Smart watches: They arent just for geeks anymore The Guess Connect smartwatch is dislpayed at the Martian booth at the International Consumer Electronics Show. At left, Glide's live video messaging app runs on a prototype (AP photos)
Smart watches: They arent just for geeks anymore
Lexile

Smartwatches don't have to look ugly to be functional. Clothing and accessories designers are collaborating with engineers to produce computerized wristwatches that people will want to wear all day and night.

With Apple preparing to release a watch line that includes an 18-karat gold edition, rivals know they need to think beyond devices that look like miniature computers with their rectangular screens and wristbands made of rubber-like materials. If the watches aren't attractive, the market won't grow beyond a small niche of users.

"The big brick on the wrist is not what a fashionable person is going to wear on a day-to-day basis," says Cindy Livingston, CEO of Sequel, a Timex business that makes traditional watches under the Guess clothing brand. That's especially so for women, she says. Many of the existing smartwatches are simply too big for their wrists.

At the International CES gadget show in Las Vegas, Guess said it's partnering with Martian Watches to make a line of fashionable smartwatches. Guess took its leading line of traditional watches, Rigor, and incorporated Martian's technology. From a distance, the new Guess Connect watch looks like a Rigor, with analog hands and a crown, or dial, on the right. Closer inspection reveals the addition of two control buttons and a small, one-line display for notifications near 6 o'clock.

LG, meanwhile, consulted with outside design experts and a sister company that makes fashion and home-decor products. Its first smartwatch was rectangular primarily because of production constraints. A round model followed just months later.

Other companies took fashion into account from the start. Burg's Dutch founder, Hermen van den Burg, has had 20 years of work in design. The company showcased new stainless-steel models and one with Swarovski crystals, both due out in March. Van den Burg says a watch, as something you wear, is highly personal and must fit your lifestyle. Cogito filled an in-house design studio in Paris with people from the fashion industry. Last summer's Classic model has room for just 24 characters of text, so that most of the face can be devoted to making the watch a watch. A fitness tracker coming this April will have interchangeable parts to add patterns on the rim.

The Consumer Electronics Association projects that U.S. sales of wearable devices will reach 31 million this year, up 61 percent. Most will be health and fitness devices, such as step counters. Although general-purpose smartwatches are expected to reach just 11 million, or about a third of all wearable devices, that's more than quadruple what was sold in 2014.

Those seeking specialized functions might not care about design, but those looking to wear something around the clock might, says Ralph de la Vega, head of AT&T's mobile and business solutions division. Apple will "raise the bar," de la Vega adds. "Others are going to have to work hard to stay up with it."

High fashion won't come cheap. Health-tech company Withings hired traditional watch designers to make a fitness-tracking watch called Activite, pronounced Activity. It looks like a regular watch except for a second dial on the face to show progress toward that day's fitness goals. The watch can measure a lot more, but you'll need a smartphone app to view that. Activite is being manufactured at an unspecified watch factory in Switzerland, rather than in Asia, where consumer electronics are typically produced. With high-quality materials, including calf leather for the band, Activite costs $450, compared with $200 to $300 for typical smartwatches today. But even at that price, Withings sold out an undisclosed number in a day when it came out in November.

At CES, Garmin says it partnered with designer Jonathan Adler to make patterned straps for its Vivofit 2 fitness tracker, to be sold in sets of three for $40. And Sony is making a stainless steel edition of its SmartWatch 3 for $50 more, or $300.

Critical thinking challenge: What makes a smartwatch smart"?

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COMMENTS (47)
  • Haley Patterson
    1/15/2015 - 12:05 p.m.

    I think smart watches are a really good idea because they are a lot easier to carry around than a phone. I think they are really convenient for business workers especially because they are constantly using technology and it would be nice for them to have something easy to carry around.

  • BenB10
    1/15/2015 - 12:43 p.m.

    A smart watch can be useful as a watch or a substitute to a smart phones calender, fitness tracker, other items but if you have a smart phone why buy a smart watch? New models are being made to be fashionable, but most likely more expensive. A smart watch is handy for telling the time or maybe if you don't have your phone on you. Smart phones are a much better tool to use when compared to the smart watch. If you see a smart watch for cheap and you like the phone you have it may be fashionable to you, or handy but smart phones are still a better tool.

  • GigiSylvester-Ste
    1/15/2015 - 01:03 p.m.

    I think this is a very cool and practical idea. I think this is a very convenient invention. The watch is one object with various uses.

    • blakest-Wal
      1/20/2015 - 02:31 p.m.

      I think this is a very cool and practical idea. I think this is a very convenient invention. it will help someones life in multiple ways.

  • ShaniaWentz-Ste
    1/15/2015 - 01:16 p.m.

    To be quite honest, I don;t like to wear watches. I have 2 at home (one is blue and lights up; it's my favorite) and I have only worn them about 2 times each. However, I like the idea behind making "fashionable watches". However, different people have different ideas of fashionable. So, would the number of people wearing watches go up, or would it stay the same?

  • NashMcComsey-Ste
    1/15/2015 - 01:31 p.m.

    I beleive it is time for this device to be intergrated into society not just for tech savvy people, rather they could be used to better introduce people to technology, maybe turning more people into tech savvy people.

  • JuvenileJellyfish
    1/15/2015 - 01:48 p.m.

    Smart watches will always be for geeks. Other people could use them but they'd use it as an accessory rather than its actual use, I think that smart watches are cool but they have a kind of limited usage.

  • Kandie_Kane_299
    1/15/2015 - 01:51 p.m.

    Smart watches are a really cool idea. I can see how people wouldn't want them if they are to big, or if they look block-like and ugly

  • Brexa
    1/15/2015 - 02:02 p.m.

    The wristwatch would technically be just a measuring tool. The types of measurements it makes make it smart even if they don't show up on the watch.

  • yajaira c3
    1/15/2015 - 02:47 p.m.

    Classic model has room for just 24 characters of text, so that most of the face can be devoted to making the watch a watch. A fitness tracker coming this April will have interchangeable parts to add patterns on the rim
    Smart watches don't have to look ugly to be functional. Clothing and accessories designers are collaborating with engineers to produce computerized wristwatches that people will want to wear all day and night

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