According to an old joke, Albert Einstein once said that he wanted to die in Switzerland, not elsewhere, “because everything happens 20 years later there.” This year, Baselworld proved Einstein wrong: the array of Swiss replica smartwatches on display proved the Swiss can be as up-to-date as anyone. Here’s a rundown of some of the smartwatches that debuted, or whose upcoming debut was announced, at this year’s Baselworld watch fair (most, but not all, come from Swiss brands):
• Sister brands Frédérique Constant and Alpina both showed analog watches that connect with apps on an Apple or Android phone, enabling the wearer to track his or her physical activity and sleep. The wearer can see data for sleep and activity in a subdial at 6 o’clock, and in more detail, on the phone. The watch, called the Horological Smartwatch, also alerts the wearer when he or she has been sitting too long and needs to get some exercise (more info here). At a press conference at the show, Peter Stas, CEO of the brands’ parent company, the Frédérique Constant group, noted that sleep/activity tracking is the most successful wearable application on the market: 20 million people worldwide use such an app. The watches, equipped with two-year-plus batteries, are priced from $995 to $1,295 for the Frédérique Constant model and $1,150 to $2,595 for the Alpina. They come in 10 styles and will go on sale in June. They are the products of a joint venture called MMT (Manufacture Modules Technologies Sàrl) formed by the Frédérique Constant group and the Silicon Valley-based Fullpower Technologies, Inc. MMT, like the Frédérique Constant group, is based in Plan-les-Ouates, on the outskirts of Geneva, and its modules are Swiss made. MMT licenses the watches’ technology, known as the MotionX-365 Horological Smartwatch Platform, to other Swiss watch companies, including Mondaine (see below).
• Mondaine, best known for its Swiss-railroad-clock-inspired watches, incorporated the MotionX-365 platform into a 2015 new replica watches called the Mondaine Helvetica No. 1 Horological smartwatch. Like the Frédérique Constant and Alpina smartwatches, the Mondaine watch shows activity and sleep information on a subdial at 6 o’clock. The watch will be launched in the fall and be priced at less than $900.
• On a very different note, Bulgari introduced a watch called the Diagono Magnesium concept watch, which enables the wearer to have secure, 24/7 access to his or her most secret data: account numbers and passwords, passport numbers, building entry codes and the like. The watch has a mechanical movement, made in house. (The watch is called the Magnesium because the middle section of its case is made of that metal.) It also has a cryptographic microchip, made by the Swiss company WISeKey, and an invisible antenna. When the wearer holds the watch close to his or her smartphone, the watch, using Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, is able to “open” what Bulgari calls the “Bulgari Vault.” The Vault is an app that stores the sensitive information in an encrypted form. When the Vault is “opened,” the information is unencrypted and displayed on the phone. The Vault can be opened only by the watch and only when the watch is very near the phone. According to Bulgari, the encrypted information is stored on a server buried in a military bunker at an undisclosed location in the Swiss Alps. If the phone is lost or stolen, the information will be destroyed, but can be restored if the phone is recovered. Bulgari says the usefulness of the watch’s “key” function will expand in the future. It will one day be able to open doors, say, or set house alarms or make payments. No price or launch date has been set for the watch. A spokeswoman for Bulgari said it would probably come out in 2016.
• Gucci did not have a smart fake watches online at Baselworld, but it did announce a partnership to market one. Stéphane Linder, Gucci’s new CEO (he left his job as CEO of TAG Heuer in December) held a press conference with rapper, music producer and smartphone entrepreneur will.i.am to say they had joined forces to bring out a wearable phone. It will not need to connect with your smartphone, but will be self-contained. With it, you will be able not only to make and receive calls, but to do everything a smartphone can do: connect to the Internet, take photos and much else. It will also have a fitness-tracking function. Under a company he calls i.am+, will.i.am already advertises a wearable phone called the PULS. According to the website used to promote the device, it contains “a new operating system built on the foundation of Android.” At the Baselworld press conference, will.i.am said the Gucci watch would represent the union of technology and fashion. To describe the concept, he coined the term “fashionology,” he told the audience. No launch date has been set. “Details regarding pricing, distribution, and launch timing will be announced in due course,” Gucci said in a press release.
• TAG Heuer also held a press conference to announce, or, rather, elaborate upon, its plans to launch a smartwatch. The company has been talking about its upcoming connected watch for months (rumors were flying late last year that the company would unveil the watch at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, but it didn’t). At the brand’s booth at Baselworld, TAG declared that it had joined forces with Intel and Google to “launch a Swiss smartwatch powered by Intel technology and Android Wear.” TAG CEO Jean-Claude Biver and General Manager Guy Sémon took the stage with David Singleton, director of engineering for Android Wear, and Michael Bell, corporate vice president and general manager of Intel’s New Devices Group, to make the announcement. The watch will look like a Carrera model and will come out in the fall. No price has been set.
• Breitling introduced a quartz-powered pilots’ watch called the B55 Connected. It interacts with a smartphone via Bluetooth to facilitate the setting of the Breitling fake watches for men and storage of data. Breitling describes the watch/phone relationship thus: “Two-way communication enables the two instruments to form a perfectly complementary pair in which each is used for what it does best.” In a nutshell, you use the phone, with its relatively large, easy-to-read screen, to set the watch’s functions (which include an alarm, additional time zones and display options). You use the watch to measure take-off times, the duration of flights, etc., and the phone to store that data for easy reference. The watch is equipped with a thermo-compensated, multi-function quartz ana-digi movement called Caliber B50. Breitling launched the movement last year in the B50 Cockpit with the intention of using it as a base for various high-tech watches. The company describes the B55 Connected as a “concept” watch and has not yet set a price for it.
• Vector, a new London-based company headed by former Timex CEO Joe Santana, introduced a watch that makes use of the web-based IFTTT (If This Then That) service, which connects apps, or, “channels,” as IFTTT calls them, so that an action involving one IFTTT channel will automatically trigger a reaction involving another IFTTT channel. A user can set a rule, for example, that whenever he posts a photo on Twitter, that photo will automatically be sent to Dropbox (both Twitter and Dropbox have IFTTT channels, of which there are more than 170). Vector will have a channel on the service starting this summer, when Vector watches are scheduled to hit the market. According to Vector, the watches, which have a 30-day battery life, have sensors that enable wearers to acknowledge messages with the flick of a wrist and are also equipped with “built-in contextual awareness that allows the device to understand patterns in user behavior.” There are two models, the Meridian, at $199, and the Luna, at $349. The company is also selling limited-edition models on its website, www.vectorwatch.com.
• Guess has partnered with Martian Watches, the Irvine, Calif., smartwatch maker, to introduce the Guess Connect. The watch is equipped with a Martian-made module incorporating a microphone and speaker. The watch connects to the voice-command app on your phone; you can issue voice commands via the watch and also use it to respond to e-mails and text messages. In addition, the watch receives notifications from the phone: you can customize your watch’s vibration patterns so you can distinguish different types of alerts and see old alerts by tapping the watch’s crystal. The Guess Connect will be in stores in the fall; prices will start at $399.
• Kenneth Cole showed a new collection of smartwatches called Kenneth Cole Connect, featuring Bluetooth technology. The watches, priced from $135 to $165, let you receive alerts from your smartphone and control the music it plays. You can also operate your smartphone camera using the watch, so that you can take a picture of yourself from a distance. The fashion Swiss replica watches, which has a chronograph and offers a choice of different time displays, is powered by a standard watch battery. It went on sale right after Baselworld. (Fellow fashion-watch company and Baselworld exhibitor Fossil Inc. announced in September that it, too, would be bringing out smartwatches, through a partnership with Intel and Google. The first ones will be coming out this year under the Fossil, Michael Kors and Emporio Armani brands. The watches were not shown at Baselworld.)