December 5, 2017
by David Bredan
The Epson Trume is one of the world’s leading technological powerhouses flipping the table and saying “Attention please, this is what we can really do when we don’t give our stuff away to the family’s favorite, Seiko. This is the True Me.”
Upon first hearing about it, the Trume got me as excited as I have not been about a watch in a long time. Minutes after learning about it, I was watching Japanese launch videos, only to then find myself on Page 95 of its online owner’s manual (the only official thing written in English about this watch), reading up on the GPS-assisted Waypoint feature.
I clearly got way ahead of myself there, but one thing I can say right away is that there’s no way we can possibly discuss all its features and advancements in technology and design in one news article… And, frankly, at this stage it wouldn’t make much sense anyway, as what really matters is how well they perform out in the real world. For now, then, let us look at what the Epson Trume is, where it’s coming from, the most interesting ways in how it’s new, and how it is not – and please humor me occasionally freaking out over it in the process.
If you are really, really into watches, you’ll know that Seiko and Epson are two related companies. Contrary to common belief, though, Epson does not own Seiko: there, of course, has to be a complicated corporate structure behind it all. Both of them are located under the Seiko Group umbrella that comprises three core companies:
Seiko (the watch brand) belongs under Seiko Holdings Corp.
while Epson is located “laterally” within the Seiko Group; therefore Seiko (the watch brand) doesn’t belong under Epson or vice versa.
Despite all this, the two do have a history of working together. Epson prides itself in helping out Seiko with the miniaturization of the quartz technology that enabled Seiko to launch the world’s first quartz wristwatch, the Astron 35SQ in 1969. Epson goes so far as to call it “one of Epson’s biggest contributions to the world.” Read more about that cool story here. It was also Epson who helped Seiko create the Astron GPS, the first light-powered GPS watch… To this we’ll come back soon.
As such, a watch from Epson isn’t extraordinary from a technical viewpoint, but it sure is quite a stretch from a branding perspective for a company the broader public associates with selling office printers. This view is apparently shared by the powers to be at Epson, who decided to launch Epson’s latest and greatest watch under a totally new brand: Trume.
Quietly launched in July and still very much under the radar outside of Japan, Trume is yet another adorable exercise in Japanese product naming practices, something that puts a smile on my face even a while after first learning about it. It is this honest approach that tries to reach to the very core of the product and the well-meaning concept behind it, something that I’m sure makes crystal clear sense in Japanese… And then try and find a unique English equivalent to it that can be used as a brand name.
Trume, I think I can say this rather objectively, is not exactly a luxurious sounding name: it doesn’t look, read, or sound like it. Looking at this watch – even without holding it in my hand to experience what I expect to be high quality craftsmanship – I feel a considerable disconnect between this word and the product itself. Even the Japanese characters for the same word I’d find much more suitable, somehow – why isn’t that a thing, at least on such nerdy, niche products?
Digging a bit deeper into the philosophy behind the word, we find an Epson that wants to show to the world its true self: a technological and watchmaking powerhouse that considers itself second-to-none. On the many-eth page of the Japanese press release, Epson refers to its self-esteem and strengths as a manufacturing enterprise that is closer to being a truly “in-house” brand than most others in the world.
TRUME may sound a lot like trauma and look like the word “Trump” from a not so great distance, but there is so, so much going on beyond it. Epson has outlined “9 main reasons for Trume.” These are arranged around Epson setting out to make a watch only they could create thanks to their proprietary expertise in the miniaturization and energy consumption optimization of quartz movements, GPS, Bluetooth, and sensor technologies (direction, altitude, atmospheric pressure, etc.).
A focus on “time, space, humanity,” as well as a “fusion” between “beautiful, orderly, highly functional” and “armor-inspired” aesthetics, and operability are also mentioned, along with top-tier materials and manufacturing know-how. We’ll look at all this in a moment, but before that, let me just add one last note.
I get it that this stuff about armors and fusion and functionality sounds all made-up to those of us embittered by the constant and limitless self-aggrandizing marketing practices that we get to endure from the Swiss and the Germans, who call entire collections “Royal,” “Excellence,” “Superlative,” “Master,” “Da Vinci,” and other hilarious egotistic nonsense like that. Trume, by contrast, is the epitome of the Japanese brands’ longstanding lack of understanding of all that, and that’s precisely why I like them so much.
The Epson Trume is a GPS, Bluetooth, atmospheric pressure, altitude sensor, direction sensor-equipped, light-charged, fully analog, navigation-capable (!), titanium and ceramic-clad watch developed and manufactured entirely by Epson that comes with a remote accessory. The most unusual stuff in all that will be the GPS capabilities and the remote sensor.
We have been seeing a slow but steady uptick in GPS-equipped watches, some of which are actually really affordable by now – largely thanks to Epson, actually, with the Wristable GPS line. The serious stuff remains the Astron GPS by Seiko and the Satellite Wave line by Citizen. Where the Trume is different is in offering a so-called Waypoint feature. The Waypoint feature of the GPS allows you to mark a spot wherever you are, go about in town (sightseeing, etc.) and then have the watch lead you back to the marked spot from the place you wandered off to.
The way it works is this: when you start the navigation, the watch will determine your current position and show you both the direction and the distance to your previously determined base point. The upper left sub-dial’s hand will indicate the direction in which the base point is, while the upper right sub-dial with its two hands will indicate the distance in meters up to 9,900 meters – that’s right around 6 miles. Needless to say, it won’t navigate you down streets or anything like that, but it will give you a good idea on which direction to go if you get lost in the wilderness of a forest or a concrete jungle.
I’m trying to figure out if I should be less impressed by this than I am right now, so party poopers are invited to tell me how, if at all, this isn’t seriously impressive from a fully analog wristwatch. I think I can grasp the basic principle behind how this works, but remain impressed by it all going down inside an analog watch.
The other quirky thing isn’t inside the watch: behold the “Expanded Sensor,” a small remote control-looking thing that in itself is equipped with a bunch of sensors whose gathered data is displayed on the watch exclusively. The Expanded Sensor (translated from Japanese) is designed to measure strength of UV radiation, temperature, as well as your step count for the day, and burned calorie count – you can also check its remaining battery charge.
The Expanded Sensor is powered by a battery with a life of approximately 6 months. It’s a CR2032 coin battery, which you’d have to replace as you would in a quartz watch. It is crafted from plastic and metal, weighs only 21 grams and is IPX 5 waterproof, meaning it can withstand splashes and some mild direct jet water, but cannot be submerged (that would be IPX 7 and IPX 8). Its operating temperature range is between -10 and +60 °C – same is true for the watch itself – something good to know if you want to use its temperature sensor.
The Expanded Sensor is sold with 6 of the 8 available references (TR-MB 7001 and TR-MB 7002 don’t get it) and has a buckle on its metal frame and a clip on its back, so you can attach it to your belt – on hand to help you relive those fond ’90s pager memories… Though I grew up seeing weapons grade Nokias on belts more than I did seeing pagers. The – mind you, strictly Japanese – Epson product site of the Trume watch helps you figure out how the watch works in tandem with the remote sensor through an animated little segment on the page.