Another major step in making watch stores less relevant. I recently discussed the demise of third party watch retailers here, and a lot of people said that they still like going into stores to try watches on. So while buying timepieces online makes sense from a value and selection standpoint, it is hard to give up actually trying-on, and holding the watch. Well, this new system from Tissot doesn’t exactly replace that experience 100%, but makes an awfully convincing case for skipping the store.

It is called Tissot Reality, and is a method of using what is known as “augmented reality.” The term applies to programs that create visuals over real-life images. Tissot has created a downloadable application that allows you to try out their entire T-Touch collection family of watches from home in your underwear. The system isn’t perfect, but the first attempt is really cool. You need to download the software, print out then cut out the watch shaped strap for your wrist, and you must have a webcam. Finally, I can try out new watches in my underwear – dream come true.

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The move makes lots of sense given Tissot’s new watch store online. According them, it is now their biggest point of sale. With a lot of great offerings, Tissot wants to make sure people can try their watches on and feel comfy buying online. Currently, Tissot Reality only allows you to “test” out T-Touch collection watches, but all that is likely to change in the future. I suspect that before long, you’ll be able to “try on” their entire collection via the tool. I also predict that the application will eventually be a simple web applications, as opposed to something you need to download.

Of course I tried it out. The Tissot Reality program isn’t exactly lean. It is an over 80mb download, but runs smoothly and installs easily. It automatically connects with your webcam, so there was basically no set up. Just strap on the piece of paper and wave it in front of your webcam. There is a choosing device along the left side of the program. You must actually have the paper in view on the screen to choose new watches. The view is totally in 3D. It doesn’t get all angles, and isn’t always perfectly aligned, but it does a pretty good job. You have a limited amount of tilt with the watch, and moving your wrist closer to the camera will zoom in on the watch – very cool. The program ever has simulated glare when moving the watch around.

Not only do you get to see the watches exactly how large they would be on your wrist in accurate colors, but the watch is animated. It syncs with your computer’s time, and you can even operate it. The Tissot T-Touch collection is all about cool multifunction watches with a touch screen. I reviewed a Tissot T-Touch Expert watch here. There is a”Function” mode in Tissot Reality that lets you use your mouse to “touch” various parts of the dial activating the features. A new little window pops up with a video and some details about the functions – more augmented reality there. It goes without saying that the program also has tech specs for all the watches. In a nutshell, you can check out all the models in the Tissot T-Touch 2 collection, T-Touch Expert, T-Touch Expert Pilot, Sea-Touch, Sailing Touch, and maybe one or two others. You also get all the strap and dial options available to see what is right for you.

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Tissot Reality also gives you the ability to take screen shot captures, and save them. That way you can look at them later or compare them with one another when trying to decide on the right watch. I easily recommend Tissot Reality for those who want to check out a fun, contemporary use of augmented reality programs, as well as those who are interested in a Tissot T-Touch timepiece. Prices for Tissot T-Touch watches are in the $1,000 range. It is only a matter of time before this concept is streamlined – made accessible without downloading software, a bit more precise, and more widely adopted by other watch makers (and many other industries as well).

Learn more about Tissot Reality or use it yourself here.

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