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The Nowa Shaper and the MyKronoz ZeTime: a tale of two smartwatch Kickstarters

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Should we add smarts to a mechanical watch, or add mechanical parts to a smartwatch?

Should a hybrid smartwatch take modern tech back in time or bring legacy timekeeping mechanisms to today’s digital watches? Two new smartwatches hit Kickstarter this morning, peddling radically different visions of what the future of connected watches should look like: the Nowa Shaper and the MyKronoz ZeTime.

At their heart, the two watches are built around the same concept: that a timepiece should offer mechanical hands to tell time. But the execution is where things begin to differ, as the two approach the problem from very different directions. The Nowa Shaper is a more traditional hybrid smartwatch that takes a classic mechanical watch design and subtly sneaks in a few extra smarts, while the ZeTime takes modern touchscreen smartwatch and grafts a pair of mechanical hands on top.

The Shaper offers a much thinner and cleaner design, and clearly has aspirations to be taken seriously as a fashionable accessory in addition to a wearable piece of tech. But while the Shaper may look far nicer than the extremely busy ZeTime, it’s far more limited when it comes to smart features, only offering some basic fitness tracking and automatic time zones. When it comes to actual watch hardware, the Shaper offers a 40mm stainless steel case with a mineral glass that’s been sapphire coated. Nowa isn’t offering any details on the movement beyond the fact that it’s “Swiss parts,” but the smartphone-controlled time zone features likely means it’s not a traditional mechanical caliber. My colleague Vlad Savov has been trying out the Shaper for a few days, and reports that it’s a nice watch, but confirms that the smart features are somewhat lacking.

Meanwhile, the ZeTime has the same chunkiness that we’ve come to expect from modern smartwatches, which is only exacerbated by the extra layer for the mechanical hands between the glass and the display. But unlike the Shaper, the ZeTime runs a full proprietary smartwatch OS that offers a far wider range of features, including notifications and a heart rate sensor. MyKronoz is also incorporating some clever software to move the hands out of the way when using the touchscreen below so you can actually read what you’re doing, which is a nice touch. The ZeTime has a larger 44mm stainless steel case and utilizes Gorilla Glass for the crystal, and according to MyKronoz can either get three days of battery life as a full smartwatch or up to 30 days only using the mechanical hands.

For my money, the Shaper is the nicer of the two options. Watches are as much about form as they are function, and it seems more logical to start with the better design and add smart technology than the other way around, but as with most watch-related things, your own personal taste is the most important deciding factor.

Nowa is a new company that have yet to actually ship a product, while MyKronoz has a variety of smartwatches and analog watches on the market, although the ZeTime is the first to combine the two. That said, the Shaper is a little farther ahead, in that there are close to final units out in the world, while the ZeTime has yet to fully finalize its design, but as always, when it comes to crowdfunding campaigns, use your own best judgement. The Nowa Shaper is available to back on Kickstarter now for an early-bird price of $99 and is expected to ship in July, while the MyKronoz ZeTime starts at $119 for early backers and hopes to ship in September.

Correction: MyKronoz has shipped multiple watches before. This article originally identified it as a new company that has yet to ship a product.