Whatever you think about the smartwatch category, or the design of the Crossbow specifically, you can’t say that Hyetis isn’t trying to push some boundaries here. Time will tell if this is a new fork in smartwatch development, or just a curious dead end (I’m truly hoping it’s the former). Whatever the long-term holds, in the shorter-term, you can look to pick up one of the 500 pieces they’ll be making for a price of $1,200. That’s a high price for a smartwatch to be sure but for a Swiss automatic? If the movement, materials, and build quality stack up, it may just be a bargain.
While we were in the process of writing up this interesting new watch, we also had a chance to talk with its designer, Arny Kapshitzer. The exchange we had sheds some additional light on how he arrived at creating the watch, and some of the innovation that he’s put into the development of the Crossbow.
aBlogtoWatch (ABTW): Have you always been a watch guy?Arny Kapshitzer (AK): Usually you always hear the same story about an ancestor watchmaker in the Jura. That’s not my story – I was born in Rome from Russian parents. My father was a writer/journalist and engineer and my mother has a PhD in fine arts. I was educated loving arts, cars, motorcycles, spaceships and science. I pay great respect to our ancestral watchmakers, but my mind is definitely devoted to the future.
ABTW: How did you find yourself making the transition from design engineering to the much smaller world of watches?
AK: In 1995 I met a friend of mine who was a watchmaker at Hublot. Speaking with him, I was tempted to bring some innovation in watches. But when you come from another culture, it’s sometimes hard to be understood and trusted. After that, I became a 3D software consultant for the major watch brands. Fast forward a few years, I brought to the market a new brand, CVSTOS, with my former associates. After that I never stopped working for the industry. In 2006 I invented a new type of watch movement architecture (Coaxial architecture), a patent that Parmigiani is using in his developments.
ABTW: How did your early work of 5+ years ago on watches compare to what you’re creating now?
AK: I think I’ve always worked on space-age design timepieces, so the real difference is tools I use – they are incredible! The evolution of software and machines is amazing – and the experience you get through years of practice. Basically inside of me I am still the same five year old child looking at the space shuttle lift-off or landing, with sparkles in the eyes and a huge smile larger than his face. These days I’m a great fan and supporter of S3 Swiss Space Systems. Big ups guys!
ABTW: And now, on to the new project, the Crossbow. What first brought you to the idea of incorporating a Swiss mechanical movement into what we’ve come to anticipate as “core” smartwatch functionality?
AK: The essence of a watch, its initial purpose – that is THE mission! Telling time in any situation, something which automatic movements have been doing well for centuries. Do you feel something frustrating as when your mobile runs out of batteries and you’re alone on a Sunday evening in the streets waiting your bus at the station? At that point, you can’t know if the bus was there two minutes ago and you have to wait 20 minutes or if it will come in two minutes. So a watch has to tell time, with reliability, in any condition. For most (other) smartwatches, it’s not a watch, but a wearable computer that turns into a black bracelet when it runs out of batteries.
ABTW: Could you explain what your vision was for creating the watch?
AK: My vision was to offer a different user experience and some of our traditional Swiss watchmakers values. Style, mechanical timing, and quick interactions with your physical environment and social network.
ABTW: Any background to the Crossbow or Hyetis names?
AK: “Hyetis” is inspired by the Greek word meaning “Leader” – “Leader” is also a shape for some watch hands. “Crossbow” is also a part of the watch shape. With a Crossbow you can shoot on a target, or pictures in our version. The crossbow is also the symbol of the Swiss-made, and our products are Swiss-made.
ABTW: The 41 megapixel camera with ringflash is definitely unique – why incorporate such a high-end camera?
AK: Initially we started working on a 41 megapixel sensor, but the goal is to have a tremendous image quality, not a heavy (50MB+) ugly picture! We are working very hard on quality optimization and intelligent pixel selection, so don’t be surprised if we end up with a 23 megapixel sensor. Of note, our benchmark in this is to reach as close as possible to the Canon 5D MKII.
It’s also the reason we have chosen to use an optical zoom (not a digital) to preserve image quality. And we are not too bad in micro-mechanics. So this lens is definitely a great feature. And yes, the watch is 250m waterproof – so you can shoot when you dive! A lot of people have asked us about that.We incorporated this camera because our goal was to take all the devices you may want to use simultaneously out of the mobile phone, having not the time to find your mobile in your bag or taking it from your pocket, unlock it, then activate the camera.
If you want to shoot an event, often you have no more than three seconds to do it. Our idea is to be shooting after 1.5 seconds. Our quality requirements are based first on our passion for photography and also because of the apps that are coming soon. We will release them at the end of September or beginning of October. The ring flash we went for because we were able to do it – and it’s really cool!
ABTW: We’ve heard that you ha a concept of a story for how the camera would be used – any details on that?
AK: Yes later in September, probably at the end of the month we will realize an app for smartphones, called Story-TELL™. And the use of our camera and all the sensors is quite decisive. But probably it’s better to talk about this part later in September. We want to provide the best possible micro camera to satisfy all our friends photographer. And we work very hard to provide best picture quality and very quick interaction.
Our target is to offer the ability to shoot in 1.5 seconds. Means unlocking the watch and activating camera plus auto focus and shoot in a total time of 1.5 seconds. And the camera with his intelligent sensor optimizing driver is an very important part of our APP Story-TELL™
ABTW: The case design is a little reminiscent of your AK Genève HMS Warp – was that the starting point for this design, or just inspiration?
AK: Probably all designers have a signature. Basically my idea was to do something close to the 60’-70’ bullhead classic design because of the camera at 12.
ABTW: With the design of the watch (which may be polarizing for some) – did form follow function, or was function dictated by the form?
AK: The first requirement of design is function, and the second is the owner who will wear the watch – which means ergonomics. Then comes style or form which is also a parameter driven by culture and sociology. It could also be described as materials philosophy. This form feature is always driven by those parameters. If not, it’s not design – it’s only style! And that’s not my job.
ABTW: What is the anticipated battery life for the watch?
AK: So that’s one of the key points we work really hard on. If you use your CROSSBOW in a popular average use of a phone it’s a quite similar run time, around a day. If you use it in eco mode ( for example, you shoot several picture in a day but the primary use of the watch is alerts and social media) you can expect to run for about four days. On the other hand, in intensive use – like me and my phone – you’ll only get about 5-6 hours. That said, we are planning to bring along a power boost solution in a few weeks.
ABTW: What radio(s) will the watch utilize to communicate with a phone?
AK: Bluetooth link with your smartphone.
ABTW: What are the biggest hurdles you’ve had to overcome so far?
AK: I could mention all our features because integration is a huge challenge, but I think that the display, reactivity of the watch, and of course battery life. Energy is really the key point.
ABTW: What has been the most rewarding part of creating the Crossbow?
AK: A ten-year-old boy looking at the watch, with a huge smile and saying “Arny your watch is soooooo cooooool!!!” (It’s the son of my best friend) Definitely being a designer is a reward every day, but making people smile and happy is a true reward!
ABTW: When will the watch be formally launched, and at what price?
AK: First we will deliver our earlybird’s limited edition at the end of December, then we will launch the regular series in January-February next year. The earlybirds sales have started, and we are selling the limited edition at a special earlybirds price of $1,200. The regular price, for production models next year, is anticipated to be $1,500.
Our thanks go out to Arny for taking time from his busy schedule to answer our questions, and give us some more insight. This is a watch we’ll definitely be keeping our eye on, and we’ll bring you updates as more information becomes available. hyetis.com