Kickstarter is a busy place for watch fans this month. The popular crowd-funding site is fairly brimming with new projects off all varieties. Once again, I have combed through the campaigns to report on four intriguing new projects. Enjoy.
Back in 2014, the Travisleon team released the Heirloom, a very pretty and staunchly conservative mechanical dress watch. For their second act, they have taken a wildly different direction. The BOLDR Voyage is a quartz analog with several high-tech tricks up its sleeve. It is not exactly a smartwatch, but what its creators call a "clever watch."
The Voyage is a tasteful mix of several classic military styles. In its 43mm case, the designers have deftly combined elements from infantry field watches (24-hour dial), type-A fliegers (dagger hands, navigation triangle), and vintage Kampfschwimmer divers (wire lugs, sandwich dial). The result is both aggressive and attractive. Six color options are offered with coordinating quick-release leather straps. Frankly, they could have stopped there and had a successful product, but there is more. Along with the Miyota 2025 quartz movement, they have also packed in LED lights, a vibration motor, accelerometer, and Bluetooth 4.0 to sync with your iOS or Android smartphone. Features include a GMT indicator, pedometer, smartphone notifications, remote shutter release, and a phone loss prevention alert. The functions are controlled by two chronograph style buttons.
It looks like a real watch, functions like a smartwatch, and it will retail for only $179 USD. As if that were not enough of a bargain, early backers can still get in for only $135 USD.
uBirds Unique Smart Watch Strap
uBirds, the Warsaw-based team behind Unique, have also embraced smartwatch technology, but they have jettisoned the watch part and created a smart strap instead. Circuit boards embedded in tailored leather link to an iOS or Android, and provide activity monitoring, gesture control, smartphone notifications, programmable near-field communication, and loss prevention. Early birds can get one in their choice of three colors in even sizes from 20-26mm.
The straps are hand made by MK Leather and have single LED near the lug end. They appear to be very well made, but the pictures show a stiff bend past the circuit board that fights the natural curve of the strap. Early backers can get one for $169.
Akrone is a French project distinguished by its black ceramic case. It measures 40mm wide, 45.4mm long, and 10.4mm thick. It has a flat sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating. Behind its display case back, you will find a Miyota 9015 automatic. They have continued the somber theme with a black PVD case back and crown, flat black dial, matte black indices, and gloss black hands, but stopped short of the phantom treatment by adding lume to the hands and bright color to the second hand, model name, date, and on the pips behind the markers. Buyers may choose red, yellow, or a very cool mint green.
The K-01 is attractive, if somewhat staid. My only quibble is that the brush stroke lettering of the model name is at odds with the otherwise industrial look of the watch. I like the toughness, light weight, and matte finish of the Akrone K-01's ceramic case. I also appreciate their color choices and the fact that they went the extra mile to color match the printing on the date wheel. Pledges start at $450 USD for a K-01 on a nylon strap.
Now this one is cool. The klokers is watch inspired by circular side rules. Inside the 44mm polished case are three discs hooked to a Swiss Ronda quartz and Lavet micro motors, rotating counter-clockwise. The hours, minutes, and seconds registers slip behind a transparent magnifying bridge marked with a single red line that acts as a fixed hand. The dial is packed with the detail but is easily read and the whole thing just looks brilliant.
The klokers case is a composite metal polymer and the crystal is a polymer as well. A lugless design reins in the size a bit, and for this they have developed the "klokers key," essentially a locking clip that attaches the watch head to straps and other accessories (desk stand, pocket watch clip, etc.). It is a cool idea, but proprietary strap systems do limit your options.
The folks who snagged one for the super early bird price of $220 USD got a heck of a deal, but those are long gone. The lowest price today is $396 USD for a KLOK-01 and a choice of straps. Additional accessories are €89 ($99 USD) each.