A Touch-Screen Watch Asks If Luxury Timepieces Can Go Digital

A fine watch is an achievement of mechanical craftsmanship. But in the digital age, what will define luxury?

On his deathbed, gasping his last breaths, no grandfather has bequeathed his calculator watch to an unborn great grandson. No mother has teared up reading the inscription under her Sony Smartwatch, a poem engraved on her wedding day.


Touch Skin, by Niels Astrup, is a concept to bridge the design of analog and digital watches. “The goal and challenge was to mimic the analogue feel in a digital way and at the same time adding a new layer to traditional, functional watch design, without ‘overdoing’ it and overusing the digital possibilities making the design diffuse and gadget-like,” he explains.

It’s immediately striking for a design detail you may not even register: The face is round. Digital screens are almost always straight-edged, which has bucked the tradition of circular, 12-hour clocks. Most of the time, the OLED watch face is dark to conserve energy. To check the time, you tap with one finger to display the time. You tap with two fingers to check the date. And you can tap with three fingers to change the style of the face.

But equally clever is the Touch Skin’s docking mechanism. While most of us squirrel away the fine cases our watches come in–having no clue what to do with them, but recognizing their often sewn leather construction as too nice to throw away–the Touch Skin’s case is actually used to charge it on a nightstand, while also allowing the Touch Skin to serve as a bedside alarm clock. In this regard, Touch Skin retains all the handy functionality of a gadget, while capitalizing on the display-your-heirloom mentality of a fine timepiece.

As I study the Touch Skin’s renderings, I consider my last series of watches. I actually have my grandfather’s pocket watch, which is far too nice (and actually a bit hefty) to carry. I had a Tag that I lost or was stolen. I’ve broken more watches from my wife than I care to admit, which is at least one reason I don’t wear the latest jump hour watch she got me. Right now, I sport a Nike Fuelband day to day. I can’t help but wonder, will the impressive mechanical watches of yore make it into the future? Will watches make it at all?

“This is a digital clock,” Astrup clarifies, “but I am sure that analog watches will also survive as lifestyle products. A timepiece is the only real jewelry a man can wear and possess a very personal statement–just as your hairdo and choice of car give a hint of the person you are.”

True, though until Velcro dress shirts take off, we’ll always have cufflinks.


[Hat tip: Notcot]

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.