Prior to the Geneva watch trade show SIHH 2015, watch and luxury goods maker Montblanc has announced it is stepping into the smartwatch market – well, at least the smart wearables market. The upcoming Montblanc Timewalker Urban Speed collection of timepieces will have an optional strap called the e-Strap (product reference 113827) – perhaps the first smart connected wearable from an established luxury company. The e-Strap features a high-end leather strap that has a carbon fiber texture to it that Montblanc calls "Extreme Montblanc Leather" and is produced by them in Florence, Italy. At the bottom, sitting under your wrist is an electronic module made from DLC (diamond like carbon) coated steel or in gray steel. Apparently, there are a few color and size options.
Why isn't Montblanc simply producing a smartwatch that combines technology with luxury watch design and materials? Well according to most people in the luxury watch world, that isn't what most of their consumers want. In fact, many hardcore watch lovers face the upcoming dilemma of having to choose between a smartwatch (should they become indispensable) and a mechanical watch. At aBlogtoWatch, we refer to this as the "what I need versus what I want" choice dilemma. So, for Montblanc and other luxury watch makers, they are taking charge by offering what they feel is the ultimate combo – a traditional mechanical luxury watch with a strap that contains a smart wearable device.
The e-Strap will come on a few of the new for 2015 Montblanc Timewalker Urban Speed watches, but will be available for purchase separately. This is a similar concept as the Kairos T-band, which aBlogtoWatch covered in November of 2014 (a crowd-funded project). Interestingly enough, Montblanc debuted this new version of the long-standing Timewalker collection late in 2014 but did not mention the e-Strap option. That means not all Timewalker Urban Speed watches will have it. The Urban Speed is an attractive, but not revolutionary step for the Timewalker collection, but the availability of the Montblanc e-Strap makes for a totally different story altogether.
The e-Strap is "NATO-style" in terms of how it is designed and how it connects to the watch. Montblanc has made it clear that the e-Strap is debuting with the Timewalker Urban Speed but will be compatible with all 42mm or 43mm wide Timewalker watches currently or previously available. It should also fit on various other watches with similar lug space sizes (perhaps 22mm wide or so). Of course, if you simply don't want the e-Strap, you can get the Montblanc Timewalker Urban Speed without it.
How impressive as a connected wearable device will the e-Strap's electronic module be? It will have a 0.9 inch monochromatic OLED touchscreen display with a 128x36 pixel resolution. That isn't exactly industry changing, but this is more than just a mere notification device. Montblanc has made it clear that in addition to basic calls, texts, e-mails, calendars, social media, and reminder notifications, the e-Strap will function as an activity monitor/tracker with a pedometer and accelerometer to measure data that feeds into an included iPhone or Android phone app.
Of course, you'll also be able to control your phone's music player with the e-Strap and perform a few other cool features such as use it as a remote phone camera trigger and use it find your phone if it is within Bluetooth range. Unsurprisingly, the Montblanc e-Strap will use Bluetooth 4.0 in order to connect to its host phone device. In terms of notifications, the e-Strap will offer vibration alerts to let you know when something new has come in. In my experience, these can be a bit annoying, so I hope that the available Montblanc e-Strap app will have a useful notification management tool.
Of course, everyone who has considered using a wearable device wants to know about battery life and, to a degree, durability. Montblanc claims that the e-Strap will offer five days of continuous use between charges with the internal lithium ion battery. It has a micro-USB charging port right in it. Montblanc claims that the e-Strap is shock resistant and splash resistant. Any wearable device that sits under your wrist will need to have some extra durability given how often people rest their hands on desks and tables. In terms of size, the Montblanc e-Strap is 40mm long, 14.2mm wide, and 9mm high (thick). That isn't terribly small, but I think it can work without looking like a tumor on the underside of your watch strap.
As an interactive connected wearable device, the e-Strap is thankfully more than just a unidirectional notification device. With more and more interest in smartwatches, I think it is fantastic that the luxury watch industry has taken to studying and now producing these products even before the mainstream consumer has. While it doesn't represent the sentiments of all luxury watch makers, Montblanc's upcoming release of the e-Strap is a healthy sign that the often conservative luxury watch industry is trying to work with smartwatches rather than ignore them. I previously wrote a popular aBlogtoWatch article asking how screwed the luxury watch industry is because of upcoming smartwatches like the Apple Watch here.
Montblanc Timewalker Urban Speed watches have 43mm wide cases produced from steel with a ceramic bezel and a hip color palette that includes some nice red accents. Montblanc will release the pictured 43mm wide Timewalker Urban Speed Chronograph (ref. 112604) with a base Swiss ETA Valjoux 7750 automatic movement with the e-Strap priced at 4,690 Euros, while the 43mm wide Timewalker Urban Speed UTC will be priced at around 3,990 Euros and the 42mm wide Timewalker Urban Speed Automatic will be priced at about 2,990 Euros. Separately, the Montblanc e-Strap will sell for about 250 Euros – which, while a lot for a device of this nature, is very inexpensive for anything related to a luxury watch product. montblanc.com