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Deep inside the smart Swiss watches that challenge Apple Watch with analog panache

Jon Phillips | April 24, 2015
Philippe Kahn is a big man with a big personality and big feelings about Swiss watches. He's got a massive Alpina model on his wrist, and he's bragging about how the watch is water-resistant down to 100 meters, and can last more than two years on its built-in battery.

The upshot: If I were willing to ditch the TAG Heuer, I could buy an MMT watch and kill two use cases with a single band.

But activity-tracking and sumptuous analog watch faces only check off two boxes on my wearables checklist. If the Swiss watch companies added notifications, then all my requirements would be met. Citizen has already tried to deliver notifications to an analog dial via its Eco-Drive Proximity watch, but by all accounts it's a clumsy effort. Perhaps MMT can somehow solve the puzzle.

For instance: The Swiss could add a second complication with 12 markers, each one denoting a personal contact. When the hand of the notification's dial sweeps to the first marker, you know your sweetheart has sent a text. Press the crown button once to reply that you're busy, but will text back soon. A second button press might send a heart-shaped emoji — rendered with elegant Swiss flair.

This is all just whimsical what-if-ing, and I'm not even in love with my own idea. But Kahn promises these are just first-generation watches, and more features will come down the road. That's the whole point of modules that can be replaced as easily as watch batteries.

Now we just wait to see whether consumers are ready to replace their activity-tracking wristbands — and Android Wear watches and Apple Watches — with smart Swiss timepieces. Without a certain degree of consumer momentum, it's unlikely this particular take on the smartwatch will be perpetually iterated with ever-evolving modules, as Kahn so confidently asserts.

 

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