The Watch business has seen some big changes over the last decade or so. The invention and success of handheld gadgets, most notably the cell phone, has taken over how we keep track of time whilst on the move. Whilst the watch may no longer serve an essential function, it has (and most likely always will) keep its crown as a signal of status and individuality for stylish types and traditionalists alike.
There is of course a limited amount of technology that could be added to a watch due to several reasons; clunkiness and fiddliness being two that instantly spring to mind, as well as the obvious reality that one watch could never be advanced in the way a Smart Phone is. It’s actually strange to think that many old Futuristic Sci-Fi or Spy TV shows predicted we’d have technologically advanced wrist straps we even use as communication devices, but not many a portable phone. Again, I feel that fashion and style played a huge part in this (a phone 20 years ago could never be seen as “cool” as a watch). It is fundamental to what keeps the watch industry ticking over (pardon the pun) in this day and age where many technologies have been thrown to the dogs.
James Bond and his gadget spy watch built by Q (via WithBeans)
But don’t count out the trusty old wrist watch to technology just yet!
You may not be tweeting or downloading apps for a watch just yet (or ever), but Japanese watchmakers Seiko have recently revealed a new version of the classic 1969 Astron watch with built in GPS allowing the watch to determine the time and date on its own accord.
How does it work? Well, the GPS receiver built into the watch is tuned into at least 4 different satellites and accurately updates the time once a day for every timezone around the globe. Say you step off a plane after landing in a new time zone; simply press a button and a few seconds later the Seiko Astron will be updating the time to where you’re standing!
Not only will this mean pin point accurate time keeping beyond any manually set watch, but could be the starting point of giving the watch industry a new selling point if (or when) the current Longitude GMT timekeeping method is replaced by Atomic Clocks.
So what else can GPS do for the watch market?
We’ve already seen GPS training watches on the market for the last year or so, which work much similar to apps like Run Keeper for the Smart phone. Simply sync your watch up and go off to do your workout and the watch will log all your exercise stats, and most are able to sync said data to an online account or an included computer program for diagrams and breakdowns. Some GPS sports watches are even able to monitor your heart beat.
Another promising example we can draw from current GPS watches is the Nike+ Sportwatch GPS, which is powered by TomTom. Knowing there is a watch on the market already receiving data from one of the most trusted names in satellite navigation could open up doors to develop a watch able to navigate; not necessarily in the sense of a screen with a road map, but a scaled down version built for explorers or those off the grid who become lost, similar to a watch with a compass built into its face.
Will you buy your watch for function or fashion?
My personal conclusion on GPS and watches, as I’ve already stated, is that it will never come close to competing with the smart gadgets for functionality and will always rely on the fashion/status factor that has kept the industry strong. However, I do also feel the only way is up for GPS watch technology. As with most new technology areas once the novelty wears off, prices drop and competitors have finished playing catch up, most new watches will be GPS as standard (like Blu Ray Players, TVs with USB, etc).
Watches have had fiddly alarm and stopwatch modes for decades, that I’ve personally felt have no real use other than showing off said watch or I the event you have no other option (a purpose built alarm clock and stopwatch has always been preferred by me). Although no one is ever going to shun their smart gadget for a watch, I can see people within the market looking at functionality as well as style and time keeping if GPS can provide major uses in the future.
Anthony Collins is a watch fanatic who contributes to the FindWatches news section. His personal favourite Seiko watch is the Mens Coutura Kinetic Watch. If he could pick one GPS function for a watch it would be a video streaming application.