The Genteel
February 24, 2021


Sony Smartwatches. "Source:"

Ever since the creation of the first sewing machine in 1790, fashion and technology have had a noteworthy relationship. Today, the conversation has made a shift from focusing on how electronics can assist in the design and production of clothing to the ways in which electronics can form a part of clothing, better known in the industry as 'wearable technology'.

samsung galaxy note 3 and galaxy gear
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy Gear.

Wearable technology is not a one-sided affair; there have been a variety of ways in which electronic tools have been implemented within clothing. As Alexandra Sarabia comments in her article 'Superhero Chic: Tomorrow's Wearable Technology' for The Genteel: "In the sporting realm, clothing is evolving from simply being indicative of team membership to a tool to improve overall field performance."

There is no longer any need to write down your performance details after playing a sports game; as Sarabia highlights, you could instead wear an adidas-developed miCoach Elite System throughout the match that "tracks-on-field data in real-time and enables both coaches and players to play faster, stronger and smarter".

Likewise, in her piece for The Genteel titled 'Tech and Fashion: A Matter of Time', Erin Ridley notes that "beyond athletic gear, the necessity for fashionable, wearable tech has even started to impact the medical industry." One example of this is a "t-shirt that transmits patients' vital signs," notes Ridley. The discourse surrounding wearable technology has seemingly extended across numerous markets. However, of late, a concentration has developed for one particular application: the 'smart' watch.

A smart wristwatch is a wearable electronic device, much like a typical watch in its wrist application and time-telling capabilities. However, it goes one step further by utilising a wireless connection that allows you to operate phone and computer-like activities including taking pictures, utilising social media and making phone calls. Despite being notably 'smart', these watches are currently not entirely user-friendly; they typically have very strict rules as to what smart phones they can connect with.

Once this harmonious connection between design and tech hardware has been created, smart watches may hit their projected market.

This past summer, Samsung and Sony both introduced their smart wristwatches to the digital market. Unfortunately, after much anticipation, the gadgets were deemed by various critics as being far from perfection. While the watches do indeed satiate one's need to send texts and update Facebook statuses, their outdated Casio-reminiscent 90's look would seem, from critical review, to be a far cry from the twenty-first century design-focused customer's requirements.

As Harry McCracken, Editor-at-Large and technology writer at Time Magazine observed last September in his article 'Wrist Wars' when discussing the current smart watches available on the market: "they’re bulky…[and] still need refinement."

With wide, rectangular faces, roughly a 1.6 inch screen and plastic-style straps, it would seem McCracken makes a good point. As Brian White, North American Sales Director for Nixon Watches, told The Genteel, customers need watch designs that embrace "heritage, individualism and status." An overtly tech-looking, chunky wrist piece does not quite communicate such needs.

Instead, the widespread consensus is that watches showcasing exceptional design while offering the consumer both modesty and distinctiveness will be more welcomed. Once this harmonious connection between design and tech hardware has been created, smart watches may hit their projected market - which, according to Joseph Medaglia, Associate Professor at Ryerson's School of Fashion, equals "a significant portion of the population."

Is there an innovative company willing to make such design-led changes? Maybe. Apple iWatches are rumoured to be coming to the global market soon - although the corporation has not yet given any official word on the matter. Nonetheless, with a strong focus on both the interior and exterior of gadgets, Apple should be able to attack the problem of aesthetic appeal and technology accordingly.

thomas bogner iwatch mock up wearable technology
Thomas Bogner's iWatch Mock-Up.

Last week, on October 21, a non-official prototype of the iWatch was independently unveiled by Thomas Bogner, an engineer based in Berlin. In two words, writer Chris York of the Huffington Post described the projected design as being "utterly gorgeous." The sleek, band-like wrist piece proposed mesmerising minimalism and set expectations high. As York continued, "if it doesn't look this, we're not interested frankly."

If Apple could develop such a satisfying watch - catering to both design and technology - it would not be their first time. Looking at the trajectory of the cell phone, Apple took what was once seen as 'just a phone' and transformed it into a slick, minimalist, object-of-desire that has since been purchased by millions of customers across the globe. This past September, Apple introduced a minor design update to its iPhone 5: colourful cases. Just three days after the new phones were offered to the public, 9 million had been sold - more than Apple has ever seen after the first few days of an iPhone launch.

While design is ultimately key, for White, the key problem with the smart watch lies in how to market such a device. As he comments when speaking with The Genteel, "does this product live in an electronics category? Or does it become an important segment in every retail watch display?" In order to answer White's questions, we will have to wait and see how consumers react. Will they be picking up their smart watch from the nearby electronics store, the retail shop or perhaps not at all? 

Related: Superhero's Chic: Tomorrow's Wearable Technology 

Related: Tech and Fashion: A Matter of Time



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