Disappointing Designs – Apple Watch

Being an Apple fan since my first Macintosh I wasn’t expecting to be disappointed by the Apple Watch. I tried out the Sport version recently which seemed well made and there are some great features and apps, but crucially it just didn’t look or feel right on the wrist. I was hoping that Apple would re-invent the wrist device as they did the mobile ‘phone, and some of the early ideas using flexible screens looked exciting. Unfortunately the final product looks too much like a shrunken iPhone (but even thicker) and doesn’t generate enough ‘must-have’ feelings for me to reach for my credit card, despite a good review on cnet:

http://www.cnet.com/uk/products/apple-watch/

This skates over the absurdity of the Edition versions of the watch. Why would anyone want to buy one in pink gold for $17,000 (plus a ludicrous $1,500 for two years of ‘support’)? The same people who buy jewel encrusted Vertu mobile ‘phones I expect. Apart from the fact it will be out of date in a year or so when version 2 comes out, it has exactly the same innards as the $349 watch (which apparently costs around $200 to make). If you really want a rectangular pink gold watch spend a bit more to have the craftsmanship and pedigree of a slimmer and more elegant Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Duo and an Apple Watch Sport. The Reverso will last forever and you can keep changing the Apple Watch!

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Alternatively the new Samsung Gear S2 smart watch is tempting me to ditch iOS in favour of Samsung’s new Tizen OS! It looks terrific, has faces designed by Alessandro Mendini instead of Mickey Mouse, and does what the Apple Watch does but far more stylishly. The round face is like a conventional watch and because of the clever strap it sits much more elegantly on the wrist than its lumpy rectangular competitor.

This got me thinking about the earliest ‘smart’ mechanical wristwatches – ie a wrist device which doesn’t just tell the time. One of my favourite watches is the old Breitling Navitimer 806 (lh) which was designed in 1952 as a development of their beautiful 1940s Chronomat (rh). It incorporates a circular slide rule for pilots to work out their air speed, rate of climb, fuel consumption, and other conversions. Breitling referred to it as a ‘Flight Computer’.

The Chronomat was patented in 1941 as a watch with a built in slide rule for maths, scientific and engineering uses. It was made in various forms right up to Breitling’s financial difficulties in the late 70s. The current rather ‘blingy’ Chronomat has no relationship at all to this wonderful vintage watch.

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The very first ‘smart watch’ was probably the Meyrat & Perdrizet Pocket-Watch Calculator produced in France from the 1880s which had a circular slide rule surrounding a very small traditional watch dial. However, the prize for the earliest ‘smart’ wristwatch must go to the elegant but obscure Swiss-made Mimo Loga which also had a built-in circular slide rule – ‘A calculating machine in a watch’. It was introduced in 1941 just before the Chronomat but, unlike the latter, it has vanished without trace.

Photo credits:

JLC Reverso Duo – courtesy of Jaeger-LeCoultre

Chronomat – from forums.watchuseek website below

Mimo Loga ad from History of Smart Watch blog below

Links:

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Duo – one of the all time classic watches:

http://www.jaeger-lecoultre.com/GB/en/collections/reverso

http://basepath.com/watches/Reviews/JLCReverso/JLCreview.htm

An excellent source for the history of the early Chronomat:

http://forums.watchuseek.com/f39/breitling-chronomat-short-history-part-1-slide-rule-chronomats-9103.html

And for the Navitimer:

http://forums.watchuseek.com/f39/breitling-navitimer-brief-history-most-famous-breitling-all-25057.html

http://people.timezone.com/breitling/bfaq/Reviews–Navitimer.html

For the M&P Pocket-Watch Calculator:

www.oughtred.org/jos/articles/Wyman_M&PB.pdf

And for the Mimo Loga and Chronomat:

http://www.invenitetfecit.com/modeles/page-breitlingchronomat.html

The History of the Smart Watch:

https://bhtooefr.org/blog/2012/03/04/the-history-of-the-smart-watch-part-1-calculation-and-entertainment/

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