Most smartwatches – analogue and digital – are built the same way. The watch face is stuffed with a whole bunch of sensors while bands are as dumb as ever. You can purchase new ones and swap 'em out to match your style or activity, but they don't actually do much. Nick Hallet and Cardiff Design wanted to do something different with the Roxford.
Available now on Indiegogo for $174, the Roxford is a hybrid watch with a twist. Instead of making the watch face smart and the straps dumb, the Roxford flips the script by making the watch face dumb and the straps smart. The watch face is a regular Swiss-made analogue watch from Ronda AG, but the strap is actually a fitness tracker.
Read this: The best hybrid smartwatches of 2017
Hallet tells Wareable the Roxford was inspired by what he considered to be the perfect smartwatch for himself. Something that could track his fitness and sleep yet be stylish at the same time, but not like other hybrids. "I know there are other hybrids out there, but they're all putting the technology of the fitness tracker and circuit board in the watch face itself, which makes it very thick and top heavy and bulky."
The circuitry and battery in a hybrid watch makes up half the weight, Hallet says, so putting all of that in something like a strap results in a thin watch – 4-5mm less thick. If you've ever worn a big watch you know that they can feel a bit top heavy; putting the fitness tracker on the underside of the wrist results in a little more balance, Hallet says. As for size, the men's Roxford is 8.5mm thick while the women's version is 8mm. At the same time, Hallet says he didn't want any kind of notifications or bright lights or screens to distract you. Plus, it saves on battery life, giving the Roxford about two weeks.
The actual fitness strap section of the Roxford is unique as well. Think of a regular watch as a two-part system. There's the watch face and then the strap, and you can detach them whenever you want, mostly to swap straps. The Roxford is more of a three-part system. There's the watch face, there's the fitness tracker, and then there are the bands that connect them.
The fitness tracker sits on the underside of your wrist, and it has three metal links that can be unscrewed with an included tiny screwdriver to fit better to your wrist. There are three different band options that connect the watch face and fitness tracker: silicone, leather and metal links. There's also a fourth option: a wraparound silicone strap that allows you to leave the watch face behind and just use the fitness tracker if you need to go ultralight for your workout.
Normally, you'd have to buy all of those straps separately. However, Hallet says he realised that people would need different styles of bands for different activities. For instance, he himself would use a silicone band for surfing and then switch to leather for a night out with friends. "What's the best way to have all of that with you throughout the day so you could swap it? So we came up with the idea of just including all four straps that most people would need."
There are a couple of different men's and women's Roxford collections, and each one is styled a little differently based on the colour. Each time, however, you are getting four straps, the fitness tracker, the watch face and a slim travel case to keep all of them in. That's quite a bit of stuff, and it feels like a good value to get multiple bands packaged in with your watch. If you need different colours, you will be able to purchase them from Cardiff.
The fitness tracker side of the Roxford, however, is a little basic. It can track steps, calories, distance and sleep patterns. So if you're looking for a more advanced fitness tracker, like one that can track VO2 Max or even heart rate, you won't find it here. Everything is viewable in the companion app, which can sync with Google Fit, Fitbit, Apple Health and more. And oh, the watch face is water resistant up to 100 metres while the fitness tracker is water resistant up to 50 metres.
The final feature packed into the Roxford is gesture control, which will let you triple tap the fitness tracker to start or stop a song and double tap to skip tracks. It's limited for now, but Cardiff Design is looking to add more gestures in the future, according to Hallet. It could evolve into a version of Misfit Link, which allows users to do things on their devices with simple commands. For instance, on the Misfit Phase it's a button press.
The question that is one of the three great certainties in modern life, joining death and taxes. The Roxford is gearing up for production in July, with Hallet saying Cardiff Design is set to hire a consultant to monitor the manufacturer and its suppliers to make sure everything is going smoothly.
Hallet says he realises that since the Roxford is set to ship in November, many potential backers are expecting to buy this as a holiday present, and that other crowdfunding campaigns deliver months or years late – or in some cases, never. That's why he says Cardiff is trying to be as conservative in its shipping and production estimates as it can. While understanding this doesn't mean Cardiff can deliver on time, it is nice to see that the company is taking steps like hiring a third-party consultant to monitor manufacturing just in case.
As for the watch, if you're looking for something that seems watch first, fitness tracker second then the Roxford may be for you. The watch section of the Roxford is undoubtedly thin and looks good, but the fitness tracking section is basic compared to the alternatives. For instance, we're seeing better hybrids from Fossil right now which pack in comparable fitness tracking, like the new Q Accomplice. The latest Skagen Connected is also a stylistically pleasing hybrid offering your basic tracking, so Roxford has more competition out there.
But the Roxford is one of the thinnest hybrids out there and comes packaged with a better variety of bands. It's undeniably a good looking watch, but it will be interesting to see if Roxford expands on the smart strap idea beyond basic fitness tracking. Apple too appears to see value in bands, and we reckon this is where some of the more intriguing ideas will emerge.