Let's face it, most wearable technologies like Google Glass and Samsung's Galaxy Gear smart watch aren't exactly earning accolades in the fashion category. Sure, they're loaded with cool features like the ability to record video via voice command, but they're also bulky and unrefined, with design elements that scream, "Look at me, I'm a tech gadget strapped on someone's head/wrist."
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Withings, maker of health-centric smart scales and activity trackers, has decided to tackle the fashion problem with its latest product, the Activité activity tracker. Like most activity trackers on the market, the Activité measures steps taken, distance covered, calories burned, etc.
It does all of this while masquerading as a stylish and simple watch. How do you make a technology wearable that's also chic? Apparently, you make it look as normal and un-techie as possible.
With no screens or rubber wristbands in sight, the message here is style first, fitness second. The watch parts are made in Switzerland, with leather bands that were sourced from the same tannery used by French luxury brand Hermés. The Activité has a classic, round watch face topped with unbreakable and scratch-proof sapphire glass. There’s a traditional analog display that shows the time.
It would be easy to mistake it for an elegant timepiece and nothing more, but under the hood are sensors and an accelerometer to track steps, calories burned and even sleep patterns. A small sub-dial within the main display shows how far you’ve come towards 100% completion of fitness goals like 10,000 steps per day.
At the product unveiling in New York, Nina Garcia, creative director of Marie Claire magazine and “Project Runway” judge, noted how the worlds of fashion and technology were merging. “It’s unlike any smart watch I’ve seen, a true style accessory and one of the most wearable wearables out there.”
Will it sway health-conscious fashionistas who don’t want to compromise style and design? Withings CEO Cédric Hutchings thinks so.
“We wanted first to develop a beautiful watch ... so we selected the best materials," he said. "It [just] happens to integrate motion-based sensors to turn it into a very smart watch."
The glass has touchscreen capabilities that allow you to switch between modes by tapping on it. Using Bluetooth, the Activité connects to iOS devices and works with an app to help track your fitness goals. The watch is water-resistant and can be worn while in the shower or pool (presumably with the interchangeable plastic strap). A vibration feature can also be set to wake you in the mornings.
Hutchings said he believes that the traditional design of the Activité makes it a long-term contender for anyone seeking improved health, not just style seekers. “What’s important is to find ways to integrate or embed in our daily lives very smart devices that do not call for an extra routine," he said, noting that the device should not scream, "Hey, now I’m tracking this or that."
"There is nothing more wearable than a true watch,” Hutchings added.
Only time will tell, but with its classic lines and versatile style, the Activité might just be next season’s go-to accessory.
Available this fall at select retail partners and on Withings.com, the Activité will retail for $390.