Smart watches are a category that I have really wanted to like more than I actually do. I have always been a tech and gadget guy, so the marriage of that realm of interest with that of watches seems like it would be a perfect match. And who knows, perhaps for you, they are. For the ones I have tested and reviewed, though, they simply have not warmed my jaded clockwork heart, and have come across feeling more like a tricky curiosity than a reliable tool. That said, I have enjoyed one thing that the smart watches have brought – a notification, on my wrist, of when activity (say, a text or a calendar reminder) hits my phone. This is because I have my phone on vibrate 99.9% of the time, and I often don’t feel it’s alerts when it’s on the desk, or in my pocket. That is the Chronos Wearable wants to play Mighty Mouse, and swoop in to save the day.
As you are likely aware, the Chronos Wearable is not something particularly new to the market, as it has been available for awhile. We’ve just been waiting to get one in until such time as their Android app was reliable (that’s the camp I call home at the moment). Once it was better-than-beta, we had the device on the way to us.
When you open up the packaging, you’re greeted with a rather unassuming disc. This little disc (once charged up on it’s included USB charging puck) is just waiting to bring some smarts to your watch – any watch. In this case, it spent most of it’s time on my Michelsen Arctic Explorer. I removed the plastic film from the micro-suction side of the Chronos Wearable, popped it onto the back of the watch, and got it synced up to my phone.
A note on how the Chronos Wearable attaches to your watch is in order. As I mentioned, it uses what the brand calls micro-suction. In terms of attaching to the watch, it feels sort of like those static cling things, as you set it on, press down for 10 seconds, and it’s attached. Pulling it off is not hard, but I did not find it wanting to come off easily, which speaks to a fairly secure attachment. Given that it’s suctioning on to the back of your watch, your case back will dictate how well things fit.
You see, if you have a domed or curved caseback, it may not be on as securely. In other words, the flatter your case back, the better. You’ll also want to consider if there’s much of a lip between the crystal on the caseback (if there is one) and the steel, as that could impact the suction. I tried it out on a few different watches that had relatively flat backs, and did not have any problems attaching the Chronos Wearable, or keeping it in place.
Once you have the Chronos Wearable on a watch for the first time, you will want to get it paired to your phone and the Chronos app. On my Android phone (a Moto G2, so nothing terribly new) it paired easily enough. Then, it was time to setup some alerting, as that is what the Chronos Wearable is all about. You can setup alerts for a variety of different apps (say, your calendar), as well as for specific contacts. Whatever the alert, you have a choice from three different vibration patterns and seven different colors (or no color at all). While the colors are cool, I’ve only really noticed them in a darker room, so the vibration alerts are key for me.
As I mentioned at the outset, I was interested in the Chronos Wearable due to having my phone on silent mode most of the time, and often missing alerts as they hit my phone. While the vibration motor in the Chronos Wearable is not the strongest you’ve ever experienced (the price of keeping things thin, I suppose), it does get the job done. I do not have a whole lot of specific alerts setup, so it’s not bad keeping the patterns separate. If you’re setting up a bunch of different contacts, though, getting more into the colors would help differentiate things (provided your cuff isn’t covering the watch).
Wearing a watch with the Chronos Wearable on it does take some getting used to, particularly if it’s a watch you have had for awhile. With watches, we get accustomed to how they fit and feel on our wrist, and even how different straps can impact that. With the Chronos Wearable, you are increasing the overall bulk of the watch. Not by a lot, particularly, but it is something that is noticeable. Previous snug fits will stand off of your wrist a bit more, and you may need to tweak your strap a bit to have a good, but not overly tight, fit.
The other thing to get used to is the fact of needing to charge your watch – or, more precisely, the Chronos Wearable. The brand predicts about a two-day life on the 30-minute charge (depending on how often it’s alerting, of course), and that is about what I experienced (the app will tell you approximate battery remaining as well). Just pop it on the charger (while still attached to your watch) and you’re all set. We’d have to see what the long term impact of that electrical exposure is on a watch, but in my time of testing, I did not notice any impacts to the accuracy of the watch.
Along with the alerting, the Chronos Wearable has a few other tricks up it’s sleeve. First off, it can be used as a pedometer. This is an interesting feature, and when it behaved, it seemed to track similarly to my Fitbit One. There were some caveats though – the app needed to be up and running on the phone, and the Chronos Wearable needed to maintain it’s connection to the phone (and app). In other words, there did not seem to be any data storage on the disc itself – just a read of the steps, which it then sent over to the app. Start a new day, and those step counts are gone. I did not see any mention of the data being synced anywhere, nor any way to review history.
There are some other tricks up the virtual sleeve of the Chronos Wearable. By tapping the face of your watch, you can dismiss calls, trigger the camera on your phone, impact music playback (play/pause/skip), and trigger a “find my phone” feature. This last one was rather fun, and useful. Especially if you have your phone on vibrate mode, as I do. Even with that, when you trigger the lost phone feature, it plays a loud tune (and not one I had heard before) allowing you to find the phone. Well, provided you’re within bluetooth distance of the phone…
For my use, the $100 Chronos Wearable is a good addition. Not perfect, but good. I like the idea of having something giving me some additional notifications when I’m not noticing (or near) my phone. The additional bulk under the watch is not ideal, but it’s not a deal breaker either. And – as a watch guy and reviewer – I like how easy it is to move from watch to watch (a buckle-mounted device would solve bulk, but moving things would be trickier). And, you know, there’s even a use case here that isn’t wrist-mounted. You could pop something like this onto the corner of your monitor at work, and get some additional blinky alerts (again, for when you’re ignoring your phone). I’ve even thought about suctioning it onto a credit card and tucking it in my wallet as a test of effectiveness as well.
Regardless of how you use it, I think something like the Chronos Wearable shows where the smart watch category can go, by adding in capabilities to the watches (particularly mechanicals) that you already have in your collection. If you want something on your wrist that can interact with your phone, like mechanical watches, and don’t want to double-wrist it, the Chronos Wearable is about your best solution. I’d say rev 1 is a promising product, and I’m looking forward to seeing what may come next from the brand. wearchronos.com
- Brand & Model: Chronos Wearable
- Price: $100
- Who’s it for? You like your mechanical watches, but you are also intrigued by the capabilities that smart watches offer
- Would I wear it? Yes, I would indeed, at least during the work week.
- What I’d change: In the current implementation, thinning it down. If we’re talking form factor changes, then perhaps something that can mount on a strap, but easily move between straps/watches
- The best thing about it: That you can get phone notifications on your wrist, all with the watch(es) you already own.