What if you didn’t have to buy a dedicated smartwatch, but could instead make your luxury timepiece into a connected device?
That’s the idea behind Chronos, a thin stainless steel disc that fits snugly behind your Rolex or Montblanc and adds a level of smart functionality without the garish interface of your average smart wristwatch.
At 3mm thick, Chronos is designed to be placed on the rear of any watch with a 31mm diameter or greater. It affixes itself using micro-suction rather than by magnetic means, so it won’t disrupt the inner workings of a mechanical watch. This process uses thousands of microscopic pockmarks that allow it be placed and replaced constantly, without leaving behind marks or residue in the way that a typical adhesive might.
Its creators have evidently sought to eliminate as many of the pain points associated with smart watches as possible; it can be powered up in thirty minutes using a wireless cradle, with a single charge said to last for 36 hours before it runs flat. What’s more, the Chronos is certified to IP67, meaning that it’s not only dust protected, but can survive water immersion for up to 30 minutes at depths up to 1m. With a 10g weight, it is designed to have a minimal effect on how your watch feels while wearing it, although the face will inevitably sit a little higher on your wrist due to the added depth.
Clever, but not so smart
Chronos employs two means of interaction with the user – vibration and lighting – thereby delivering notifications and alarms. In a neat touch, these can be personalised to you through the smartphone app, so you only receive the alerts that you consider important. The device also offers a limited fitness tracker yet – like much other smartwatch technology – this only monitors steps taken towards a pre-set goal rather than anything more intricate.
The ability to tap your watch to activate certain functions – such as skipping a track on Spotify, silencing calls, or making your phone buzz and ring to find it – allows for a decent amount of gesture control without the need for an unattractive screen on your wrist. Luxury watch purists, however, might be put off by the arrant brashness of the LED light patterns, which emanate from a polycarbonate disc around the edge of the device and could serve to detract from the subtlety of a luxury watch design.
Another negative factor is that a large amount of the user interaction takes place through the app, making Chronos dependent on your smartphone (and its battery life) in order to perform certain functions. Additionally, Android phone owners wanting one of these will have to hold out for now, as it currently only supports iPhone devices.
The idea of having a smartwatch without needing to wear something that looks like a miniature smartphone strapped to your wrist carries plenty of appeal. Despite this, the Chronos falls down on the same points that affect many of the more design-oriented attempts at connected timepieces: namely, limited functionality and an over-dependence on the smartphone as the major interaction hub.
Despite this, the Chronos packs a punch well above its retail price of $129 (£88) and provides an elegant solution to the fact that, with a couple of notable exceptions like the Tag Heuer Connected watch, there just aren’t that many good-looking smartwatches on the market. With that in mind, the ability to pair your current timepiece with a Chronos disc is a decent alternative for those adverse to investing in a dedicated luxury smartwatch.
Chronos is currently available for pre-order and will ship ahead of Summer 2016.