June 25, 2012
by Ariel Adams
This is the Slyde by HD3. It represents a lot of things and is one of the most unique high-end watches on the market today. It is digital and has a touchscreen. It also comes with a charging base and can connect to your computer. Right now it doesn’t have anything like Bluetooth or WiFi, but that isn’t really the point. When non-watch world people see it, they immediately begin asking questions about it like it is a smart-phone version of a watch. I get that, but what the Slyde actually represents, is more a digital interpretation of traditional Swiss watch values.
Go back in HD3’s history and you’ll see a lot of exotic high-end mechanical watches. Nothing at all like the Slyde. HD3 was started by well-known watch designer Jorg Hysek, the original founder of the brand Hysek. Today, Mr. Hysek is still involved but his son (also Jorg) is running the show. During the financial crisis, HD3 knew it needed to change things in order to survive. Many other brands in this position simply stuck to their guns, selling wildly expensive high-end watches to a few select clients in the hope that it would keep them alive until things got economically better. I think that HD3 wanted to do something else. Their idea would be to go ‘edgy’ and do something that their Swiss colleagues might scoff at. True enough, digital watches don’t exactly have a ton of respect in the high-end world. HD3 has actually changed those perceptions in an appreciable way. The common comment I get from Swiss people outside HD3 when discussing the Slyde is “really cool” with a jealous smile on their face. Tapping into some of the reasons that people like their tablets and smart phones, the Slyde offers up style and technology.
While the Slyde is still a high-end item, it is not only watch industry insiders who are excited by the device. When I debuted the watch to the world back in January of 2011, the video with Mr. Hysek senior presenting a prototype Slyde was extremely popular. This showed me that people who don’t necessarily wear watches are ready and eager to get devices back on their wrists. Still, the Slyde is a polarizing watch. Some people think it is the next best thing, while others seem to simply disagree with it from an aesthetic or conceptual standpoint. Having said that, it is likely one of the most mainstream items HD3 has ever designed. So enough about people’s perceptions of it, what do I think and what is it like to wear and use?
HD3 currently offers a few styles of the Slyde. I have the steel model, but it also comes in titanium. There are also steel and titanium versions with PVD black segments, and a version with some 18k rose gold trim. Don’t miss the model with diamonds on the lugs. The case is quite comfortable, but larger at almost 48mm wide and about 58mm tall. The entire case curves for comfort, and the wide strap helps it look composed. I like the different metal finishes and the polished edges on the case. For me, the design nicely mixes Swiss watch and gadget. There are no buttons on the case. On the right side of it are five little lights. Well one of them looks like a light but is actually a light sensor. These glow when the screen is activated or while charging the watch. The number of lights that turn on indicate the battery life. Slyde suggests charging the watch once each couple of weeks depending on your use. I got at least that much battery life out of it. You can set how long the screen stays activated from the computer-based software that comes with the watch.
To activate the screen you tap it. This is usually done with a finger, but when my hands are full I just tap the watch on my cheek or forehead – that does the trick. When the screen is activated you can then swipe it with your finger up, down, or to the sides. This allows you to access the various screens. All adjustments are done via holding your finger on the screen for a few seconds. The simplicity of using the Slyde is not a let down. I was worried at first that it would have a steep learning curve. Not at all. In just a few minutes you’ll learn everything you need to know about it.
Slyde comes with one installed “engine.” This is like the skin of the watch you see. Each engine has screens for a range of functions you expect in most digital watches. This includes a world time function, chronograph, countdown timer, full calendar, moon phase indicator, and a series of special custom calendar functions. Some of these special calendar functions include linking pictures with calendar data. The Slyde allows you to upload some images to it and assign a date to them. You then can see how many days you need to wait until the date comes or how many days have passed since a calendar date. Take for example the birth of a child. You can upload an image of the baby and set it to their birthday. When you access the image it will tell you how many days passed since they were born. Alternatively, you can upload a picture of a vacation destination and the date when you will travel there for a countdown each time you look at it.
The software works pretty well and the touchscreen is responsive. It is fun to swipe around the screens. HD3 will make other engines available for download soon, and the watch has enough memory to store four of them at a time. The rest can be stored via software on your computer. My only issue with the Slyde right now is that there is a second or so delay from when you tap the screen until it activates. This means it takes longer to check the time as compared to a standard watch. With its upgradable hardware and software, this might be remedied in the future. Also, the screen is a sapphire crystal which is great. This means scratch resistance. Just be prepared to wipe it down a lot because all that touching means smudge marks all over your pretty watch.
To charge and connect the Slyde to a computer you place it on the charging dock which can connect to your computer via USB. This same port can be connected to an AC adapter for basic charging. Attached to the watch is a very iconic HD3 “double” strap. This version has an alligator-print leather strap, but rubber straps are also available. The strap ends with a good looking locking fold over clasp.
Playing with the Slyde is the best part of the watch. Tap the screen for example and on most functions they perform a little animation. There is even a little video player. Slyde will work with a range of watch designers for new engines, and the opportunities are really interesting. Things you can’t do with actual mechanics you can do on the Slyde. The idea is for all the “watch skins” to look like they could feasibly be mechanical. There just isn’t all that pesky engineering to deal with.
Like I said, the Slyde is a very polarizing watch, and I have had a lot of opportunity to test this while wearing it all over the place. This type of polarization is good, and I am always happy to strap it on. This is the digital watch you aren’t ashamed of wearing to a business meeting. Slyde goes where Casio can’t! It is also a lot more expensive. HD3 is a high-end brand and the Slyde accordingly is priced as such. Even the new engines are said to be paid downloads and limited editions! More on that as Slyde develops that system. Price for the basic steel model is $6,895. In basic titanium it is $7,295 while PVD coated models are a bit more. Prices go all the way up to $19,595 for the steel version with diamonds.
Tech specs from HD3: