As the world waits to see whether the Apple Watch will change everything, Baselworld 2015 faced the unknown with an uneasy nonchalance and a gung-ho approach. Most of the brands that fit within the echelons of haute horlogerie seem to be getting on with what they do best - creating well-crafted mechanical pieces that are just as precious on the inside as they are luxurious on the outside (though there are exceptions). But the overall response to the Apple Watch's imminent arrival was more of a toe in the water than the start of the digital horological revolution some expected. In short, it's something of a waiting game for the watch industry too. In the meantime, here is what we saw...
Bulgari: '100 percent Swiss, 100 percent security, 0 percent gadget' is how the Roman watch and jewellery house summed up its luxury connected concept timepiece, the self-winding mechanical Diagono Magnesium. Not yet in production, it is fitted with a chip and antenna that allow the watch to store personal information and become a 'wrist vault' of data - almost like a touch credit card. By the time it hits the market, it will allow the wearer to unlock a car or apartment, activate alarm systems and transfer payments from your watch
Bulgari: Created with Swiss digital security experts Wisekey, it uses NFC (near field communication) technology that requires sharing devices to be very close for them to connect (unlike Bluetooth, which works at a distance), lending super-secure appeal. But what really intrigues is the knowledge that 'the encrypted information is stored on a cloud buried in a Swiss military bunker, somewhere in the Alps' - and, of course, its sleek non-digi good looks
Breitling: The B55 Connected is a concept chronograph with expanded timer functions that boasts all the details we'd expect from a Breitling: a plethora of pilot friendly functions in a big, adventure-ready, titanium case with a polished finish. The B55, housing the eponymous in-house movement, uses smartphone Bluetooth technology so that the wearer can operate a Breitling flight app from the wrist. The idea is to turn the watch into 'the ultimate pilot's instrument,' using the crown to control it along with two 'on/off' pushers
Breitling: Now, pilots can use their watch to record flight time data and access a countdown/countup system (or MET - Mission Elapsed Time), among other functions. The app, regardless of how useful it will prove to professionals, constitutes a whole lot of fun for would-be or wannabe pilots too. And, because the connected element is directly linked to the aviation codes of the brand, it feels right
Frederique Constant: Still at concept stage and billed as the Swiss Horological Smartwatch, this Frederique Constant battery-driven timepiece may look Swiss enough, but it has been created using Californian technology in collaboration with Fullpower Technologies Inc and MMT, a Swiss movement developer. The result is a classic watch with a highly accurate sensor system - MotionX ® - which allows it to become your health coach. The Swiss Horological Smartwatch will track activity and sleep patterns, aided by alarms, alerts and data capturing facilities, which are then translated to a smartphone via an app. The battery life is guaranteed for two years, and it's not necessary to charge it
Casio: Possibly the biggest competitor to the Apple Watch are the larger, Japanese, technology-driven brands such as Casio, who survived the digital-watch boom and bust of the Seventies and are keenly aware of the pitfalls of trend-tech. They are also masters at low-consumption technology - their solar-powered devices don't require charging. As such, Casio G-Shock (pictured) has already offered us an app-based watch system whereby the user can control a smartphone music library via the watch. The Casio Edifice EQB510D is aimed at travelers. Via a Bluetooth-operated smartphone app, it automatically corrects the dial display - in analogue form - to the local time of whichever time zone the wearer happens to be in, while indicating home time. You can also set mobile phone alarm calls and get incoming email notifications via the watch
Mondaine: The point where design, typography and technology meet, the Mondaine Helvetica No. 1 Smart is a prototype-connected timepiece we can easily relate to. It looks simple and airy enough, but there's a lot going on in the sub dial at six o'clock: rather than add a digital-data feature to the dial, everyday activity and sleep patterns are tracked in analogue, while data is fed to a smart device via a Mondaine app. Like the Frederique Constant connected watch, the Mondaine Helvetica No. 1 Smart employs the same Fullpower MotionX® activity data monitoring system, via an app linked to a tablet or phone. Its battery is guaranteed to last two years, with no charging needed
Gucci: Firmly setting out its stand in the 'fashion accessory' arena, if feels right that Gucci - one of the first fashion-watch brands to bridge the gap between Swiss technology and style in the 1970s - should lay claim to a smartwatch identity of its own. No date has been set for the launch of its smartband watch but the technology has been developed to sync with 'popular culture', hence a collaboration with i.am+, the fashion and technology development business founded by Will.i.am in Los Angeles. The watch doesn't have a name yet but Gucci says wearers will be able to make and receive phone calls, send and receive text messages and emails and listen to music via their wrist. No smartphone technology will be required
BULGARI, GUCCI, APPLE
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