NEW YORK — High-end watches are taking the “connected” route over the “smart” route.
Instead of creating little computers for the wrist a la the Apple Watch, Swiss watch companies are looking to make traditional timepieces that connect to smartphones.
Witness the Breitling Exospace B55, the Swiss brand’s first connected timepiece, which was launched during an event at Breitling’s 57th Street flagship here Wednesday evening.
“We wanted to have the same logic Breitling has — we don’t want to put a phone on the wrist; we cannot compete with such an interface,” Breitling vice president Jean-Paul Girardin told WWD. He said the goal was to create a product that takes the best aspects of the phone and timepiece to improve the overall function of the product.
While Tag Heuer might have been the first Swiss watchmaker to launch a smartwatch, Breitling is the first entirely Swiss-made connected watch — produced, assembled and tested in the country. It doesn’t come cheap. The Exospace B55, a “connected” version of the brand’s existing Caliber B55 with analog and digital display that came out last year, retails for $8,900. The Caliber B55 costs $7,900.
This is indicative of the direction that high-end Swiss timepiece companies are taking as they enter the smartwatch category. Rather than trying to be a technology company, Breitling wanted to develop a “real watch” — not merely a digital display. The oversize, 46-mm piece is made out of titanium with a water-resistant case and has a vibrant royal blue strap complimented by blue hands.
For all intents and purposes, the Exospace B55 looks like other Breitling watches, except the wearer has the option to connect it to his or her smartphone so they can receive calendar notifications.
“The pure logic is to use technology to improve the functionality of our watches,” Girardin said. “The watch is a stand-alone timepiece, but when connected it makes your life easier. Smartwatch implies that it’s connected to the Internet. We wouldn’t try and make a smartwatch, which is another terminal of your phone.”
Bluetooth connectivity allows the watch, along with a corresponding Exospace B55 app, to easily track time, set alarms, see how far one jogs (or flies) and receive e-mail, text and calendar notifications. Users can also log onto a corresponding app to easily change their time zone, which then immediately updates the timepiece. The watch’s battery needs to be charged every one to two months, depending on usage.
The $1,500 Tag Heuer Connected launched last month with a press conference and appearances by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton chairman and chief executive officer Bernard Arnault and Jean-Claude Biver, president of the watch division and chief executive officer of Tag Heuer. Tag Heuer’s product, a joint venture with Intel Corp. and Google, was modeled after the brand’s Carrera watch. Although designed to look like the classic style, Tag Heuer Connected has an entirely digital face. This is a key difference between the two timepieces since Breitling’s connected chronograph has a traditional watch face with hands, as well as a digital display.