In the increasingly crowded market place of smart watches, a small niche of companies is offering an alternative to the standard designs by offering smart watch bands as an alternative to smartwatch faces.
One of these is Madrid- and Paris-based startup Maintool, who have created the Classi watch band, a wearable which enables users to make their regular watches “smart.”
I met with co-founder and CEO Hussain Ahamed and Community Manager Jody Serrano to learn more.
“We’re giving you the chance to keep your own watch but still benefit from the same functionalities as some of the best wearable technologies,” Ahamed said.
The smart watch band can be attached to any watch face. It offers a range of functionalities: sensors within the watch band measure heart rate, track footsteps and calories burned (pedometer), skin and ambient temperatures, alert through discrete vibrations and communicate with apps for iOS and Android. You can navigate to your destination hands-free and send out for help with the push of a button. Classi also has a phone loss prevention feature and will vibrate strongly if you forget your phone.
Serrano notes that “Many times, people can’t tell the difference between a Classi strap and a regular watch strap. We switched out the microUSB port we used in our first prototypes for a custom magnetic charger, which greatly reduced the thickness of our watch straps. The new size makes our technology even more discreet.”
Enter the smart watchband
Sales of Swiss watches are on the incline with global wearable tech devices overtaking them in Q4 of 2015, according to figures released by market researcher Strategy Analytics.
This marked the first time the wearable tech devices have overtaken their luxurious counterparts. Much of the credit is attributed to the Apple smartwatch. Further, a 2015 report by Deloitte into the Swiss watch industry revealed a lack of appreciation of the challenges to the industry by smart watches with only 25% of Swiss watch executives considered smartwatches to be a competitive threat.
In response to the challenge of the economic outlook of the industry, 41% of respondents expressed pessimism with most attributing the economic challenges to weakened demand in China and Hong Kong and the strength of the Swiss franc. It suggests an industry that is in denial with Neil Mawston, Executive Director at Strategy Analytics stating:
“The Swiss watch industry has been very slow to react to the development of smartwatches. The Swiss watch industry has been sticking its head in the sand and hoping smartwatches will go away.”
However, the upward trend of smart watches has begun to decline. IDC’s second quarter wearable sales report for 2016 revealed a 27 percent decline in smart wearables and during this time Apple had a significant decline in wearable sales. Sales dropped from 3.6 million in the same quarter last year to 1.6 million this year, a 56 percent downturn. Perhaps it’s time for smart watchbands to strike.
Maintaining that Swiss watch heritage
Ahamed believes that their smart watchband can actually preserve the heritage factor of the Swiss watch industry, noting that their conversations with Swiss watch makers have been positive:
” The CEOs and board members are acknowledging that they didn’t get on board with quart [Mechanical movements are typically chosen over quartz movements for luxury watches because of the level of quality and craftsmanship]. They admit ‘We’re Swiss so we’re going to be slow but we’re interested and we’re taking notice’. The beauty of Classi is that you’re not changing your industrial model. Instead you’re allowing consumers to change to our strap.”
He also contends that:
“Every watch has a personality, we want people to be able to express themselves and their personal style. Smart watches don’t have a lot of personality, there’s so much more to the watch than something that just tells the time, for a lot of people it’s about the design, the brand, the culture, Smart watches today destroy this. Classi has intergenerational appeal and we believe that for the first time, this is a product that our parents and grandparents will actually wear.”
It’ll be interesting to see how sales of smart watch bands fare. They could be key to bridging the gap between a very traditional industry of dedicated craftspeople and future focused technology.