THE SMARTWATCH RACE: TECH MEETS TRADITION THE RECENT LAUNCH OF APPLE'S SMARTWATCH IS BEST summed up as worlds colliding. We're not referring to the Apple Watch Sport (US $399) or the Apple Watch (US $499). We're talking about the one with an 18-karat gold case. The one that starts at US $10,000. The one that puts high-end watchmakers directly in its crosshairs and promises to shakeup the watch industry for better or worse. The Apple Watch Edition. Handcrafted, bejeweled and enduring, a fine timepiece can be passed down for generations, whereas a tech accessory with a shelf life of a year or two simply cannot. But if there's one company that could change that, it's Apple. The Apple Watch Edition is an impressive device, uniting craftsmanship and technology. Made from custom gold alloy and a sapphire crystal display, it's replete with all the apps, fitness tracking and communication possibilities that you will ever need. You can use it as a key for your car or hotel room, make payments via Apple Pay or even control your smart home from your wrist. While initial earnings have been kept close to the vest, consumer response to the Apple Watch feels tepid compared to other recent Apple unveilings, especially when considering it's the first new product from the Silicon Valley giant since the passing of visionary founder Steve Jobs, and one can't help but wonder: did the Goliath of the tech industry step into an arena where it stacks up more like David? Not waiting until it's too late to find out, some of the watch world's biggest names are calling all hands on deck to develop a counter punch. With Tag Heuer and Google announcing a strategic partnership at the 2015 Baselworld in Switzerland, the watch industry's premier event, comes a best of both worlds scenario, as two of the most established in their respective fields collaborate. It's fitting that Tag Heuer, the self-proclaimed Swiss Avant Garde watchmaker, is one of the early adopters of the smartwatch movement, and a key focus of their Carrera Wearable 01 is that it will be the first Android Wear device with upgradeable technology. This means the watch itself will remain constant, unlike the Apple Watch, whose second generation is scheduled to be released before the end of 2015. At the moment, not much is known of the technology in the Carrera Wearable 01, though in a recent interview with tech-centric site Wareable.com, Tag Heuer CEO Jean-Claude Biver indicated it will closely resemble the Carrera Heuer 01 (pictured left). Current expectations have the watch being released before the end of the year, with a 40 hour battery life (more than double the Apple Watch's 18 hours) and priced around US$1,400, considerably lower than the Edition. Another Swiss watchmaker tossing its hat in the ring is Breitling, whose longstanding technical prowess and precision has led to an identity deeply rooted in aviation. Their first foray in the smartwatch field comes in the form of the B55 Connected, a timepiece that isn't going to be measuring your vitals or anything like that, but ultimately serves to improve upon the aviator-specific timekeeping functionalities of their watches by making it all available (and essentially more user-friendly) on a smartphone. Two LCD backlit screens provide an electronic tachometer that allows you to easily calculate the average speed needed to cover a fixed distance, a chrono-flight device records the take-off and landing times (which pilots must record) and the analog hands will automatically adjust to a new time zone, among many more aviator-oriented tools. A fun hypothetical to consider though, is if the Tag Heuer- Google relationship proves a success, could it prompt Apple to seek a similar partnership? From this vantage point, the fact that Apple products do not historically appreciate in value combined with the absence of a watch brand name that boasts proven longevity (like Tag Heuer), puts them at a disadvantage. But, just imagine for a minute, the classic look of a Rolex Daytona merged with the Apple Watch interface. Now, that's something that could stack up to any competition and stand the test of time.
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