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Montblanc announces e-Strap watchband to smarten up traditional watches

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As smartwatches from Apple and Google threaten to take a bite out of the market for traditional watches, older brands are stuck playing defense. But how do you add features like notifications and health-tracking to a watch that still runs on gears and springs?

How do you add smart features to a watch that still runs on gears and springs?

Today, Montblanc unveiled a surprising answer: put it all in the watchband. The company's new e-Strap band adds a 4-centimeter widget to the inside of the watchband, complete with the screen and notification system. Connected with a smartphone app, the device can handle all the standard notifications combined with the accelerometer data used in most common step-tracking apps. It doesn't have the more advanced health-monitoring sensors you'd find in the Apple Watch or the more advanced fitness trackers, but even the basic notifications and step-tracking represent a huge leap forward for an industry that has often viewed smartwatches with suspicion.

The band itself is Florentine leather and the device is made from a carbon material that Montblanc calls "diamond-like carbon," cementing its status as a luxury good but also driving the price well beyond the current standard for smartwatches. Montblanc is treating the e-Strap as an add-on for its watches, but it will be available as a standalone purchase for 250 pounds, significantly more than equivalent smartwatches from Pebble or Motorola.