Traditional smartwatch

I like watches — perhaps “quality timepiece” is a more accurate term. From the Gobots watch that I wore through most of my elementary school days, to the Casio calculator watch that adorned my wrist through junior high, my watches always had something “techie” about them.

I wore two iterations of watches sporting Microsoft SPOT technology, a Sony smartwatch, and another Bluetooth connected watch before finally backing Pebble on Kickstarter. I make no apologies when I say that Pebble is the best smartwatch of all of these, and is arguably the best of all the smartwatches available today. But this article isn’t about which smartwatch you or I think is “the best”. No, this article is about a trend that seems to be developing among smartwatches and wearables in general: they all look “futuristic”.

Sure, things that look “futuristic” are cool, they’re different, and they certainly turn some heads. There’s nothing inherently wrong about any of those, but does a smartwatch have to look any different that an ordinary, well-designed timepiece? That’s the question that one designer set out to answer, and the results are nothing short of astounding.


Gábor Balogh set out to redefine the smartwatch, starting from the perspective of a regular watch. You’d be hard-pressed to tell his watch apart from any other high-end chronograph, but there’s one significant difference: his is all digital, and the screen doesn’t have any hands — it’s an LCD not too dissimilar from what current smartphones or smartwatches use.

The face looks just like a watch with the time, day of the week, and date proudly displayed. His vision goes beyond that. Just like you’ve come to expect from a smartwatch, Balogh’s gets push notifications and displays them on the screen — rather, it displays them elegantly on the screen.

Meetings and messages are displayed subtly, but with all the information you need at your fingertips. Incoming calls are clearly noted with the ability to answer or hang up. A digital compass as well as on-wrist turn-by-turn directions look right at home and convey a simplicity and uniformity that is missing on all of today’s smartwatches.

Currently, this watch is just a concept. It’s got some technological hurdles in front of it. First you’ve got to find someone who can make a round LCD display. I’m unaware of any screens that aren’t square or rectangular today — sure, some pretend to be round, like the screen inside the Nest Learning Thermostat, but it’s still square. Next, that’s a very small chassis into which you’ve got to cram a microprocessor, RAM, Bluetooth radio and antenna, and battery. There’s also no indication about how it would charge, and we all know that smartwatches need charging at least every several days — and often more frequently than that.

However, challenges aside, this design shows us what a unified, elegant experience can look like on a quality timepiece. The next question that begs to be asked: does a smartwatch have to look “futuristic” to be able to sell?

Regardless of your answer, the race is on to find out which of the leading smartwatch makers can realize anything close to this design… and perhaps, which one of them will hire Mr. Balogh to help build the next iteration of smartwatches.


Source: Gábor Balogh

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