Swiss watchmakers are renowned for their luxury timepieces, but so far many have been ambivalent about the release of Apple Inc.’s forthcoming Watch. As a response to the smartwatch trend, two smaller manufacturers are adding sensors to their analog timepieces.
The owner of Alpina and Frederique Constant watch brands, Peter Stas, announced Thursday the formation of a new company, Manufacture Modules Technologies (MMT). Stas, along with Philippe Kahn – a Silicon Valley inventor credited with the creation of the first camera phone – plans to implement a Fitbit-like activity tracker into his Swiss timepieces. The modules themselves are made by MotionX, the company behind Jawbone’s activity trackers.
From outward appearance, the new Swiss watches look like standard Geneva-made timepieces, with the addition of a small dial showcasing the wearer’s activity. The dial and sensor are powered by the module, which connects to a phone through Bluetooth to display health data in a separate app.
While Apple still has not announced the price of its 18-karat gold Watch Edition, the Swiss "smartwatches” will carry a price tag from $200 to $2,000, the manufacturers say, with most falling around $500. Watch purists may see both bad and good in MMT’s offerings.
The luxury smartwatches are not mechanical – the kind that require winding and truly inspire some antique-watch fanatics. The aspect that makes these watches “smart” – a simple activity tracker – is also unlikely to ignite the passions of big-time gadget fans, since notifications and other features found in Android Wear and the Apple Watch are absent.
MotionX says the luxury smartwatches will feature better sleep monitoring than most smartwatches, since they can be worn overnight, and can incorporate sleep cycle alarms, to wake the wearer when they come out of a deep sleep.
The combination of quartz watch movement along with Bluetooth low-energy connectivity, however, allows MMT’s Swiss smartwatches to run for up to two years. They never require charging at night – simply get a new watch battery when necessary.