Over the last few months, and even years, we’ve covered some pretty interesting start-up watch projects here on MONOCHROME. Advances in modern technology, combined with ready access to start-up capital via decentralised crowd-funding, have helped unlock the floodgates of innovation across multiple industries, injecting fresh blood and ideas. Today, we are pleased to bring you yet another one; the intriguing X-ONE H1 from Conex Watches, a Swiss-made mechanical smartwatch that packs some impressive functionality. Read on to learn more about this bold new timekeeper, including how you can get your hands on one for 50% off retail (for a limited time only, of course).
When it comes to new technology, the luxury watch industry generally seems to follow the same trend. Initially, there are always a few pioneers who will trial the idea, be it a futuristic new case material, or the development of a more efficient movement component. Once it is shown to have real promise, widespread adoption of the idea quickly takes place. For example, thirty years ago it would have been unfathomable to even consider rubber as a luxury material. Now, its use is ubiquitous in the industry, largely because Hublot’s founder, Carlo Crocco, wanted to create a watch that could transition from office to ocean without skipping a beat.
This certainly seems to have been the approach with smartwatch technology so far. While a few brands have dived right in with full digital offerings, most notably TAG Heuer and Montblanc, others have dipped just a toe in to test the waters. The majority, however, still seem content to sit back and watch from the sidelines as things continue to play out. This doesn’t mean they’re not developing their own ideas and tech in the background, although for some brands that does seem highly likely. For others, though, I would suggest it indicates they haven’t quite determined how best to bring these concepts to the market without potentially damaging their existing product structure.
Start-up brands, however, don’t have these sorts of limitations or considerations. They don’t have existing product lines or distribution partners that they have to be careful of cannibalising. This is where the X-ONE H1 from Conex Watches comes in. Recognising an opportunity to combine the inherent appeal of a mechanical watch movement with the practicality of smartwatch functionality, the company created a hybrid mechanical smartwatch, which it debuted at CES 2018 in Las Vegas earlier this year.
Before we look at the X-ONE H1, however, we should probably provide a brief overview of the company behind it – Conex Watches. I think it’s fair to say this company isn’t really like the average start-up ‘Kickstarter brand’. The main reason I say this is because, unlike most of the projects we come across, which are generally led by passionate watch enthusiasts from outside the industry, Conex Watches is the brainchild of several notable names in Swiss watchmaking. These include famed watch designer Pierre-André Finazzi, who conceived the idea and Jean-François Mojon, of Chronode, who developed the concept. And, in a nice example of keeping it in the family, the project is being led by Douglas Finazzi, Pierre-André’s son.
Much like Frederique Constant’s Hybrid Manufacture, which was officially unveiled in New York last week, the X-ONE H1 uses a Swiss-made mechanical movement – an automatic Sellita SW200 – exclusively for the time display, and pairs it with an electronic module to offer a high-level of functionality. This includes a perpetual calendar, a GMT indicator, a power reserve indicator, as well as an additional library of customisable features, including activity tracking and presets for incoming calls and messages.
Interestingly, all the displays on the watch face are presented in an analogue/mechanical fashion. As I previously mentioned, time functions (hours, minutes and seconds) are indicated centrally by the mechanical movement, the balance and hairspring of which is visible on the dial side. At 9 o’clock there is a linear indicator, featuring an endless screw driven by an electronic stepper micro-motor. Likewise, the indicator on the sub-dial is also driven by an electronic stepper micro-motor, which Conex Watches says are the smallest of their kind in the world. The real question, however, is how does it all work?
Although it may seem a little confusing at first, the indications on the X-ONE H1 are reasonably intuitive once you get the hang of things. Firstly, there is the perpetual calendar display. The date is shown via the sub-dial, whilst the month is shown on the linear indicator. Pressing the red pusher allows you to change to the next mode, GMT, which adjusts to your local time automatically based on your location. When this mode is selected, the indicator in the sub-dial rotates clockwise to point at the “GMT” designation just below 3 o’clock, and the local hour is shown on the linear indicator at 9 o’clock. Press the red pusher again and the hand moves down to “EP”, prompting a display of the electronic power remaining on the linear indicator.
That explains how the regular watchmaking complications work, however, thanks to its patented electronic module, the X-ONE H1 is also capable of a number of other useful indications. Using Low Energy Bluetooth to pair with your smartphone via its mobile application compatible with Android and IOS, you can further customise the notifications. On the bottom, left-hand side of the sub-dial, you will notice there are an additional two options, I and II, to select. You can customise on your phone what information is displayed when either of these two options is selected, for example, a pedometer, or stopwatch functionality. Conex Watches has also indicated that this library of customisable options will be upgraded in the future with new and unique features.
Furthermore, you can set personalised notifications for incoming calls and messages. A small window at the bottom of the sub-dial shows a number, which is associated with either incomings calls, messages or some other notification. For people you are in regular contact with, you can allocate them a number from 1 – 12, which is then displayed on the linear indicator when there is incoming communication from them. The idea is that you don’t need to look at your phone to see who is calling or messaging you, particularly if you’re in an important meeting and don’t want to be disturbed. You can just glance at your watch and then use the red pusher to have your phone automatically send a pre-defined message in response.
According to Conex Watches, all the technology present in the X-ONE has been developed in Switzerland. This includes its innovative “Plug-In” feature, which allows for the easy replacement of the electronic module so that the watch can be instantly upgraded with the latest technological developments. This development has been patented by Conex Watches and will no doubt prove a major drawcard for those who always want to be on the cutting edge of technology. In keeping with the futuristic theme, the watch also uses induction charging and takes approximately one hour to fully juice-up the battery, which lasts around one week based on normal use. As a result, the watch is also water-resistant to 50m.
While it’s certain the new X-ONE H1 won’t appeal to all tastes, with its bold design and industrial style, not to mention its use of cutting-edge technology, it does offer a fascinating insight into a potential electronic/mechanic hybrid future. Launching on Kickstarter today at a starting price of USD 750 for the super early birds, limited to 50 units, the inaugural X-ONE H1 will eventually be available at a retail price of USD 1,490 in different versions and materials.