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Montblanc e-Strap Smart Attachment For Timewalker Watch Hands-On

Montblanc e-Strap Smart Attachment For Timewalker Watch Hands-On Hands-On

One of the most remarkable announcements we received prior to the SIHH 2015 watch trade show was the upcoming release of Montblanc’s e-Strap (debut article here), a smart wearable device option that would be first available on the upcoming Montblanc Timewalker Urban Speed watch. Precious little was known about how the e-Strap would behave in real life – and the actual models are not ready for real-world testing, but at SIHH 2015 with Montblanc, aBlogtoWatch got a hands-on look at one of the luxury industry’s first major entrants into the world of smart electronic wearable devices.

Montblanc e-Strap Smart Attachment For Timewalker Watch Hands-On Hands-On

I don’t want to reiterate everything that I previously discussed when explaining the details of the Montblanc e-Strap, so I recommend you reference the article above – which has been highly commented on and shared around the internet. I will, however, briefly explain the device and what it is meant to do. The advent of the smartwatch market poses a threat to the luxury watch industry, because many consumers will be faced with a choice of whether to wear the high-end mechanical timepieces they love or an electronic smartwatch they may need or prefer in terms of functionality. While the smartwatch right now does not pose too much of an attractive threat to traditional watches, that time may come in the near future.

Nevertheless, the luxury watch industry has every motivation to seek out legitimate ways for people who want to benefit from modern technology to also continue enjoying the ability to wear mechanical watches. Options for this include wearing a smartwatch during the day hours and a mechanical watch at night, wearing a smartwatch on one wrist and a traditional watch on the other, or wearing a traditional watch case attached to some type of smart-strap. This latter approach is the closest to what Montblanc has in mind with the Montblanc e-Strap.

Montblanc e-Strap Smart Attachment For Timewalker Watch Hands-On Hands-On

The black-colored steel unit is a module that slides on to a specially made tough but very thin NATO-style strap sitting under your wrist while your traditional watch (a Montblanc Timewalker, in this case) sits on the top of your wrist. The module has a screen, includes built-in sensors, and communicates with your mobile phone. It offers the ability to receive phone notifications, track fitness activity, and perform other standard “smartwatch functions” that are becoming more and more popular. The move is clever and simple and the monochromatic OLED screen is neither distracting nor unwelcome.

Montblanc e-Strap Smart Attachment For Timewalker Watch Hands-On Hands-On

My biggest worry about the Montblanc e-Strap was that it was going to be too large. It is a legitimate concern to believe that some item attached to the bottom of your watch might feel like an unwelcome tumor. In fact, the clever design of the Montblanc e-Strap in terms of its dimensions as well as how it attaches to the strap make it not feel nearly as thick or “extra-on-the-wrist” as it might appear in images at first. I further found wearing it on the specially made watch strap to be rather comfortable. The actual dimensions of the steel Montblanc e-Strap are 40mm long by 14.2mm wide and just 9mm thick.

Even though Montblanc intends for the Montblanc e-Strap to fit on a variety of straps (eventually) they created a special leather NATO-style strap for it to work in tandem with the release of the Timewalker Urban Speed watch collection. Note that it isn’t the only strap option available for the Timewalker Urban Speed watches. In a technical looking carbon-fiber pattern leather, the strap meant to hold the Montblanc e-Strap is very thin and has a buckle on the side. In all, I’d say the strap and Montblanc e-Strap combo work nicely.

Montblanc e-Strap Smart Attachment For Timewalker Watch Hands-On Hands-On

The actual Montblanc e-Strap unit available to put on and wear was a non-functioning dummy, but the brand did have an early functioning Montblanc e-Strap device attached to a base with constant power connection. There I was able to view the e-Strap user interface in action and appreciate more-or-less what the smart device would do. The screen doesn’t offer a lot of space for text but the characters are crisp and the system does seem to relatively straightforward. Things like activity tracking data and missed call or new text message notifications are there to greet you without being in the way.

I also had the chance to speak with Montblanc’s CEO Jerome Lambert about the Montblanc e-Strap – a project that for him is an important part of where Montblanc is going. You need to understand that SIHH 2015 in general was about appealing to the narrow market of the ultra wealthy, with mostly big ticket new watch releases. In fact, aside from other Montblanc products, the Montblanc e-Strap is far and away the only item from the show with any chance at mainstream acceptance and consumption.

Montblanc e-Strap Smart Attachment For Timewalker Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Mr. Lambert makes it clear that Montblanc is a brand that appeals to both exclusive high-end collectors as well as aspirational and mainstream buyers looking for luxuries in their life. Montblanc isn’t trying to take the smartwatch world by storm with the e-Strap, but is rather looking for ways some consumers may want to incorporate smart wearable tech into their lives. The Montblanc e-Strap, for example, is extremely non-committal; you can take it on and off your watch, and decide to use or not use it without much effort. Need the Montblanc e-Strap for your work day but want it off after hours? That isn’t a problem and doesn’t require watch aficionados and style lovers to have to divorce themselves from traditional timepieces – even if for small amounts of time.

Montblanc e-Strap Smart Attachment For Timewalker Watch Hands-On Hands-On

It’s clear that the Montblanc e-Strap is still in beta form without a ready-for-action prototype that Montblanc is willing to share. Having said that, Lambert is confident production will begin soon. Montblanc is also fortunate enough to have a relatively wide network of dedicated brand boutiques where people coming in to look at Montblanc watches, pens, leather goods, and more can come to view and experiment with the Montblanc e-Strap.

On the the new-for-2015 Montblanc Timewalker Urban Speed watches (a really handsome collection, by the way), the Montblanc e-Strap feels natural and, at the least, interesting. I still have to experience wearing a functional model, but if what Mr. Lambert says comes to pass, I won’t have to wait long before that happens. Of course, the Montblanc e-Strap will connect via Bluetooth to a companion/host smartphone, to be operated via a dedicated app.

Montblanc e-Strap Smart Attachment For Timewalker Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Montblanc has previously announced a price of 250 Euros for the e-Strap as a separate option if purchased without a timepiece, and it is further possible that the Montblanc e-Strap will come standard on certain Timewalker Urban Speed watches. What we have yet to discover is how well the e-Strap works as an electronic smart device (of course Montblanc used technology partners to design and build it), and how people integrate them into a larger watch-loving lifestyle.

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  • phsjacob

    All the new watch research and development is being wasted on these useless smartwatches. They seem completely redundant when everyone already has a smartphone. 
    Instead, we could focus on making WATCHES better, taking advantage of underrated autoquartz technology and trying to make atomic(non-radio controlled) watches more commonplace and practical

  • Thanks for the hands-on reivew Ariel. I think, for me anyway, this is the sort of package that makes sense. I can’t see giving up my mechanical watches just for some naggy cell phone crap delivered to me wrist. A the stated price, it is an affordable tech gizmo to try out and it does not force me to “drink the smartwatch kool-aid” and go all in (for something I really have no need for anyway).

  • iamcalledryan

    I like this as a solution but MB totally missed an opportunity by not putting a web-slinging function on it.

  • iamcalledryan

    Watches are also redundant when everyone has a smartphone. Most companies are not putting any R&D cash into smartwatches, more are doing it as a risk management exercise, and very few are actually going to step into the fold. Whether you like it or not there is huge market potential here, the smartwatch market will tap into the vast number of people who either rarely wear watches or who see no reason in spending more than $200 on one, people with niche mechanical watch passions are of no real so sequence to that business plan.

  • While I think this is maybe one of, if not the best attempt yet at integrating ‘smart’ technology into the world of wristwatches, I’m still not smart enough to ‘get it’. I don’t see how this technology is ‘smart’. Because actually looking at your phone is stupid? Or are we so important where wee need the notification on our wrist, no time for trivial actions like removing out phones from our pockets. Or, is this for the obviously enormous segment that will be in meetings, where it would be rude to pull out and look at their phone, but still need to know at that very second that the wife has reminded us to get cat food on the way home because your autistic cat Admiral Ticklebelly doesn’t take change very well and there is only 3/4 of a scoop left when he’s used to 4/5 of one.
    I’m not ignorant, and I understand that this technology is not going anywhere, and it will very likely evolve into actually useful applications, but that time ain’t now and I currently find the whole smart watch thing tedious.

  • Evitzee

    Thanks for the review, but I still feel this kind of gizmo is a solution for a non-existent problem.  The smart phone has evolved rather quickly to be the focal point of communicating to the world; it’s compact, powerful, has adequate screen size and reasonable battery life.  Yet somehow Apple now feels this has to have an auxiliary spot on people’s wrists.  Not full functionality but a dumbed down system with poor battery life.  And why?  It seems it is for Apple to generate more billions for it’s coffers, nothing more.  That’s how marketing works but you cannot make a market if people just don’t want the product.  I just don’t see these products ever supplanting the smart phones as the key communication device, and not even as a clumsy auxiliary product..

  • SuperStrapper That’s silly (Admiral Ticklebelly) – their names are Fluffy, Max, Sabrina, Mochi, Bella, Mia and Ginger. Plus Junior, Tommy, Two Face and Gaius outside – and the neighbor’s cat “Slo-Mo”.

  • SantiagoT

    When I spoke to Jerome Lambert on the SIHH I told him that despite all the buzz about the supposedly dire need of the Swiss maisons to have smart watches (even H. Moser is going to have one – O the heresy!), my idea was/is that Montblanc’s Timewalker was competing in an extremely fierce arena (Chronograph watches) and this e-strap gave it an edge, a real advantage because no other chrono was even close to offering something like it.

    He replied “that’s the most intelligent analysis I’ve heard so far”. Yeah that’s me bragging but also it tells you how clever this man is, taking a so so model that is (more than likely) not performing well in the market and giving it a boost without betraying the horological roots of the brand.

  • phsjacob

    iamcalledryan I bought a watch because I went to Philmont and didn’t bring my cell phone, and so never knew what time it was. Watches will always have an edge on phones because watches are generally waterproof and tough, and you don’t always have to worry about charging them up. It’s also nice to be able to know what time it is without reaching into your pocket. But it is unfortunate where the market is going.

  • VM1960

    Good looking watch. Good looking and clever device. I don’t think I would ever have a use for it.

  • DG Cayse

    SantiagoT Good spotting on an “add-on” most likely implemented by the marketing department.

  • DG Cayse

    iamcalledryan Tut tut tut…not everyone uses a “smart phone”…as I constantly remind my clients.

    I do agree that there will be an increasing market for gadgetry such as this. Some will prove useful to the market and most will garner a well-deserved place on the shelf or in a drawer (think eBay sales in 10 years or so)
    Ride the wave when it appears and smile all the way back from the bank…or online statement.

  • Polerouter

    SantiagoT  Don’t know how smart he is, but he sure knows how to flatter potential customers…

  • somethingnottaken

    This is the first smart watch idea from the Swiss (at least that I’ve seen) which makes sense. Mechanical watch technology is fairly static and with a bit of care a luxury watch should last through several lifetimes (and a few brands habitually point this out in their ads). In contrast, an electronic device will be obsolete within months (if it wasn’t already obsolete when you bought it), and has an expected lifespan if (at best) a few years. For the foreseeable future smart watches, like cell phones, will be essentially disposable. Because of these very different lifecycles it makes no sense to combine a luxury watch and a smart watch in a single case.

    Putting them in separate cases, as Montblanc does here, makes it easy to keep the mechanical watch for several decades, while replacing the smart watch far more frequently.

  • somethingnottaken Well said.

  • Gt0279a

    I could just glue a fitbit to a nato strap and save 200 euros. But then it would not say MONTBLANC on it.

  • robillzay

    That watch looks really cool. 
    More Montblanc beauties you can find here:

  • Atakan

    Hello Ariel;

    I’m a postgraduate student undertaking the MSc Digital Marketing in the University of Southampton. I’m working on my dissertation which is about the consumption of wearable tech devices as fashion and I would be very interested to get some viewpoints from wearable tech users from different countries and cultures toward their adoption on wearables. So I need some perceptions of wearable tech users all around the world and need to do some interviews with the users about their experience with these devices. I read your review about Montblanc Smart Band and thought that it would be great to talk about your experience with it and it would be an interesting example for my dissertation as wearable tech become fashionable. I’m aware that you may have limited time and other obligations as well. However, if you can give me some information about your experience with Montblanc Smart Band that would be much appreciated and it’d be very efficient to talk with someone who really experience these kind of devices. The interview will be made on Skype or another video chat platforms which preferred by you. If you are interested, could you get in contact with me from this email address? Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward hearing from you soon.
    Kind Regards,
    Atakan Baran Akgul

    [email protected]

  • Dan Finch

    Very clever those folks over at MontBlanc!

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