Baselworld 2015: Traditional watchmakers get serious about smartwatches

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This week saw the start of Baselworld 2015, the world’s largest watch and horology trade show and exhibition.

For one week each March, the world’s watch industry descends on the quaint Swiss city of Basel, where watchmakers from around the globe unveil their new timepieces for the upcoming year.

The event is also the pinnacle for watch enthusiasts who can get a glimpse of some of the finest timepieces from the world’s leading watchmakers.

Whilst new releases from the likes of Omega, Rolex, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Patek Philippe normally, and rightly so, take centre stage at the event, this year the chatter amongst both the media and enthusiasts alike has been about smartwatches.

The opening press conference held on Wednesday was dominated by questions about smartwatches, despite there not actually being any consumer tech brands in attendance at the event.

The intrigue into smartwatches didn’t particularly sit well with the organisers of the event, which is attended by more than 1,500 watch brands from more than 40 different countries.

Speaking at the opening of Baselworld 2015, Sylvie Ritter, Baselworld managing director had her own little dig at the smartwatch industry saying: “Here we appeal to emotion, there they appeal to marketing.”

“Here we talk of timelessness, there they talk of planned obsolescence,” before adding that she did think the traditional watch industry and the tech sector could “cohabit”.

Well if day one of Baselworld 2015 was anything to go by, traditional watch brands incorporating some of the features typically found on a tech smartwatch looks like it could well be a sign of things to come.

This years event has so far been very much a case of tradition meeting tech, with a number of well known brands showcasing their versions of a ‘smartwatch’.

Here are some of the highlights:

Tag Heuer smartwatch

TAG Heuer CARRERA

The announcement that Tag Heuer will link up with Intel and Google to produce an Android Wear smartwatch was arguably the main story from day one of Baselworld 2015. That said, the announcement was pretty much all we got as there are as of yet no further details on the watch or even any images of what the watch may look like.

However, watch aficionado, Michael Weare, Editor at Watchuseek, who is in Basel covering the event, tells me the watch is rumoured to be a ‘smart’ version of the iconic Tag Carrera, similar to the one pictured above.

Read more: Google, Intel and TAG Heur to Launch a Luxury Smartwatch

Bvlgari Diagono Magnesium concept watch

Bvlgari Diagono Magnesium

The Diagono Magnesium from luxury Italian brand Bvlgari works with a secure electronic payments system called Luxury Wrist Vault. Via the accompanying passport app, Bvlgari says the watch can be used to make payments and even open doors or start the engine of your car.

Bvlgari have partnered with Internet security experts WiseKey to ensure that the personal data of users stays secure. There is no further info yet on a release date, specs or pricing.

Breitling B55 Connected

Breitling B55 Connected

Breitling B55 Connected Source: aBlogtoWatch.com

The B55 Connected from Breitling hit the headlines prior to its outing at Baselworld. The watch very much follows the company’s tradition of producing timepieces aimed at the aviation world.

After previously writing enthusiastically about its good looks, upon second reflection, the Wi-Fi logo at 9 o’clock is a definite blemish on what is otherwise a great looking timepiece.

As well as generally looking good, it’s connectivity to the accompanying wireless app makes it pretty darn useful too – if you’re a pilot. Granted there are no email or Facebook notifications but you will be able to analyse key data from your flight. The B55 Connected will also automatically update the time once you touch down in a new time zone.

Read more: Breitling launches its own version of a smartwatch – and it’s a stunner

Guess Connect – a great looking range of smartwatches

Guess Connect

Guess might ordinarily be a brand that traditional watch enthusiasts may well turn their nose up at. However, there is no denying the good looks of the company’s first foray into the world of wearable tech. The Guess Connect range has been produced in partnership with Martian Watches, who themselves have steadily built up a solid reputation for producing their own range of trendy wearables.

Each watch in the series can be linked to your smartphone via an app. All of the watches are water resistant and can display notifications via the window at 6 o’clock. The Guess Connect also includes a speaker and mic so you can issue voice commands and receive calls. The other useful aspect of the Guess Connect is that the actual watch and ‘smart’ features are powered separately so that the regular watch element will still work long after the ‘smart’ display and notifications have run out of battery. Due to be released Oct 2015, approx US$350.

Alpina Horological Smartwatch – targeted at women

Alpina Horological Smartwatch

If smartwatches are ever to truly enter into the mainstream, one thing that tech companies and/or watchmakers will need to do is make them more appealing to women.

As it stands, the likes of the Moto 360 or Samsung Galaxy Gear have a definite air of masculinity about them. Add to that the tech element (what some may call the ‘geeky’ side) that all smartwatches have, then as it stands currently, it’s hard to ever really imagine women buying into the idea of smartwatches.

I mean, could you ever imagine your Mrs wearing one?

Recognising this, Alpina’s Horological Smartwatch is one of the first connected timepieces to be specifically designed for women.

The watch looks just like a traditional timepiece and includes a small sub dial at 6 o’clock, which provides the user with an at-a-glance reading of steps taken and sleep activity, whilst the Bluetooth connectivity to an Android or iOS device provides more accurate data on step count and motion tracking.

Related: First ever Swiss made horological smartwatches unveiled

 

 

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