The world of watches is about to be shaken up like a paperweight snowstorm by a revolutionary hidden-tech strap that bridges the desirability gap between traditional timepieces and modern smartwatches.
Until now, discerning watch owners and aficionados have been reluctant to buy smartwatches – not just because they’re aesthetically inferior, but because anyone who’s invested $50,000 in a Chopard won’t want to swap it for a modern device that looks like it’s been bought at Walmart.
And while smartwatches offer genuinely useful functions that traditional watches don’t, how many of us would really wear two watches at a time without feeling, and looking, an idiot?
The search for a best-of-both-worlds solution has thrown up some interesting, if ugly, compromises. I shan’t name it here, but one traditional watchmaker has built smartwatch functionality into its own strap with the result that it looks for all the world like the cellular tags most likely to be found round the ankles of felons under electronic curfew.
Perhaps there’s a 64-page booklet inside the box listing all the excuses and justifications the owner can offer for the watch’s lumpen, swollen appearance so that he can trot them out to anyone who’ll listen if people ask him what on Earth he was thinking of.
Because that’s the difference between modern smartwatches and traditional watches: the quality and exquisite beauty of the Chopards, Tissots and Patek Philippes of this world speaks for itself – and that’s why the wealthy and the aspirational will always want them as a demonstration of their taste and status.
Trying to persuade them to swap their exclusive watches for a smartwatch – even if it has been gilded by Hermès – is like asking a Bentley owner to give up his half-million-dollar motor car in favour of a budget Hyundai, just because it has a few new technological tricks to offer.
So, as exclusively revealed in Luxurious Magazine, a pair of Polish entrepreneurs have created Unique – a hidden-tech watch-strap that lets you keep your own traditional watch but gives it smartwatch functionality.
Instead of looking like it was marked down in a sale at the ugly-shop, the strap from uBirds is made by craftsmen and women at a traditional watch-strap workshop, to the same high standards, and hides the technology so well that the strap is virtually indistinguishable from the strap you already have.
You can remove your old leather strap and replace it with a fine leather strap from Unique in moments – no watchmaker needed! – and it will look a million dollars whether your own watch is a Tiffany or a treasured old Timex your grandmother gave you on her death-bed.
The Unique strap from uBirds offers a host of smartwatch features that really would make our lives easier, including the ability to discreetly silence incoming calls if you’re in a meeting.
It can use its built-in NFC technology to memorise and take the place of smartcards, like those you might use to enter your hotel room, use the Subway or Metro in various capital cities, or gain access to your office building.
“Using discreet LEDs and vibrations as alerts, Unique lets you reject a phone call, monitor your fitness, control your music player, and know if a text’s arrived,” says uBirds’ co-founder, Pawel Karczewski. “And if you’re about to leave your phone behind, Unique will alert you as you walk away from it.”
Unique works with smartphones via Bluetooth and a dedicated app for iOS or Android that lets you configure the strap’s functionality to suit your own needs.
That could mean rejecting an inconvenient phone call while you’re in a meeting by simply tapping the strap, or texting your partner to say you’re running late, merely by tapping twice to send a pre-written message.
“The way the strap works is very intuitive, so it’s easy to use, and it comes with built-in user response detection to work the way you want it to,” says Pawel. “This is just the beginning for Unique, and we have lots of ideas for future functions.”
Founded in March 2014, uBirds is crowdfunding its initial production run through Kickstarter by offering backers the chance to own the first Unique straps and, in some cases, to design their own bespoke versions.
Backers will be able to customise their watch strap by choosing the size, colour, thread colour, quantity of loops and shape of the strap buckles – so uBirds ought to brace themselves for a lot of interest.
If you’d like to know more about the Unique strap or want to support the initial production run by making a pledge through Kickstarter, details are at http://t.co/mlv70EDaSp
By Paul Godbold