resonator

      It’s a fantastic concept for sure! I think that overall, the execution is mediocre at best. The watches look like some of those cheap $15 mechanical “fashion” watches sold on eBay for the most part, and the software/GUI looks laughable. I would love to see someone else already established give it a try. Seiko maybe? It’d be amazing to have a GS that had the same functionality. I bet Omega could swing a great design out in this vein as well.

  • gadgety

    The hybrids do look interesting.

  • Hacker4748

    I loved the concept as seen on their trailer video from about a year ago or so but I think much of the fanbase has been lost when they had to change from a full circular display to a rectangular display in the center of the circle.

  • I_G

    WillyChu JLC could just put the digital shite into the Reverso Duoface’s other …face.

    • resonator resonator

      Huh. That hadn’t that crossed my mind. It’s a genius idea, and an obvious one for the Reverso. Wonder if they are working on that already?

  • hatster

    The best of neither worlds?

  • I_G

    hatster The worst of both worlds.

  • Michael Fortier

    This company is a fraud. They have yet to ship watches to backers and its been over a year. What they have done instead is ship our watches to a retail outlet store in the Hong Kong Airport. Do not trust this company.

    • resonator resonator

      It seems like they are actually trying to bring this to market and fulfill pre-orders at the same time. I know several backers have received the bands they pre-ordered, so maybe it’ll pan out. I do not like or trust Kickstarter, or really any crowd-funding sites, as my first experience was a total burn. I pre-ordered the infamous Cryptrade USB vault, and they simply took everyones money and just ran. I was one of the very few lucky ones who was refunded, but only because our credit card company agreed it was fraudulent.

      • Michael Fortier

        No they took our money and ran. They might have delivered 100 watches tops.
        Scam not to be trusted.

        • resonator resonator

          Yeah. I’m still waiting for my mechanical locking USB drive from a very failed Kickstarter. Zero units delivered, 7.5 years late! Sorry for your loss.

  • Michael Fortier

    25 days later and no shipping for any backer. And now the watch and the technology is outdated. Backers are organizing a class action lawsuit against them.

    • Kairos Watches

      Hi Michael, Kairos has been shipping pre-order watches since June of 2015. One of the unforeseen issues that we had recently was the inability for our assemblers to assemble their original monthly quota. We are a tech start-up and not a watch maker, so we relied on a traditional watch assembler to do our final assembly process (it was easier to get them on board rather than an electronic company assembling watches for us). Since Oct, we decided to find another team to help speed up the assembly. They are being trained now and will commence to assemble 1000 units a month – which will clear out all the pre-orders by end of Dec. The HK Airport deal – I’m not sure if you saw our posting on that, was a pre-order customer who ordered 5 units in the past – just like everyone else. They asked us to have it displayed on there for marketing reasons which we allowed. We didn’t take away units from pre-order customers to do this. However it did cause some misunderstanding obviously and we have tried to explain on our Facebook page since then. I know it has taken a lot longer than expected, but at least we are still shipping on a weekly basis, so please allow few more weeks. We will deliver them as promised.

      • Michael Fortier

        LMAO 1000 units a month my ass. How about 1 unit a month. Its now the end of Jan 2016 and still no watch for the majority of us. This company took our money and ran. And now if you do receive a watch it is obsolete.

  • Jason

    I agree with Michael Fortier below. I doubt Kairos has any intention on fulfilling their obligation. Look at their facebook page, same excuses after excuses even after parting with hard earned $$$ as an early backer. As B.B. King said – “The thrill Is Gone”……sigh

  • Anthony Franssens

    Still waiting after 2 years of delays, non-information on fb or other media, and increasing self-doubt as to the wisdom of my original decision…

  • R. Manders

    Ordered one about 20 months ago and still haven’t recieved a thing. Asked for a refund but they won’t go for that. The watch look great but don’t expect to recieve anything soon better yet, don’t order one then you won’t be disappointed.

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