Contributed by James Stables of Wareable.com for aBlogtoWatch
Dear watch-loving friends, it’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance. I come in peace. I’m the co-founder of Wareable, a site dedicated to the world of wearable tech and smartwatches. This year was my fourth trip to Baselworld – my third hunting for wearables – and I left a broken man, after a deluge of smartwatches and hybrid devices that announced the arrival of technology into the world of watches. A corner was turned this year, and we got a sign that connected watches are here to stay.
Up to this moment, the smartwatch market has been the preserve of the tech crew. The first modern smartwatches (we’re not talking 1980s Casios or 1990s Microsoft numbers) were from Samsung, LG, and Motorola – tech brands through and through. Add Apple into the mix, and you can see where the market has been – until now.
That ended in 2017. While it wasn’t the first introduction of smartwatches from the luxury watch world – TAG Heuer among others had been dabbling – the deluge of connected watches in the heart of watchmaking country showed that the movement (as it were) has graduated, at least out of its freshman year.
And it’s Google that’s flavor of the month. It’s managed to woo the likes of TAG Heuer, Fossil, Movado, and Guess, who have all opted to jump on board its Android Wear smartwatch operating system project. Android Wear enables users to view notifications, access thousands of apps and receive contextual updates curating information on commutes and calendar appointments with Google Maps traffic data – and has just received a major update.
And this mass influx to Google’s OS has changed the landscape substantially. For the past two years, Apple has ruled the roost with the Apple Watch, while Google has struggled to get traction. But now with the backing of some of the biggest names in luxury watchmaking, we’re backing Google to turn the tables on Apple, and leave the smartwatch market looking a lot more vibrant in 2017.
But it’s not just full smartwatches. Hybrids – analog watches with connected smarts built into the case – are also gaining traction, slotting neatly into the vacuum between consumer interest in wearable features and the desire for classic design. So much so that Michael Kors announced that every one of its men’s watches will soon have a connected variant, alongside the quartz.
To mark this huge change, we’ve compiled a list of notable smartwatches introduced so far in 2017. It’s not complete - the Fossil Group is well on its way to launching 300 smartwatches this year already - but the big watch brands just gave us a glimpse of the future of smartwatches, and it looks uncannily similar to today’s luxury market. So, now with Baselworld behind us and a solid number of smartwatch releases out there, we figured it's a good time to recap what 2017 has presented so far.
The second generation of TAG Heuer’s Connected, the Modular 45 gets its name from its ability to change not only the straps but various other components as well. Android Wear 2.0 is on board, as well as GPS and NFC to give it a more standalone vibe. With prices starting at $1,500, it’s filled to the brim with sensors, with an accelerometer, gyroscope, tilt detection sensor, and ambient light sensor. It’s heavy on tech as well as sporting serious design chops.
It’s another strong effort from TAG, and packs in much more tech than its rivals. With GPS on board, coupled with changeable straps, the TAG Heuer Connected Modular 45 is aimed at the gym-goer as much as the traditional TAG Heuer buyer.
A trio of smartwatches from Movado showed that the company is serious about tech, and its adoption of Android Wear makes its latest efforts a step above last year’s questionable efforts with HP.
The trend in smartwatches has been to make the bezel a feature of the design – just like "proper" watches – but not the Movado Connect. Using edge-to-edge glass, it looks less traditional and shares more of a design ethic with the Apple Watch - and at $495, it costs more too. Android Wear 2.0 and NFC are again the tech headliners, and we felt the gold-lugged and gunmetal versions packed more class than the bog-standard black.
Elsewhere, we got a glimpse at the terribly named Hilfiger TH24/7You and were immediately impressed. Google’s Android Wear 2.0 is on board, although NFC has been shunned. With its $299 price tag at launch in August 2017, it undercuts most of its competitors.
And not to be out-done, the $395 Hugo Boss Touch also got an outing. Sporting ionized carbon plating it looks the business and comes with Android Wear 2.0 and NFC for contactless payments.
None of Movado's stable of smartwatches really boast revolutionary tech, but it’s the design and price that really make them stand out. Clearly aimed at existing customers who are looking to jump on the smartwatch bandwagon, rather than competing with big name devices, the Tommy Hilfiger’s competitive price tag could make it a cult hero of the smartwatch world. These will be available around August 2017.
The Montblanc Summit marks the company’s first dive into smartwatches. Built from stainless steel and titanium, the device is based on its 1858 Summit collection, and uses a curved sapphire crystal for the first time. What’s more, you can choose between four different styles and eight potential straps. At the heart of the device is Android Wear 2.0 and Qualcomm's Snapdragon Wear 2100 chip with 4GB of storage also on board. A heart rate monitor and motion sensor are also surprise additions for fitness, but there’s no GPS for accurate run tracking and NFC for mobile payments is also a no-show. The Montblanc summit will be $890 in steel and $1,090 in titanium.