The new CZ Smart aims to evoke classic Citizen design — with a 46mm stainless steel case, anodized aluminum ring and rugged bezel — while blending the sporty aesthetic with all the tech features modern smartwatch users would expect.
“CZ Smart is our first entry into wearable tech. The combination of Citizen design and powerful technology brings our unique point of view in this category,” said Jeffrey Cohen, president of Citizen Watch America. “This smartwatch is sure to excite our existing Citizen customers as well as attract today’s smartwatch consumer.”
The $395 device includes a 1.28-inch touchscreen AMOLED display, heart rate monitor, integrated mic and speaker, Near Field Communication technology for tap-to-pay features, GPS, barometer, compass and Google’s Wear OS operating system for wearables.
The software brings a number of fundamental Google services, including Google Assistant voice command, Google Pay and quantified fitness via Google Fit for tracking workouts, measuring heart rate and setting fitness goals. Additional watch apps are available for download from the Google Play Store. CZ Smart also comes pre-loaded with Spotify, Noonlight and Strava.
Customizable dials draw from Citizen’s brand collections Active, Dashboard, Neo and Retro. Other details include water resistance up to three atmospheres, 8GB of storage and options that include a gunmetal ion-plated bracelet, a black silicone strap and a blue silicone strap.
The introduction looks like a tentative step into the full-featured smartwatch space. Citizen has dabbled with tech devices before, having worked with Japan-based company Veldt on an Internet of Things platform for wearables called Riiiver, as well as striking a licensing deal with Fossil in 2018.
The brand itself has previously unleashed connected devices, courtesy of the Eco-Drive line of light-powered, Bluetooth-supporting products. But these were hybrid timepieces with an analog face capable of supporting message notifications, alarms and call alerts.
According to Cohen, CZ Smart is intended to be “a statement on your wrist that embodies Citizen’s commitment to excellence and the drive for continued innovation.”
Citizen’s first full-fledged, touchscreen smartwatch doesn’t come with the latest Snapdragon Wear 4100 chip, but the older and less powerful Snapdragon Wear 3100 processor. And the Wear OS software that runs the watch seems headed for changes, given Google’s looming Fitbit acquisition.
Fitness remains a key driver in tech, and that hasn’t changed during a global health pandemic, as millions of consumers remain homebound. And Google’s Fitbit deal heralds a shift in the smartwatch OS landscape, according to the latest wearables report from IDC.
The firm’s worldwide wearables market forecast predicts double-digit growth in 2020 and through 2024. This year, the firm expects shipments of 396 million units, a 14.5 percent increase from the 345.9 million units shipped in 2019.
The growth largely stems from upward trends in the “hearables” segment, which includes smart ear buds that can track fitness, modify audio, translate languages or connect to smart assistants. Gains in the hearables market helped offset slightly lower demand for wrist gadgets, but the firm anticipates a greater level of integration between various devices.
“Device makers are also laying the groundwork that will allow consumers to use multiple wearables in conjunction with each other,” said Jitesh Ubrani, research manager for IDC Mobile Device Trackers. “Imagine tying positional and audio input from hearables with health metrics from the wrist to gauge a user’s level of attention or excitement in the surrounding environment. That’s a powerful new experience that can bring added utility to consumers and vendors alike.”
That may be true, but what’s less sure is whether traditional watch companies can hang in there long enough to benefit from the interconnectedness and whatever consumer enthusiasm it drives.
For instance Fossil, a key proponent for Google’s Wear OS, reported a third-quarter drop in sales of 19.3 percent to $435.5 million. The company managed to stay in the black due to cost-cutting, but it’s projecting that its fourth-quarter net sales will shed 30 to 40 percent year-over-year. And Citizen itself has been undergoing a restructuring of its U.S. division.