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Circuit Breaker

The Solid State Watch is the simplest digital watch ever

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You can’t even set the time

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Watches have gotten pretty complicated. Between ultra-fancy mechanical watches and software-laden smartwatches, the things we wear on our wrists have become more intricate than ever. But the Solid State Watch, an art project from design studio CW&T, which is currently looking for funding on Kickstarter, is an ultra-minimalist tribute to simpler days (specifically, the classic Casio F91W-1 digital watch.)

Where the Casio F91W-1 was a fairly simplistic timekeeping device, offering the most bare-bones features of a clock, stopwatch, alarm, and backlight, the Solid State Watch takes things a step further. It takes electronics of an F91W-1 and encases it entirely in a block of solid resin. There are no buttons, rendering the stopwatch, alarm, and backlight unusable. It cannot be set or changed for daylight saving time, nor can the battery be replaced once it dies (which CW&T estimates should be after about 10 years).

CW&T is even covering up the date function with the studio’s orange dot logo since the F91W-1 movement can’t account for leap years, meaning it’ll be inaccurate over time. But despite all of these limitations, the resulting watch looks pretty striking, with the electronic movement seemingly floating in the translucent resin that surrounds it. (As an added bonus, the lack of buttons or any ingress points make the Solid State Watch completely water and weatherproof.)

As CW&T’s Kickstarter makes clear, this is not a “good” watch in a traditional sense. “If you consider this as a purely functional watch, it’s a waste of materials, time and energy. This watch takes a fully function watch and removes almost all its functions, doesn’t let you change its battery, and will become less accurate over time.”

It is, in short, a digital product that has all of its digital features removed, leaving the most basic analog function that it was trying to replicate. It’s a gadget that doesn’t require an app to install it, instructions, or settings to configure. In today’s overly complex and connected world, that’s an interesting thing to see.

There is an argument to be made that the Solid State Watch is wasteful, but CW&T feels that the project is more of an art piece, designed to celebrate the technology on display here even when it ceases to be functional in a traditional sense. Still, it’s something to consider if you’re thinking of backing the project.

Another issue is the price: at $160, the Solid State Watch is wildly expensive compared to a regular F91W-1 watch, which currently runs for about $12 and is vastly more functional. For the price of a single Solid State Watch, you could buy a brand-new Fitbit, a digital F91W-1, and a nice analog Timex, and still come out ahead. That means you’ll really need to be on board with CW&T’s message if you’re going to back the project.

While the Solid State Watch is being sold on Kickstarter, it’s not CW&T’s first campaign, which should help assuage some concerns. The company is expecting to ship the Solid State Watch in May, which is also encouraging to see. Remember, though: Kickstarter projects aren’t necessarily sales, and issues with crowdfunded projects are extremely common.