Wear your heart on your wrist

Niall McKay and David Bowen welcome the superwatch

Niall McKay,David Bowen
Sunday 14 May 1995 23:02

Convergence is one of today's buzzwords. Computers are merging with telephones, televisions with computers, televisions with telephones. So why not watches with computers or telephones? Swatch and Timex saw no reason, and have been pushing "wrist technology" - if not wrist elegance - to new extremes.

To some, 402 may seem like a meaningless number, but to those with a Swatch the Beep watch pager it means "Do you love me?". Swatch the Beep has been launched by British Telecom and Swatch, and is the latest thing in designer communications.

Each Swatch has an individual telephone number that is linked to BT's automated paging service. Callers are asked to key in their telephone number and any message they care to leave - but only as a numerical code.

The watch was launched last autumn, but has yet to find its way on to many business or professional wrists, possibly because it is made of brightly coloured plastic. It is aimed fair and square at teenagers, which explains the range of coded messages it carries. These are translated in a booklet that the owner can hand out to friends or colleagues.

For instance, 411 means "you turn me on", 420 means "am leaving you", and 709 means "head's banging". Despite this, the device could be practical: 102 means "call me" and 216 means "will be late". It is also possible to combine codes: 606-619-604-302 means "Can't come to party tomorrow. Sorry." Most of the messages are plain silly, but you could presumably make up your own set of codes, which would give you a cheap and convenient pager.

Swatch pagers cost £119 and callers are charged 25p to leave a message, but after the initial purchase there are no further charges to the purchaser. The idea is the brainchild of Geoffrey Patterson of Global Communications, a UK telecoms consultancy, who says the BT version is in its early stages. "Deutsche Telekom versions automatically recognise the telephone number of the caller, and we are developing systems that will look up the caller's number in the telephone directory and automatically transmit that to the Swatches," he says.

The Timex Datalink is a more sober affair. Though hardly elegant - it looks like an early quartz watch - it does at least have a plain leather strap. As well as being a normal digital watch, with several alarms and the usual day/date information, it is a miniature personal organiser. It carries 70 entries, which can be a combination of appointments, phone numbers, anniversaries and a to-do list.

The clever bit is the way the data gets into the watch. It comes with a disc, which can be loaded into any desktop PC with Windows. You type the data into the computer, hold the watch up in front of the screen, press a button and bingo! A pattern of lines flashes on the screen, the watch beeps, and the information is transferred to the watch. If you have loaded appointments, you can tell the watch to sound an alarm a pre-set time in advance.

The Datalink, which costs £120, is particularly handy having your most important phone numbers on your wrist. The downside is that it is cumbersome and unbeautiful.

Swatch the Beep is available from BT shops and some jewellers; the Timex from selected branches of Allders and Battery Box, which has shops in big railway stations.

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