The Evolution of the Smart Watch

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Ever since the release of the first smartphones there’s been a tide of devices being released for the sole purpose of linking up with them. It wasn’t until the creation of the smartwatch, though, that an invention emerged to truly enhance the smartphone. We’d all seen watches that could relay the time to us in a thousand different ways, but a watch that could notify us about calls and messages, tell us our heart rate and double as a futuristic speaker/microphone – now that was something new. This was one of those rare moments, like the reveal of the Lexus hovercraft, when science fiction and reality drew a little closer together.

If you were to take a look at a few of the leading modern smartwatches, all vying for a place on our wrist, you’d see that each new model is trying to show us more and more novel tricks. We’ve seen watches that will surf the internet at the sound of our voice – watches that will keep track of our exercise and pay for our groceries without so much as a peep from your wallet. It’s all moving pretty fast. Pretty soon we’re going to be looking at watches that jump off your wrist, skip up your arm and give you a neck massage. That’s surely one to vex the luddites, although we do have to admit it doesn’t sound so bad to us.

We have fantasized about owning a wrist-phone since we heard about the first two-way radio watch. Now Google, Android and Apple are dabbling in wearable technology and bringing us all kinds of unique smartwatches from left, right and centre. The question we want to ask is – where did all this hype come from?

In 1953 the branch of the U.S. Army called the Signal Corps created a wearable radio with a 40-mile range. This laid the groundwork for the modern realisation of the ‘smartwatch’ and the subsequent attempts of companies like Samsung, Motorola, and LG, using newly devised versions of Android OS.

In 1994 Seiko entered the smartwatch race with their Message Watch designed to emit a beep that signals incoming messages. At the press of a button this model would also indicate a caller’s number by displaying it on the watch face.

In 2002 Fossil threw their creation into the mix with the Palm Pilot Watch, a shrunken wrist-worn version of the 2-MB Palm. The model had an awkward design lacking anything in terms of aesthetical quality, although it was available with either a plastic or metallic wristband.

In 2003 Microsoft released their own smartwatch, capable of offering traffic and weather reports, when Bill Gates hosted their unveiling for a somewhat underwhelmed audience.

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In 2004 the BMW MP3 Watch, ripped straight from a Bond film, came out with analogue hands combined with digital functions. This device could hold around 256 megabytes of internal memory and several hours of music. Often the MP3 Watch was used like a miniature hard drive used to transfer computer files. It could also store and record voice memos. This same year the Suunto X9 ‘Wrist-Top Computer’ was designed, like a Swiss Army Knife, equipped with a GPS tracker, altimeter, barometer and compass.

In 2013 the Samsung and Sony smartwatches were brought through a period of rapid evolution. These were devices dependent on other technologies that needed Bluetooth connections in order to place calls and receive alerts without using the handset. The user interfaces also needed a lot of refinement and careful aesthetical honing. Enter the gods of minimalist design…

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In 2015, pretty late in the game, the stylish iOS compatible Apple Watch won users over with its intuitive interface, 18 hour battery life and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. Setting the high price aside this was undoubtedly a useful piece of kit providing message alerts, incoming calls and countless other easy-to-reach notifications. Fitted with the enhancements of the Apple Watch OS 2 this was a model that could be crowded with apps, whilst offering faster, improved usability and the option of attaching personalised watch faces.

At the end of the year the stunning Tag Heuer Connected, made with Titanium and Sapphire, whilst utilising advanced touchscreen technology, ushered in the future of the smartwatch. With directional wind and weather monitoring, RaceChrono Pro capability and built-in Google Fit, this latest breakthrough changed the way we see the smartwatch. It was purposefully designed to convey the symbiotic relationship between style and precision – design and engineering, with interactive counters, the option of customising your theme and adjusting the display and, perhaps the clincher for many watch lovers, a variety of cutting-edge apps accessible through the Google Play store. This was a model that could be tailored to suit the individual and, backed by a custom suite of endless applications – we’re talking everything from alarms to optimisation features, it’s no wonder that it was such a triumph at this year’s Baselworld, 2016.

So now we’ve had a look at some of the most significant breakthroughs in smartwatch technology over the years. Let us know if we missed any models that you think deserve a mention in the comments section below.

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