It’s clear that technology manufacturers are entering the wristwatch space with the intention of re-defining it. But what does this mean for innovation elsewhere in the market? Where is design going and will it be informed by the smartwatch phenonemon? TOM DAVIS explores
[dropcap]W[/dropcap]ith the Apple Watch launching this there is no doubt that the high-tech watch, (or, in that particular case the smartwatch), has designs on the more traditional watch market. This is evident from the price ranges that Apple is targeting. While many thought that the Apple Watch would be seen as ‘gadgetry’ and a cheaper alternative to the traditional watch, it appears the Californian monolith has other ideas.
It seems to want to straddle both the gadgetry market with its basic model starting at £299, but it is simulataneously launching an 18ct gold ‘Watch Edition’ model, which will cost a hefty £13,500. The fashion market and the more traditional notions of watch ownership are clearly also part of the strategy.
“The fashion industry is based on emotions, people want to wear things because it makes them feel different.”
One style of watch which is unlikely to be affected by the release, and could perhaps even benefit from this rising tide of technology and timekeeping hybrids, is the ‘futuristic’ style of watch, which has a steady demand from those customers who put form ahead function. Moving away from the more traditional ways of displaying time, these watches could potentially be boosted by high demand of the growing trend for smartwatches.
These futuristic style of watches are worn to make a fashion statement. Robert Dabi, co-founder and chief creative officer at Ziiiro, says: “Apple’s DNA is rational, pragmatic, problem-solving. But the fashion industry is based on emotions, people want to wear things because it makes them feel different.” We have compiled a list of four watches that are making strides in the futuristic segment of this varied industry.
Ziiiro Eclipse Metallic
Watch brand Ziiiro was established in 2010 after unique watch designs, which were posted on the internet by Robert Dabi caught the attention of Derick Ip in Hong Kong, who then set up the company alongside Dabi. The brand’s timepieces are certainly unique and stylish in appearance, choosing a minimalistic look without the conventional hands, markings and clasps of traditional timepieces.
The Ziiiro Eclipse Metallic, which is available in a range of colours including rose gold, was recently launched by the company just two months’ ago and, according to Ip, the range is selling like “hotcakes”. The timepiece uses Super-Luminova which, after being charged by the sun or an artificial light source, illuminates the watch in the dark, meaning that hunting around for a light source or your phone at night is not necessary to be able to see the time. Its minimal design means that numbers and dates do not feature on the watch, it simply has two pointers with one standing for the minutes passed and one for the hours, for those used to seeing large numbers on their timepiece this could take a couple of wears to get used to.
This unique watch appeals to both a younger and more modern consumer of any gender. The watch is an innovative mix of minimalism and uniqueness that puts fashion ahead of function. Dabi says: “Ziiiro isn’t about pure accuracy. I think nowadays the wristwatch has changed from an accurate time keeper to something that not only tells time, but also expresses your individuality. Our watches are just like that. They don’t follow any guidelines of what a watch should look like. I don’t like to do things because others do it in a certain way, I always think things through from scratch and see what’s necessary and what not.”
The term Steampunk refers to a subgenre of science fiction, and fantasy, which incorporates technology inspired by 19th-century steampowered machinery. While not particularly futuristic in its roots, the Devon Steampunk timepiece combines traditional machinery with modern mechanics to create a retro yet futuristic timepiece.
The Steampunk, a limited edition version of the Devon Tread 1, features a bronze and steel case with various screws to give it an industrial feel while at the same time using a series of electronic one-step motors and a small computer to move belts on the face of the watch that tell the time – futuristic indeed. Windows on the face of the watch represent where the owner should read the correct hour, minute and second times, making it straight forward to tell the time.
Devon Works is a luxury brand and only creates around 500 handmade collector pieces each year which brings even more intrigue to the timepiece, meaning not many consumers around the globe own the watch. Scott Devon, owner at Devon Works, says: “Since they are handmade, and miniaturisation is actually more difficult to assemble and engineer than mass produced large scale products, you eventually have to find a market that understands why it costs so much to produce what we make, and appreciate the years of development that it takes to make a new watch and a unique one-of-a-kind movement.”
The Storm Hydroxis is a special edition men’s timepiece, created to celebrate Storm’s 25th anniversary. The timepiece is a dual-time watch, featuring a raised time face along with a futuristic hour and second hand gauge. The red indicator on the right of the dial rises for the hour, while the indicator along the bottom of the watch moves along to show the number of seconds that have passed.
Steve Sun, co-founder and head designer at Storm, says: “The Hydroxis was released as our 25th Anniversary watch because we thought it offered something a little different from watches we’ve launched in the past 25 years. It definitely has futuristic appeal and it’s proved to be a great success so far.”
The watch, is just one of the few futuristic timepieces in the brand’s collection including the Storm V2 Navigator, the Storm Tri-Mez and the Storm Digimec, which uses an LED display to present the time and date when a button is pressed.
Another futuristic style watch in the luxury market is the HYT H3. This model uses uses hydro-mechanical movement, switching from the brand’s usual circular movement to a linear liquid indicator.
Positioned on the upper face of the watch is a glass tube or ‘capillary’ which, operating in a vacuum, contains two fluids, one which is a water-based coloured fluid and one a viscous-based fluid. On each side of the capillary are two ‘bellows’ with the left pushing the water-based fluid, driving the time display, while the right bellow pushes the viscous-based fluid in opposition. Once the fluid reaches the end of the tube after six hours, the fluid goes into retrograde and goes back to the start to begin the process again. Once this has happened the four face dial below the tube rotates to show the next six hours of the day, allowing the 24 hours of the day to be
The timepiece, which is limited to just 25 pieces worldwide, is not only futuristic in style, but it is breaking new ground in our understanding of how watches measure time.