Analogue Fitness Watches

Fusing Together Traditional Watch Design and Modern Sensors

Last week venerable watchmaker Timex unveiled a new analogue watch with a contemporary feature: it’s also an activity tracker. While Timex’s new Metropolitan+ looks like a classic watch, it discreetly tracks steps, distance covered and calories burned, and then syncs the collected data to a smartphone app over Bluetooth. The watch doesn’t need charging, as it runs on a conventional button cell battery.

Metropolitan+ is not a smartwatch. It doesn’t run a smartwatch platform and there are no apps and no touchscreen. Instead it combines traditional looks with enough sensors to make the watch a viable competitor to devices from activity device companies such as Fitbit.

This combination of analogue watch and fitness tracker is something we first noted toward the end of 2014 with the release of Withings Swiss-made Activité watch. Like Timex’s Metropolitan+, Activité has a classic watch face and physical watch hands, but tracks body movement and sleep patterns.

Earlier this month at the IFA 2015 trade show, Runtastic introduced an analogue line of watches called the Runtastic Moment. The range of watches records steps, distance, calories burned and sleep cycles. The company says the battery lasts six months before needing replacement. Also on display at IFA was Sony’s crowd-funded analogue watch, the Wena. It combines a traditional timepiece with a smart strap for activity tracking and also has an NFC chip for making payments.

We believe watches that offer users classic fashion with tracking features could garner greater mass appeal for quantified-self products. People who find high-end smartwatches too geeky and dedicated fitness trackers too trendy could settle on analogue fitness watches as a reasonable and subtle middle ground. That the analogue trackers don’t require charging is an added benefit: regular charging has been a major drawback for smartwatches and fitness wearables.

Mass-market watch brands such as Timex are right to acknowledge the influence of smartwatches and activity trackers. Their new crossover products mark the beginning of a trend in which tracking sensors become a common feature in mid-level watches. The classics never go out of style.

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