Get ready for a smartwatch that looks more like, well, a watch.
Intel, Google, and luxury Swiss watchmaker TAG Heuer announced plans to collaborate on a smartwatch today. They made the announcement at Baselworld, an annual watch and jewelry trade show in Switzerland.
The Apple Watch, previewed earlier this month at Apple’s developer conference, looks a lot like a tiny smartphone that straps to your wrist. The Samsung Galaxy Gear, released in 2013, and most of its predecessors and competitors have a similar quality. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with this approach, but it’s not the only one.
Withings, a French consumer technology company, took an opposite angle when it designed a fitness tracker disguised as a Swiss watch with an analog dial. There’s no screen: Instead of turning a smart device into a watch, it turned a watch into a smart device. Since then, several Swiss watchmakers have followed suit by revealing products that use a platform called MotionX to bring smart features to traditional watches.
That Intel and Google collaborated with a Swiss watchmaker suggests this is the approach they’re taking as well.
But both Google and Intel are more interested in demonstrating a concept than creating a new product. Google, which also powers some screen-dominated smartwatch models with its Android Wear software, is eager to show off software that powers wearables. Intel wants to demonstrate how its chips can be used in them. The latter company completed a similar project in a collaboration with jewelry brand Opening Ceremony that produced a stylish smart bracelet that is sold at Barney’s.
The bottom line is that if technology companies want to succeed with wearables, they’ll have to learn fashion (and vice versa). Apple is arguably already a fashion company, and it’s hired the executive team to prove it. Making a fashion company into a technology company is just as challenging. And also why this experiment will be interesting to, for lack of a better word, watch.