Last year, HP dipped a toe into the wearables market by collaborating with Michael Bastian on the Chronowing, a smartwatch that was more analog than digital. Today, HP is announcing the continuation of the program that the Chronowing was born out of. It's called "Engineered by HP," and the newest product in the line is an analog smartwatch from Movado called the Bold Motion.
The watch eschews the touchscreens found on devices like the Apple Watch or the Moto 360. Actually, there's no screen at all. It's a completely functional analog watch, with the "smart" part coming in the form of haptic feedback and tiny blue or white LED lights around the inside edge, similar to the way Fossil's Q Grant works. The 44mm watch is water-resistant to 50 meters, costs $695, and comes in two models: stainless steel with a black PVD finish or all-black PVD finished stainless steel, and both have a black silicone strap lined with 3M reflective material.
The new Movado watch is the first to be announced as HP looks to expand the "Engineered by" collaboration program, which allows the company to bite off some of the smartwatch market without betting the farm on one particular device. It also makes it easier for brands that are hesitant to switch from analog to digital to do the same. As Mike Hockey, the public relations director for HP's personal systems group, put it during a demo of the new Movado watch, "we work with these brands, they bring us their vision, and we add the smarts to it."
No screens — just LEDs and haptic feedback
You won't be able to read or take action on any of the notifications that come to your phone with the Bold Motion; instead, those LED lights are only able to alert you to the type of notification that you've received. The watch does this by lighting them up in different patterns and matching them with specific haptic feedback. For example, the watch can give you a calendar reminder by blinking specific LEDs between the minute hand and the meeting time, or it can light them up in sequence around the watch face to show you how close you are to your daily step goal. (Step counting is the only activity tracking that the Bold Motion can do — there's no heart rate or blood oxygen level monitoring.) The frequency and intensity of these notifications (and the haptics) can all be controlled on a granular level in the app, too, which will be available on iOS and Android.
This all sounds a bit opaque, almost like learning a new language just to know if you received a text message or an email. But the Movado brand prides itself on simplicity, so this is just this one company's take on the idea. HP isn't ruling out the inclusion of screens or other, more direct ways of delivering notifications going forward. (Just look at the screens found on last year's Michael Bastian watch for evidence of this.)
In fact, HP sounded very optimistic about how much room there is in the smartwatch market for its "Engineered by" program, considering how many traditional watch (and accessories) brands still have no digital side to their products. It might not be a bad bet, either, because big watch brands are still figuring out what to do with smartwatches, and the market is adjusting. Just last week Tag Heuer launched its first smartwatch, but caveated the announcement with the news that buyers will be able to trade it in for an analog version if they are displeased. A few days later, Fossil spent $260 million on Misfit, a maker of screenless, discreet wearables. And then there's Chronos, a small disc that can attach to the underside of an analog watch and make it smart.
This is the same direction HP wants to head, according to Sridhar Solur, the general manager of wearables at HP. Solur says that HP wants to become a "service provider to those existing brands and those incumbents, and usher them into the era of smarts." By making a watch smarter, and not making a smartwatch, he says the company can help safeguard these brands against technological obsolescence. "It still continues to work as a watch, and nobody will continue to notice," he says.