Interview: ZeTime by MyKronoz, a hybrid smartwatch like no other

Swiss startup MyKronoz was at IFA in Berlin earlier this month mixing it up with the smartwatch elites with their new ZeTime hybrid timepiece. The company has made history having successfully raised over $6 million on Kickstarter to develop the device. This makes it the most-funded crowdfunding project ever from a European company.

Essential reading: Top hybrid watches of 2017

With no shortage of smartwatches on the market today, its impressive that MyKronoz has managed to come up with a timepiece that has generated such widespread interest. Shipping to backers is due to start any day now, so I sat down with the company’s CEO Boris Brault to find out more about the product and where the company is heading.

ZeTime is not the first wearable from MyKronoz, but it certainly is the most unique. This is a device that blends the classic design of a traditional timepiece with the most advanced features of a smartwatch.

The Swiss watchmaker industry has enjoyed an air of exclusivity for a long time, successfully managing to fend of competition from cheaper and more tech enabled alternatives. But its been struggling in recent years with exports of mechanical watches on a steady decline. MyKronoz is one of a handful of Swiss companies that has realized that it cannot afford to ignore the opportunities posed by this new market segment.

How we came up with the idea of a hybrid smartwatch is actually rooted in our company story. MyKronoz was founded 4 years ago, as the first and only Swiss brand to specialize in smartwatches. Since our creation, we have sold more than 2 million wearables worldwide, allowing us to collect some key insights from both our users and retail channels.

It turns out that we were able to identify some clear barriers to larger-scale adoption of wearables, such as design, battery life, and water resistance. These observations pushed us to create a smartwatch that would overcome those limitations – one with no compromises on style, technology or performance; one that everyone would be willing to wear.

ZeTime is the result, and it celebrates our desire to combine our Swiss heritage in watchmaking together with our expertise in wearable tech, to make the perfect hybrid smartwatch with mechanical hands over a color touchscreen at an affordable price.

The big attraction is that ZeTime is the world’s first hybrid timepiece combining mechanical hands with a full round colour touchscreen– i.e. the first smartwatch that has real needles on the display. To achieve this, there is a hole drilled at the center of the console onto which the hand gears are secured. This means, the timepiece is bringing you the best of both worlds.

Making a hole into a TFT display is actually much more complex than it looks. We spent countless hours with our engineering team and industrial partners finding the right solution to create a brand-new touch screen that could accept a pass-thru mechanical hands solution, and we finally did it after hundreds of prototypes and design proposals!

The biggest challenge has been to develop a stylish timepiece at an affordable cost that doesn’t compromise on quality or user experience. I believe with ZeTime, we have found the perfect way to showcase both our Swiss DNA and our expertise in wearable technology.

In addition to real mechanical needles, the premium looking device features multi-layer technology combining a TFT color display, a touch panel and ultra-resistant Gorilla glass. The benefit of having mechanical hands attached to the touchscreen solves the problem of what happens once the battery runs out – the mechanical hands keep on working for 30 days. The rest of the smartwatch features work for about four days on a single charge.

MyKronoz ZeTime

The folks at MyKronoz have cleverly introduced something they call Smart Movement technology. Essentially, the mechanical hands are controlled by the watch CPU in order to move them out of the way to maximize visibility of the screen. This is necessary if you are for example checking out notifications or checking the weather forecast.

This unique design has captured the imagination of many. The support of over 30,000 backers on Kickstarter has propelled ZeTime to become the most-funded hybrid smartwatch ever.

Many people turned to our campaign because they identified ZeTime as the first wearable they’d actually be willing to wear every day. ZeTime is the first hybrid smartwatch with mechanical hands and a color touchscreen. This pioneering engineering means the watch is able to work up to 30 days without a charge, offering the best of traditional and smartwatch experiences.

Besides this technical achievement, I believe the unique way in which we have interacted with our backers with full sincerity and authenticity is another reason behind this incredible success.

Our consumer-centric approach is definitely what sets us apart from our competitors, and why so many believe in our product and brand. We understand the needs of our consumers, and we work tirelessly to ensure we are providing them with the best possible wearable product. For all these reasons, we made history with ZeTime’s $6-million campaign and became the most-funded hybrid smartwatch ever.

ZeTime looks set for delivery on time in October and is on course to become one of those rare crowdfunding projects that has delivered on all its promises. The Kickstarter experience has been very positive one for the company, and Mr. Brault says they would not hesitate to turn to crowdfunding again in the future.

The huge momentum of this Kickstarter campaign has really been another market validation for us, both on the potential of hybrid smartwatches and the international growth of our Swiss Brand thanks to this fantastic innovation. We have really felt an incredible amount of passion from our backers and impatience for our product.

It has been an incredibly enriching experience both from a professional and human perspective. Whether it’s our marketing, sales, logistics, customer care or development teams, all of our departments have been involved in the project and confronted several different challenges that brought so much insights and learnings.

Today, our team continues to work very hard to make this great campaign happen, and is still 100% dedicated on a daily basis to answering our backers’ inquiries and taking onboard all the relevant feedback to ensure our product will fulfill their expectations.

As such, we would definitely turn to Kickstarter again in the future!

This is a timepiece created to fit all styles. Its elegant aesthetic features a sleek stainless steel watch case, sapphire glass, and a variety of digital watch faces. There is also a variety of bands to choose from including silicon, genuine leather and carbon-fiber.

We are creating watches for the new generation- a generation of always-connected, style-conscious consumers,with a technological and quantified-self mindset. As the premier Swiss watch brand of the smart generation, MyKronoz is an heir to tradition, yet connected to the present.

MyKronoz draws on its Swiss heritage combined with innovative tech acumen to deliver the ultimate mobile experience and fashion statement for today’s lifestyle. MyKronoz is more than a watch brand, more than a wearables brand — it is hybrid by nature.

CSS Insight and other market research firms sees smartwatches fuelling wearables growth in the next few years, with hybrid timepieces leading the way. MyKronoz CEO makes no secret that the company has huge ambitions in this area.

Accounting for a 7% share of smartwatch sales in 2016, market research firm Counterpoint Technology predicts hybrid smartwatches will rise to a 12% share in 2017, doubling in revenues to more than $1 billion. There is a huge opportunity for us to seize with ZeTime and coming models, fueling our ambition to become the worldwide leader in the hybrid smartwatch market segment.

The likes of Fossil, and more recently Garmin and Nokia have also started to tap into this trend. While many other Swiss companies have been a bit late to the party, the industry’s unique positioning and the appeal of the Swiss Made label offer opportunities to MyKronoz.

Both traditional watch and wearable manufacturers can be considered competitors, especially since we have a wide range of products spanning from activity trackers, smartwatches, hybrid and watch phones.

Seeing the big watch players, Swiss and others, launching their own smartwatches is definitely bringing awareness and credibility to our product category. It confirms that wearables are not just gadgets (as a lot of people thought only a few months ago) but a real disruption for both the consumers electronics and watchmaking industries. This helps create a market with numerous players that can offer a variety of products for different audiences. In addition, being confronted with growing competition is pushing us to be more and more innovative and creative, and fight to increase our market share, while sticking to our DNA of making smartwatches for everyone.

What sets MyKronz apart from competitors, is our Swiss DNA and our passion for providing our consumer with a watch that is stylish, smart, compatible with both iOS and Android – yet affordable.

MyKronoz is now looking to expand beyond Europe. When it comes to the future of its products, it seems we can look forward to some innovative new smartwatch designs and functions.

Our goal is to expand our European success story at a global scale. We have recently opened offices in Miami and Shanghai to build a strong presence in the US and China,two key strategic markets for us, and we are starting to engage in strong marketing initiatives to develop our brand awareness.

In terms of a roadmap from a design standpoint, we need to make smartwatches less intrusive, closer to a traditional watch, with great customization possibilities, higher battery and water resistance performance. Besides hardware, giving new meaning through innovative functions and product-tailored services beyond just activity tracking and notifications is also essential. As an example, we have launched models with NFC to enable our contactless payment service MyKronoz Pay. With NFC, we envision offering access control that transforms our wearable into an everyday key to open your car, house, office, hotel room, etc.

Lastly, developing and maintaining strong relationship with our community is extremely important. We will continue to listen to them very carefully in order to deliver the best wearable design and experience at the most affordable price.

In terms of monitoring your health and fitness, ZeTime comes equipped with a 3-axis accelerometer and optical heart-rate sensor. It will keep tabs on your heart-rate, steps, distance, calories, active minutes and sleep. The timepiece also spits out inactivity alerts.

But more health sensors and a boost to accuracy is where Mr Brault sees the future. We can also expect to see more seamless integration of such devices in our everyday lives.

With the miniaturization of key components and the new possibilities offered by a wide array of sensors, we believe that in terms of both design, features and services, smartwatches will gradually become more and more mainstream and suited for our everyday lives.

As for high-tech health and fitness, in the future I can see smartwatches and activity trackers being able to track health better and more accurately than ever before.

With ZeTime, users can control their phone’s functions right from their wrist: view incoming calls, read social networking notifications, check weather forecasts, play music, take a photo, and more. Additionally, the device is water resistant to 5 ATM.

One of the other advantages of this watch is that the screen is always on, so there is no need to manually activate it to see the time. Plus the company has developed its own operating system that plays nice with both iOS and Android smartphones.

ZeTime and all MyKronoz wearables embeds a proprietary OS, designed and developed in house, which is fully compatible with both iOS and Android. Having our own OS allows us to be more flexible and reactive, to handle our updates independently. Our OS is much lighter than standard ones, so we can focus on the set of features that we consider to be really necessary.

With the the watch expected to land any time now, look out for our full review in the coming weeks.

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