With the recent boom of smartwatches, you might be looking for an alternative combining classical design and the latest technology. When searching for the original timepiece, you may find two types of them – pure smartwatches and hybrid smartwatches. The main difference is in technology. While smartwatches (e.g. Apple Watch, or Samsung Watch) are a miniature version of your mobile phone on your wrist, hybrid technologies go back to the original watch roots. Undeniably, people’s passion for analog watches remain strong even in the digital era, as we can see most smartwatches provide the option to fake an analog watch face. If a hybrid smartwatch is truly something you want, what new and interesting technologies should you know? Let’s take a closer look.
What is a hybrid smartwatch?
If you’re looking for a quick answer, by definition it is a watch that combines the connected features of a smartwatch while retaining the aesthetics and timekeeping mechanisms of a traditional analog watch. What makes the hybrid smartwatch truly hybrid is a combination of mechanical movement and traditional watch craftsmanship with smartphone connectivity. Ideally, when someone looks at your hybrid smartwatch, there is no visual difference from a unique classical timepiece. Despite the constant connectivity, activity, and fitness tracking, hybrid smartwatches should be also fully functional offline and can still tell the time when out of charge.
What technologies to expect inside a hybrid smartwatch?
Like smartwatches, hybrid watches have several features, including smartphone connectivity, health and fitness trackers. You can measure any activity from running, swimming to work-out and many others. Hybrid watches can receive message notifications in a non-disturbing way, control your phone’s camera or music player. In the luxurious pieces, you can find a precise heart rate measuring with the estimation of blood oxygen levels, sleep monitoring functions, or chronograph. Timer or alarm is a must-have.
Interesting tech for hybrid and smartwatches
Let’s take a closer look at interesting technologies you can find in hybrid watches and smartwatches on the market.
‘Noninvasive’ Glucose Monitoring for Diabetes (continuous glucose monitoring, CGM) is one of the heavily anticipated technologies coming to the market. The feature of a “noninvasive” device that can measure blood glucose for diabetes with no need to poke the skin has been a dream for decades. Apple and Samsung are said to be developing non-invasive blood sugar monitoring smartwatches. In a January 2021 report, Apple says that they plan to include blood sugar measurements as a flagship feature of this year’s Apple Watch Series 7. They’re also considering blood pressure and blood alcohol monitoring. Samsung is not behind as well and claims that the blood glucose measurement function will be introduced in the new smartwatch ‘Galaxy Watch 4’ (tentative name) in the second half of this year.
Is sweat the new form of renewable energy to power up your watches? New technology discovered by researchers at the Tokyo University of Science would enable users of smartwatches to power their gadgets with sweat. The group of Japanese scientists has already successfully tested a biofuel cell set up that generates electric power from lactate chemicals in the wearer’s sweat.
Hybrid movement technologies
Constant (and even daily) charging is always an issue bothering smartwatch wearers. Even for classic watches, there is constant research in the field of gaining consistent energy from the wearer’s movement. These great innovations are also very inspiring for future hybrid smartwatches. One of the players in the industry is Bulova Accuration. Their first, fully electronic movement was invented in 1960, by Bulova. In 2020 it was re-designed to use electrostatic energy generated by a human movement to power up the quartz oscillator.
Another example is a Seiko Spring Drive which generates energy like every other luxury mechanical watch but combines this with an electronic regulator to deliver a level of precision.
Both technologies rely on quartz resonators as the timing basis for the watch, but there the similarities end. The Accutron has the electrostatic generator which takes the place of a mainspring in terms of providing motive force; there is an accumulator/capacitor for storing electrical energy; the second’s hand is driven by an independent electrostatic driving system; the hour and minute hands are propelled by stepper motors. In contrast, the Spring Drive watch has a conventional mainspring and gear train, no battery or capacitor/accumulator, and at the end of the gear train, a glide wheel that acts as both a generator to produce the current necessary to operate the quartz timing package and power the integrated circuit, and as a braking element which controls how fast the gear train turns.
3 important resistance for watches
Watches are usually perceived as jewelry, and expected to have a long lifespan, sometimes even longer than their owners. These 3 resistance are important for primarily mechanical movements, but nowadays also considered indicators of durability for all kinds of watches in general.
Watches are inherently delicate. The balance wheel in particular, which is constantly in motion at a fairly high rate of speed compared to the other moving components of a watch movement, is at an ever-present risk of being knocked off the plane by the slightest interruption. Timekeeping and the watch’s ability to function at all can be enormously impacted. Nowadays shock resistance is implemented in most mechanical movements. Parashock is the name of Citizen Watch Company’s proprietary anti-shock system for mechanical/automatic watch movements (which is also used in Ad Maiora movement Miyota 9039).
Water resistance is often seen as a signal for overall quality as a watch with a solid water resistance rating is going to be constructed in a robust way that you’d expect to keep it protected from elements other than water. Most divers agree that a watch that provides a solid 100 meters of water resistance and working gaskets is going to be more than capable for almost everyone.
Worn & Wound says: “The first line of defense against water are the various gaskets that are fitted to watch cases at their points of weakness. These gaskets are often made of rubber or synthetic material and are designed to create seals at the crystal, caseback, and crown. The crown gasket is particularly important, as it’s likely to be exposed to the elements more often than the other gaskets. Every time you unscrew the crown to wind your dive watch from a dead stop, or adjust the time, you’re exposing the gasket to the outside world, and over time the synthetic material can dry up and become brittle, making it less effective.“ They also report on a few of more exotic bits of tech to emerge recently in the dive watch arena, which is an oil-filled case. The movement, dial, and hands are held in a fluid bath. The advantage of the oil is that the fluid is incompressible and effectively neutralizes the external pressure on a dive watch at any depth that a diver is likely to achieve in the real world.
Mechanical watches (and hybrids as well) are uniquely susceptible to magnetism, simply because of the materials that they’ve always been made of. The classic symptom of a magnetized watch is unusually too-fast timekeeping. Balance spring coils, when magnetized, can stick together, reducing their travel back and forth, causing the watch to beat much faster than it should, resulting in timekeeping that will typically be noticeably off. Depending on the age and materials used in the watch, and the level of magnetism the watch is exposed to, a watch can even stop entirely when heavily magnetized. That is a frightening moment for the wearer.
It’s not that hard to de-magnetize the watch, but magnetism resistance is still a big R&D focus of big watch brands and viewed as a symbol of quality and sophistication. Worn & Wound says that antimagnetic watches currently exist on two fronts: watches that use magnetic resistant materials in the movements themselves, and watches that use movements made the old-fashioned way, but resist magnetic interference through the use of a Faraday cage or materials used in the case.