Really Smart Watches
Kronaby watches fuse true watch styling with useful and well-designed tech features to create a good looking hybrid watch
Article by Nicolas Payne-Baader
Smart watches tend to be a difficult and occasionally emotive subject. The Apple watch by all accounts has had mixed fortunes and at the root of that it’s difficult to think that it’s really a lot more Apple than it is watch. The ergonomics of a watch are important; the way it feels, its weight and curvature in relation to your wrist. The Apple watch and some of its technical competitors tend to feel rather a lot like having a shrunken smartphone cumbersomely strapped to your wrist. Whilst the technical elements of such watches are hard to argue with, people are increasingly questioning whether it wouldn’t be nicer to have something that isn’t a bit more watch and a bit less tech.
Hence the emergence of the hybrid tech watch and at the stylistic forefront sits Kronaby. Founded by a small group of ex Sony employees from Malmo, Sweden, the question of how much watch and how much tech was central to the company’s development. Formerly of the wearable division of Sony this splinter group felt that the wrong question was being asked of tech watches, or at least the emphasis was in the wrong place. Instead of asking, “What can we put in a watch?” they wanted to ask, “What should we put in a watch?” Hence started the seed of the company. The process revolving around asking people (imagine that!) rather than technicians and resulted in a process of development that continues today.
What Kronaby started to realise was that people wanted a watch that looked good, something that looked more like a watch than a phone and they wanted that device to be able to simplify rather than complicate their lives.
The designs take sensible cues from classic watch making, the Apex having something of a whiff of IWC or some of the more classic flying watches having been inspired by vintage speedometers. The unisex Nord is a perfect example of simple Scandinavian design, the elegant women’s Carat and the simple, reassuringly chunky business model the Sekel, make up the collection.
Wanting to create something that had all the necessary kudos of a proper watch, all of the technical “watch” parts were sourced from Switzerland such as hands, metal straps and casings; interestingly the highest priced watches are those with the premium metal straps topping out at £545 and the collection starting at £315.
Strangely there aren’t really very many watch parts involved. If one was to open up the back of the watch it would look like a computer chip, through a process I may not have completely gotten my head around yet. The watch combines a computer chip with a watch function which not only keeps perfect time by being linked to your phone via bluetooth but will also reset whenever you enter a new time zone. The watch also has a clever application where at the push of a button the watch will shift time to a different time zone of your choice – easier than trying to remember if New York is four or five hours behind during British summer time that’s for sure.
One essential part of the development was also to realise that for most people the idea of having endless notifications through to your wrist was cool if you’re a power ranger or Leila from Futurama but actually your phone tends to go off in your pocket enough and that less notification is preferable to more. So was born the filtered notification function of the watch, you can have no notifications through to the watch or you can set a limited number of people, your husband, wife, children and then leave your phone on the other side of the room and not think about it or notice every single notification from every app, group text and email, the watch will vibrate when a notification you’ve asked for does come through. This function is fairly key to the kind of simple and sensible thinking that the brand leads with.
Other applications featured are a find my phone, literally press a button and your phone will emit an increasingly loud sound even if it’s on silent. Music control is simple and effective, one push to play and pause, two pushes to skip forward and three to go back to the last song, also fully compatible with Spotify, podcasts and iTunes. The best use of which I ‘ve found is when your phone is connected with speakers across a room; this has become essential for long mixes and cooking, completely taking away the need to cover your phone with oily hands as soon as you think you may have heard the door go.
The watch also does some fairly hi-tech sashaying, the walk me home app is technically its most impressive. From talking mainly with women the idea of an app which could let someone know where you are when walking home developed. Pair the phone with a girlfriend, boyfriend housemate etc. and when walking home at night simply push the button on your phone and a notification will ping across, when the person with other device picks up your watch it will vibrate letting you know they’ve seen it and the other person will be able to follow you home on their phone like an Uber driver. Feel like something is really a bit hairy and holding down the button will send an emergency message and whoever’s on the other side of the phone can come and meet you or call the police if needs be.
A similar set up is the remember this place feature, wherever you are, tap the button and it will drop a pin onto your maps, ideal for travelling and trying to remember exactly where that little café which was closed or that mysterious church you just didn’t have time to stop into is. Alternatively good for remembering where you parked the car.
The obvious limitation of the watch is that is has about nine applications so far but you can only really utilise two or three depending on the style plus filtered notifications at any one time. Whilst not being able to completely fix this problem as putting any more than two pushers and a crown on a watch would look very strange they have mitigated it with their beautifully designed app. Extraordinarily simple to use the app allows you to drag and drop apps as easily as possible, of course you need the clarity of mind to predict when you might want to change music control to find my phone but the ergonomics and simplicity of the app means that you can utilise pretty much all of the features if you want.
Other fun highlights include the watch not needing to be charged, battery life is around two years and the watch requires a standard battery to be found at any watch shop. The watch also has a remote camera shutter, for when you really want to take a selfie without anyone being able to tell; less narcissistically it is extremely helpful for group shots.
Although the smart watch may never hold quite the allure of the great mechanical watches and owning a vintage Rolex will always appeal, if the watches continue to be as smartly designed in every aspect as these are we can’t see a reason why this sort of product won’t be seen on the wrists of most of the affordable watch market really pretty soon.