Guide: Making your Traditional Watch a Smart Watch

Important: I am not affiliated with any of the manufacturers, brands, services, or websites listed on this page and this is my personal experience.  If you find this helpful and want to say thanks, please buy me a coffee or take a look at my book on Amazon. It keeps this page ad-free. Thank you!

Updates. This post was updated late 2022/early 2023 to reflect the current status of products. Sadly, most products listed are now discontinued or unavailable – it seems like this is still a niche wish by people like me who favor traditional watches. The only product on the horizon is a new entrant (Ganance) with a product under development and scheduled for launch in 2023. There is a Casio G Shock hybrid digital watch in 2023 that is promising, even if it is a digital watch.

I love traditional watches. I’m not a collector and don’t have a luxury watch collection, but I can happily browse the window of a watch store or a counter display for hours without a complaint. It doesn’t even need to be a luxury watch. It doesn’t matter if it’s automatic or battery-powered. If it’s a traditional watch, I am happy.

I can’t help but be a little jealous of smartwatches. The ability to get call notifications features, track your heart rate, or control your music discretely from your watch is something I would like in a traditional watch.

I’m honestly surprised the Swiss watch industry hasn’t gotten together to develop a common interoperable hybrid watch standard. I’m not talking about taking on WatchOS or Android, this is not about adding screens to traditional watches. It’s more about making a tiered set of features that any manufacturer could put on the back of the watch or band while preserving the elegance, design, and beauty of a traditional watch.

But I digress…

This blog post aims to track and review, where I have personal experience, products that attempt to fill the void left by the Swiss watch industry. I will also list products that have been discontinued to ensure that traditional watch enthusiasts don’t get stung by buying a no-longer supported product that might appear on eBay or Amazon.

Types of Traditional Watch to Smart Watch Products

There are three (3) approaches companies have used to make a traditional watch smart, these are:

  1. Smart Bands, e.g., Timex Pay, uBirds.
  2. Back Plate / Disc Attachments, e.g., Trivoly, Chronos (discontinued)
  3. Smart Buckles and Smart Clasp, e.g., Sony Wena, Gooseberry Smartbuckle (discontinued)

Promising Options to convert your Traditional Watch to a Smart Watch

Smart Bands for Traditional Watches

Smart Band – Timex Pay

Timex Pay was very promising. It’s from a reputable watch brand (Timex), and Timex Pay was available to buy for around US$50. Timex Pay worked on non-Timex watches but is limited to only Chase Visa cards. The underlying technology is made by a company called Tappy Tech.  Going through the TappyTech website, they seem to be at the forefront of Smart Bands and even have a band with biometrics. Just keep in Timex Pay is for payments only, it doesn’t do notifications, alerts, etc. If you’re interested in a review of Timex Pay, see this link.

Status: Unavailable (as of mid-2022). It was limited to US-only Chase Credit Cards.

Smart Band: strapSWAP 

This strapSWAP solution comes from a German-based company and is designed for both traditional watches and oddly enough the Apple Watch. Their design places a screen within a leather band. The site hasn’t been updated for a few years, and neither has the social media presence. It is somewhat a mix of the uBird and Wena bands (read on).

Status: Likely discontinued. No updates since 2018.

Smart Band: uBird Watch Band

uBirds promises a leather smart band with a notification light. They had a Kickstarter campaign and continued to post updates until August 2020. The Kickstarter comments are a mix of complaints about a lengthy campaign, not receiving items, etc. which is somewhat typical of every Kickstarter campaign I have read (one of the reasons I don’t back a Kickstarter). It’s not clear whether you can order the uBird smart band if you didn’t participate in the Kickstarter, and the uBirds website is offline, as too are their Facebook and Twitter accounts. The uBirds Smart Band is no more, but it’s a nice concept.

Status: canceled

Smart Backplates for Traditional Watches

Disc Attachment: Ganance

A new entrant to the market (late 2022) is scheduled for release in 2023. Ganance is looking to fill the void left by the exit of Trivoly, Chronos, and the like. You can sign up for preorders on their website. I don’t have any experience with it (yet) but it looks super promising. I summarized how the Ganance compares to other smart discs here.

Status: In development. Launch expected in 2023.

Disc Attachment: Trivoly

A promising option was Trivoly. It is a disc you attach to the back of your traditional watch. They were selling pre-orders of their Trivoly Disc for US$149 (US$29 due on pre-order) with a promise of September 2020 delivery, and as of 2021, no evidence they shipped.  Trivoly is on the 3rd generation of their disc, and the apps are still in the iOS and Android app stores. Fair warning, though, the apps don’t look to be updated recently, and the Android one has a review that complains that the whole thing is a scam. I have reached out to Trivoly, who said the product is sold out, but they may make more, subject to parts availability. If you want to track it yourself, Trivoly has a newsletter you can subscribe to, but I haven’t received an email from them (ever).

Status: Sold out, future stock uncertain, and the project feels abandoned.

Disc Attachment: Chronos

Discontinued. Do not buy. Do not be scammed by eBay or Amazon listings, long since abandoned. I owned a Chronos and it also had quality control issues, mine fell apart.

Smart Buckles for Traditional Watches

Smart Buckle / Smart Clasp: Sony Wena

This is the only option from a mainstream manufacturer (outside of Timex). You can buy this directly from Sony or Amazon UK if you’re in the UK. It retails from Sony for £249.00, which is cheaper than Amazon. Being more commercially available, there are reviews. This one on wareable is worth a read. Despite all the potential and promise, it doesn’t come across as great. It’s also more than twice the price of the (albeit unreleased) Trivoly.

Status: Available but expensive

Hybrid Smartwatch Options that Look Traditional

Longines
I wasn’t going to include them in this post because I’m primarily interested in what you can use with your existing traditional watch. In the closest-you-will-get to a traditional watch, there is the Longines Conquest VHP. It’s not technically a hybrid watch, but you can set the time using the flash from your phone. It’s cool and geeky enough to fascinate me, and I have looked at it many times in the store. But there is no notification or other smartwatch-like feature. If you decide to get one, ensure you get the model with the little dot above the “1” on the “12” and not the standard Conquest VHP.

Tissot Hybrid Watch
Tissot has its T-Touch collection that launched in September 2020. It’s a traditional watch but with a small screen. The watches are available in Tissot boutiques. This model T-Touch, technically the T-Touch Solar Connect, is my personal favorite from a design perspective, and the solar charging makes it seem super awesome. It retails for about US$1,100.

There is hope for hybrid watches. Swatch Group, the parent of Longines, Tissot, and half a dozen other brands, is developing its own operating system for hybrid watches.

Fossil Hybrid
Fossil makes a few nice-looking hybrid watches which you can often pick up for under US$200, and I have seen Fossil hybrid watch models as low as US$99. I don’t own one, but the FB-01 series is my personal favorite from a design perspective. As it looks very traditional, but it seems to be discontinued.

Skagen Hybrid
Skagen also makes some nice hybrids. If you didn’t know, Skagen is a subsidiary of Fossil, so they typically come with reliable support. I briefly owned a Skagen hybrid watch which I picked up for under US$50. I returned it after about 2-3 days because while the app worked well, the watch wasn’t right for me.

Casio
Casio has a few G-Shock watches that connect via Bluetooth, although they are more digital than traditional. My favorite is the DW-H5600.

Traditional to Smart Watch Products that have been Discontinued (Avoid)

A word warning of practical advice. do not buy the Chronos Disc or the Gooseberry Smartbuckle – these products are discontinued, and the apps are either no longer on the app store (Chronos) or have not been updated for a few years (Gooseberry). This doesn’t stop opportunists from selling new and unopened ones. So don’t get conned.

I owned the Chronos, which was more of a miss than a hit. My first one fell apart after a few weeks of light use, and getting a warranty replacement was a headache. It lost Bluetooth connectivity often and added a little enough bulk to the watch to make it noticeable enough that people would comment. I liked the idea of the Chronos disc because I could have used it across different traditional watches, but it wasn’t a success.

Postscript

As an aside, I love watches and have summarised useful sites about watches. Or this article about watches worn by famous world leaders is worth a read.

Important: I am not affiliated with any of the manufacturers, brands, services, or websites listed on this page and this is my personal experience.  If you find this helpful and want to say thanks, please buy me a coffee or take a look at my book on Amazon. It keeps this page ad-free. Thank you!

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