Your Swiss smartwatch might very well have Intel Inside. Intel and Tag Heuer are unveiling the fruits of their alliance today with the Modular 45, a Swiss luxury watch that has all of the electronics and smarts of competitors such as the Apple Watch.
The watch is modular, which means you can select the band, the buckles, and the watch face. You can also change the face on the dial by tapping on the screen and mixing and matching different options.
“They’re all interchangeable,” said Tom Foldesi, vice president of connected products and technology at Tag Heuer, in a joint press conference at the luxurious St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco. Tag Heuer also held a parallel event in Switzerland. “This is a connected luxury Swiss watch. People have moved mountains to enable this project, on time and on spec.”
Based on Google’s Android Wear 2.0 software, the watch is the second that Intel and Tag Heuer have worked on together. Among the cool features on this watch is near-field communication that lets you instantly pay for goods.
Another cool feature: You can tell the watch to remind you to buy milk after work (via an app). And you don’t have to set the exact time for the reminder. The app, with its artificial intelligence, will remind you as you’re leaving work, based on its understanding of your global positioning system (GPS) data.
Foldesi added, “It’s a connected watch that does not look out of place. Tech can be shoehorned into a wearable, and it may be a wearable you may not want to wear. This speaks to you as an individual.”
The entry-level watch costs $1,650, while the Tourbillon version of the watch costs $18,000. There are actually about 56 different possible versions of the watch, depending on what you choose in terms of faces (there are 11 of them), buckles, and straps.
“Don’t drop it,” said Jerry Bautista, vice president at Intel’s new technology group, in an interview with VentureBeat.
He also said that the smartwatch doesn’t necessarily take advantage of the performance side of Moore’s Law, the prediction that computing power will double every couple of years.
“You won’t have a 4-billion transistor server chip in this,” he said. “Except for the fact is that the chip was one that we once had in smartphones. There’s a phone-class processor in this watch, and that gives it good connectivity and high performance. It collects data from your body for hours at a time.”
Where it does count is in the miniaturization and power management. Intel created antennae for the various Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and GPS radios in the device by wrapping it around a band near the face of the watch. Meanwhile, the watch is encased in metal, which would otherwise make wireless reception much tougher. The battery life is about 30 hours.
“With this approach, we get about 70 percent better Wi-Fi performance than we did on the prior watch,” Bautista said.
The watch has a proximity sensor that can tell whether you are wearing the watch. That goes together with the near-field communication that enables you to make instant payments. If you are not wearing the watch, you might be prompted for a security code during payment.
Foldesi said the design does not include a heart-rate monitor, as it is not a fitness watch and that feauture “was not a key to this.”
“Luxury is like a pyramid. If you buy an entry-level car, you check off all the options,” said Guy Semon, general manager of Tag Heuer, in an interview. “You want value for money. If you buy an Aston Martin, you won’t check for what kind of GPS it has. You buy it because it is emotional. This watch is an emotional purchase. It combines the top technology of Silicon Valley and the best that we can deliver.”
Tag Heuer does the final assembly of the watch at its headquarters in Switzerland. The watch is water-resistant to a depth of 50 meters.
“This is a collaboration between the two companies,” Bautista said. “The engineering really goes deep.”