Smartwatches shake up Baselworld, industry divided

Smartwatches are the talk of town at Baselworld

Usually a platform for traditional luxury Swiss watchmakers to show off their craftsmanship, artistry and heritage, there is more to Baselworld this year.

Since day one, smartwatches have been the “talk of town” at the exhibition held in Basel, Switzerland. The crowds, including watchmakers themselves, are divided between embracing the notion that connected devices represent the future of the industry, while others opposing it.

Italian luxury brand, Bulgari, unveiled a concept “intelligent” watch that can act, through smartphone connectivity, as a virtual vault for all personal data.

“It [the watch] answers the question what can technology bring into watchmaking to help a luxury client,” Bulgari’s managing director Diego Terreni told us.

Despite the move in that direction, Terreni stated that luxury watches and smartwatches run in parallel, shrugging off any threat posed on the industry.

“Smartwatches today are basically gadgets with functions that are not really useful in a luxury watch.”

Manuel Emch, the CEO of Romain Jerome, an avant-garde Swiss luxury watchmaker said that the future lies in the “share of wrists,” in reference to collaborations combining traditional craftsmanship of watchmaking and connectivity of the “smart” world.

Below is a quick look at smart watches or connected devices that have been announced or highlighted at Baselworld, so far:

TAG Heuer, Google and Intel announce collaboration

On the first day of Baselworld, Swiss watchmaker TAG Heuer announced collaborating with Silicon Valley’s tech giants Google and Intel, to create the next “Luxury Android Smart watch.”

“TAG Heuer is Swiss avant-garde since 1860, means that we have a great tradition… and we are connecting to tomorrow… we cannot connect alone. Together we are strong, alone we are nothing,” Jean-Claude Biver, the CEO of TAG Heuer and the president of LVMH’s watches division, said during the announcement.

LVMH is a major French luxury group which owns TAG Heuer, along with other top Swiss watchmakers, such as Hublot and Zenith.

Immediate reactions forecasted that the watch, expected to be introduced by the end of the year, would directly compete with the recently announced Apple Watch.

This collaboration was the first of a few others announced during the first few days of the top industry fair.

Gucci, Will.I.Am announce collaboration on luxury “smart band”

Italian fashion and leather goods brand, part of the Kering luxury group, announced a collaboration with American rapper and entrepreneur William Adams, known as Will.I.Am, to create a connected device called the “smart band.”

Functionalities, features and price of the band were not revealed, but it is expected to allow users to make phone calls, send text messages and emails, among other functionalities falling under “fashionology” – a term used by the artist in reference to merging fashion and technology.

“We’re in #Baselworld2015 with @iamwill, counting down the launch of something new,” the brand tweeted prior to the announcement.

Will.I.Am retweeted saying “I’m so proud and honored.” It is not the artist’s first venture into the world of tech, as he had previously launched the “PULS” smartwatch in 2014, in collaboration with renowned Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid.

Frederique Constant’s Horological Smartwatch

This classic-looking, Swiss made watch was created by Manufacture Models Technologies (MMT), a joint venture between the Geneva-based luxury watchmaker and Fullpower Technologies Inc. from Silicon Valley.

The watch possesses a functionality allowing it to connect to the smartphone through a specific application, record activity and track sleep, through its MotionX technology.

In terms of design, the watch is available in stainless steel or rose gold plated cases, and is offered in black or brown leather straps or a steel bracelet. It has an analog display of time, and features slim diamond-cut hands indicating time and other connected information.

The Horological Smartwatch was announced earlier this month, but continues to be a highlight during Baselworld.

Breitling’s connected chronograph

The household name known for its connection to aviation and creating “instruments for professionals,” presented the B55 Connected, a smarter version of the pilot watch.

Released earlier this year, the connected device does not have the usual functionalities of making phone calls or tracking activity. However, it posses other aspects, including an electronic tachometer, an aviation-oriented “chrono flight” device that can record flight times by memorizing time of take-off, time of landing and the date.

It houses a SuperQuartz movement, and has both an analog and a digital display of time.

Bulgari’s Diagono Magnesium

The Italian luxury brand announced the Diagono Magnesium concept watch at Baselworld, in partnership with WiseKey, a digital information security company, headquartered in Geneva.

The Diagono Magnesium does not possess the usual smartwatch functionalities, but targets information security, a pressing issue of our day.

According to the brand, the Diagono Magnesium is a “0% gadget” and is “the complete opposite of everything the world of so-called connected watches is able to offer.”

The smart feature of the watch lies in its ability to connect to a smartphone application, which allows the user to access his or her confidential information after going through a quick authentication step.