The week in wearable tech: Dispatches from Baselworld

The important stories from a seismic week in wearables
The week in wearable tech

Can you smell that? The smell of leather and expensive three-piece suits? Yes Wareable readers, that's the smell of the luxury watch industry changing the smartwatch game for Android Wear.

I've been at Baselworld this week, meeting with some of the biggest fashion names on the planet who have been keen to show how they're embracing the smartwatch world.

Essential reading: Best watches of Baselworld

Fossil (and a frightening list of its sub-brands), Movado (along with its own Hugo Boss Touch and Tommy Hilfiger TH24/7You) and Guess are all getting involved. And the common theme? Android Wear. With its gang of the world's biggest fashion names, Google just forged its way back into the smartwatch game.

But it's not all about full-blooded smartwatches. The traditional watch industry still seems split on whether fully powered, Android Wear-running smartwatches are the future or whether barely-there hybrids will win the day. The answer, at least according to Baselworld 2017, seems to that there's room for both…for now at least.

Diesel On, Fossil Q Venture, Emporio Armani Connected, Tommy Hilfiger, Michael Kors Access Sofie and Grayson, Hugo Boss, Movado and Armani make up the list of new Android Wear devices, and one thing binds them. Almost effortlessly, they each make the tech crew of LG and Huawei look gadgety and geeky, even if they've discarded most bleeding-edge features – such as GPS, heart rate and advanced sensors – to achieve it.

Unsure of success

The week in wearable tech: Dispatches from Baselworld

The problem for us is that, aside from analysts like CCS Insight suggesting hybrid watches aren't selling that well, we don't have the sales figures to break down and see what people are buying. Still, it's promising that Michael Kors is not only back with two new Android Wear styles for men and women, the Michael Kors Access Sofie and Access Grayson, *but also* its CEO has said that all new men's watches will be smart from this year.

That means, as we discuss in this week's #Trending, that dumb watches may soon be a thing of the past. Why? The cost has come down and now designers like Marc Jacobs, DKNY and Tory Burch are putting out smart(ish) watches that look and feel pretty much identical to their non-smart counterparts. And the biggy - they're around the same price too. We know that $200 is the smartwatch sweet spot for people considering a purchase, so anything below that should do well.

A sight for sore eyes

The week in wearable tech: Dispatches from Baselworld

Just last week our UK editor Michael Sawh was opining on the very subject of women's smartwatches and it makes sense that it's Baselworld, and not a tech show, that's actually addressing this.

As well as the aforementioned Michael Kors Sofie, which opts for gold and pave, we have quirky and cute (Marc Jacobs Riley), classy, city chic (DKNY Minute), blingy Guess Connect and you-can't-afford-it luxe (Alpina's Comtesse Horological smartwatch).

So Swarovski's women's watch no-show wasn't really missed in the end.
Fossil Group hasn't wowed us with any real new features, aside from a few micro apps. It's the aesthetics that count here.

Most of these are smaller than the luxury men's watches we've seen and lighter and more comfortable on smaller wrists. But it's the variety of styles, personalities, materials and sizes that's really promising.

We're finally not just talking about, but getting, true smartwatch collections - the Access Sofie comes in eight watch bodies with seven strap options at launch - rather than the one-size-fits-all approach.

The Fossil Q Venture still looks too large to features editor Sophie Charara's eyes so yes, there's still some work to go in miniaturising the hardware components. Still, the question remains: what will women buy now there are devices worth considering?

The week in wearable tech: Dispatches from Baselworld

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