Phosphor digital hour watch 1

Welcome to the watch for nontraditional watch lovers. This is something even people who claim their mobile phones are enough for time telling can get behind with ease. In a nutshell you have a nicely designed angular rectangle watch, using an innovative e-ink display, at a very reasonable price. So let’s get the e-ink discussion out of the way. I was under the impression that everyone knew what e-ink was, until I started talking about it and people gave me a blank stare. Are you familiar with the Amazon Kindle e-book device? Well that is probably the most popular use of e-ink today. Unlike LCD screens, e-ink uses a different system for providing very high contrast, easy to read screen. They only use electricity when “changing” (the image on the screen changes) so they use very little battery power. The screen is made of positively and negatively charged electrodes that work in an “on” or “off” position. Meaning it either displays the positively charged (light color) electrodes, or the negatively charged (dark color) electrodes. A current is only required to alter the position of the electrodes, and not to sustain the display – which is why it uses so little energy. Alternatively, and LCD display must always have power running through it in order to be “on” (although that amount is low, LCD devices that use a lot of energy have most of the juice going to the processor, RAM, and/or the backlight.

E-ink is named as such because the high contrast display looks a lot like paper. Meaning it is easy to read and easy on the eyes (with no backlight required in lit instances. This is the first watch you’ll have where people don’t need to ask you what time it is. They can clearly see it on your wrist without having to ask. So the company is Phoshpor and the model is the Digital Hour Clock watch. Dismiss the awkward name and focus on the immediately pleasing to the eye display as well as watch case. The first generation of Phosphor e-ink watches used a round case with analog hands on top of an e-ink display. This next generation of watches from the brand finally become more comfortable with the technology and the unique benefits of e-ink, so they removed all things “analog.”

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Phosphor digital hour watch 5

The case is long and rectangular. I was actually quite pleased with the dimensions of the watch once I got it on my wrist. It is just the right size as I prefer it. Goes from one end of the wrist to the other, without being too long. The width is good as well. I find that many rectangular shaped watches are too narrow, but here the 38mm width feels right. It is also relatively thin at just 8mm thick. Then you have the nicely tapered ends that help ease the size transfer of the case to the slightly more narrow strap. The case itself is also completely curved to fit on your wrist well. There is a bit of a protrusion on the rear of the case for the battery compartment, which honestly does not interfere in the comfort of the watch at all. Which also brings me to point that the battery compartment is easy to access and can be taken off using a coin. No real tools required. This is good as many battery operated watches are pain to get in to, and do you really want to visit a specialist just to change a watch battery?

Case material is all stainless steel and enjoys mostly a high polish finish around the watch. The face of the watch has a sandblasted look that fits nicely with the look of the e-ink display surface. I applaud Phosphor on this clever design point. The watch pushers (one on each side of the case) are integrated right into the case, and don’t protrude at all. This gives the case a modern and seamless look. I don’t say this lightly when I remark upon the fact that I feel as though Phosphor put more design attention into this case, than do people who sell watches at many times the price. The case is also water resistant to 50 meters, and the watch crystal is mineral glass – that while not as hardy or scratch resistant as sapphire crystal, is totally acceptable at this watch’s very good price.

Phosphor digital hour watch 6 Phosphor digital hour watch 7

Going to the front of the watch again, you’ll see the Phosphor logo in cursive engraved into the case. The look is nice, and I like the cursive style of the text against the otherwise modern looking case. It brings down any apparent nerdiness of the watch making it much more hip instead. Which is really a good statement about the watch as a whole. The combo of an unknown display technology combines with a futuristic looking case could easily have gone in the wrong direction for Phosphor, but with the Digital Hour Clock, they pull the timepiece off well, and I think it has real mass appeal.

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The strap is a soft and flexible black leather with orange applied around the edges. I like the double pin style buckle, which goes well with the thick and wide clasp. The look reminds me of leather bracelets that are seemingly perma-popular. The strap is the type that will wear out after years of use, but so are many styles of leather straps. Replacement straps are available from Phosphor when the time comes (they are $15 each). In addition to this leather strap a less expensive version of the Digital Hour Clock watch comes with a black polyurethane strap, and for a bit more you can get a stainless steel bracelet on the watch. I think I prefer the leather strap the most.

Phosphor digital hour watch 11

Now on to the screen and functions. There are four displays that you can choose to look at, and each in either the positive or negative color tone. What I mean by the latter is that by pressing the right pusher on the watch in any screen will juxtapose the colors. For instance if the numbers are dark, and the background is light, press the button and the numbers before light, and the background dark. The four screens show: 1) the time with stacked hours and minutes,  a calendar with stacked date and month, the alarm setting, and an alternative time display with a semi-analog hour on top of digital minutes. The watch also has an adjustable tone that will beep on each hour, but this can be turned off. The pushers are easy to use, but require a deep push into the case. A few downsides to e-ink are that there is no current backlight option, and there are no seconds indication available. Both are understandable given the nature of the screen, and are not merely left out of the design. e-Ink needs energy each time the screen “changes.” If the watch were to count seconds, the screen would need to change each second, and thus use up too much energy. This way it only needs to change each minute. e-Ink does require a bit more voltage than a standard LCD display, but with the CR2025 battery, you should get 18-24 months of battery life. Plus, these types of batteries shouldn’t be hard to find at non-watch stores as they are also used in non watch devices.

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Another benefit of e-Ink is the display angle. In addition to them having a very high contrast from light to dark, you can also view them at any angle. This is one of the problems with LCD displays, as you can no longer read the dial if you look at it from too much of an angle. Not an issue with e-Ink. This is going to be one of the most enjoyable benefits from the watch. There is a bit of ghosting if you look closely at the dial. Meaning that you can see some of the numeral segments of the basic “8” shape – that all digital numbers stem from. This is not much of an issue really, but more of an observation.

A combination of solid looks, very useful technology, enjoyable operation, and high value, allows this $185 watch to make a ton of sense for anyone who is drawn to it. Traditional watch lovers will find appeal in the novel use of technology, while non-tradition watch lovers will appreciate the good price, as well as the cool timepiece that is unique enough to have them leave their phones in their pocket next time they need the time. For all these reasons and because I personally like this watch so much, I am giving it a rare Seal of Approval Award.

Buy or learn more about Phosphor Digital Hour Clock e-Ink watches here.

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