When the biggest name in the watch industry decides to get into the smart watch/fitness tracker business, you expect a watch that is made for the masses. What you don’t expect is a watch made for a niche sport; but then again, Swatch does not do things in the normal way. The Swatch Touch Zero One is, as the name implies, the first watch in a planned ecosystem of fitness watches tied to the sports that Swatch supports.
The Swatch Touch Zero One is born of Swatch’s sponsorship of beach volleyball. I was able to check out the watch at the Swatch Beach Volleyball FIVB World Tour Finals, chat with Swatch’s sponsored pro team, and meet with Carlo Giordanetti, Swatch’s Creative Director (center, above). And of course, my first question was, “volleyball?” But it was a good natured question, and I knew half the answer already. Swatch only sponsors a few sports, and none of them involve a motor. Beach volleyball is their most visible sponsorship, but they also sponsor pro surfing, snowboarding/free skiing, and slopestyle mountain biking. So it is only natural that the platform of the Swatch Touch Zero One will become the Touch Zero Two, Touch Zero Three, and so on. With this sport as the most visible sponsorship; the Olympics around the corner; and absent the challenges required to make a fitness tracker for these other, non-traditional sports, volleyball was the fit for the first iteration of the product.
Since the Swatch Touch Zero One is already here, I will focus on this watch, instead of speculating about the watches to come. So what is it? First and foremost, it is a Swatch. It is colorful, comfortable, durable, and Swiss made. Swatch did everything in house, and that meant that they created their own software platform for the watch, with their own flare. They also wanted something that could be worn for an extended period of time, so no recharging every day, or even every week, the watch had to be able to run for a couple of months on one of Swatch’s button batteries.
The only way to get the extended run time with the current battery technology was to limit some of the electronics. There is no GPS or heart rate monitor in the Touch Zero One, and the watch is designed to connect to the paired smart phone app a couple of times a day, if that. With this, there are no notifications on your wrist for incoming communications, but I am fine with that. I don’t need a second screen on my wrist. That may come in future iterations, as may some of the other power intensive features. Swatch has tremendous resources behind it, as well as a wealth of experience with outdoor watches, so what they are able to do may be surprising.
Built into the current watch is a general fitness tracker and some fun functions specific for beach volleyball, both for the player and the fan. The general tracker counts steps and distinguishes between walking and running/jogging, so when you pick up the pace, your tracker does as well. The data is stored internally and only transferred to your smart phone app when you pair it, so this would be a good option if you were going on muti-day treks and did not want to connect back to your phone for a few days. As a fan, there is a mode that will count your claps, as well as measure the power of your claps. This will come into it’s own as a feature with the next version of the watch (along with a social aspect), tied to the fan experience at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.
When you get into the volleyball specific aspects of the watch, you enter the niche realm (though I wonder how really specific it is). The watch uses accelerometers to track how many hits you make over the course of a game, and also how hard you hit. So if your teammates (or rivals) also have the watch, now you have a way to end the arguments about who is the MVP of the game. The use of the sensors in this way makes me wonder if the watch could be used for other sports, such as tennis (it does not work for table tennis, I checked that out), where arm movement and contact define your interaction with the sport. Of course, if you want to really measure power, the watch has to be used on the dominant hand, which makes it a little odd for righties. When you pair the watch with the app, you can monitor the specific types of hits, attack hits, low passes, high hits, high fives, and the total number of hits, plus the relative power of your hits. From that, it calculates the calories burned.
If you really are planning on using this watch for volleyball, you will want to opt for the SunZero, the only one of the six color variations on a fabric strap. The SunZero uses an innovative closure, where the closure secures around the watch head (open in the image above and closed below), and the strap itself is not bulky, nor are there any protrusions that would interfere with bumps or blocks. Oddly, the pro players for Swatch used one of the other standard straps when they played (and yes, they did play while wearing the watch), though they wore the watch on their off hands. I asked Alexander Horst, one of the Swatch sponsored players about it and he said he needed to have his wrist free on his hitting hand to have a wider range of motion. He did like the tracking mode, where it gave him counts on the types of hits he made, information that he did not get from his coaches, but overall thought it was best suited to the amateurs and enthusiasts.
I have not played around with the apps associated with the other common fitness trackers on the market, but I will say that Swatch’s version is fun and functional. First, it has 2 way communication, so you can use the app to set the time on your watch, as well as turn modes on and off. You also pick your fitness coach, a “lazy dude,” a “tough guy,” and a “superhero.” You also pick your goal for walking in miles (or kilometers) per day, and finally you can set an overall goal for how far you want to walk, starting from where you first pair the watch and the smartphone and finally ending in an international city of your choice. I started in Ft. Lauderdale, so my goal of Miami was close by. When I got back to the West Coast, the distance did not update, so I am currently 1/5 of the way from Ft. Lauderdale to Miami. As you can see below, the app will let you know if you are falling below your daily step goal.
Based on the calories burned, the app gives you an equivalent reward. Right now, I have reached the point where it identifies how many cupcakes or hamburgers I can consume based on my activity. One thing to keep in mind is that you have to manually change activities. The same accelerometers are used for all the activities, so you can’t track steps in volleyball mode, or figure out hits when you are in fan mode. On the phone, there is an ice cream cone icon that lights up as you reach a percentage of your daily step goal, giving you from 1 to 5 scoops.
There are no buttons on the watch, just a three part touch sensitive section at the bottom of the dial. The center dot activates various modes or toggles what is being adjusted, while the swiping across the bar from the right or left scroll forward or back through the options. This certainly keeps the look of the watch very clean, but you have to remember a fair bit about how to adjust the watch and change modes. If this is your primary watch, I am sure it will become intuitive, but as an occasional watch, I will probably just leave it in step mode.
The bottom line for me is that it is an interesting product. It is not going to be come my everyday watch, but I will wear it from time to time when I want to get a reality check on how much walking I do in the course of a day. The color scheme I have has garnered a few compliments, including one friend ask me where she could get one based on my facebook post of the watch. It certainly is comfortable, and the companion app emphasizes fun as much as it does fitness, which is a good thing, and very Swatch thing. swatch.com
- Brand & Model: Swatch Touch Zero One
- Price: $130
- Who we think it might be for: You want a colorful fitness tracker that also serves as a watch, or you play volleyball.
- Would I wear one myself based on what I’ve seen?: I would wear it when I wanted to see how much walking I did over the course of the day.
- If I could make one design suggestion, it would be: Color matching the date wheel (or removing it).
- What spoke to me the most about this watch: The watch part is more prominent that the fitness tracker part.
Tech Specs from Swatch:
- Movement: Digital
- Functions: Two time zones, timer, alarm, fitness tracker, volleyball activity tracker, clap counter, backlight
- Case: Plastic
- Crystal: Not specified
- Water resistance: 30 meters
- Lug width: Not specified
- Straps: Silicone or textile
- Diameter: Not specified (Swatch classifies the case as XL 45-47mm, but this is a diagonal measurement)
- Thickness: Not specified