Who hasn’t heard of Kickstarter? We’ll, you should climb out from under that rock, because Kickstarter has quickly become the go to web platform for creative types of all shapes and sizes to turn their great idea into a reality. Since launching in April 2009, over $200 million has been pledged to Kickstarter projects and over 20,000 projects have successfully been funded.
Recently, the Pebble, a digital watch that plays well with your favorite smart phone, became the most funded Kickstarter project ever, with over $7.8 million raised to date (as of May 1, 2012). This got us thinking about some of the other Kickstarter watches that have been or are in the process of being funded. Here’s a round-up.
For a bit more background, Kickstarter is a web platform that allows designers, musicians, artists or anyone else to post online their ideas that require funding, and for regular folks like you and me to find the projects we like the most and provide funding. Funding can range from $1 to $10,000, but it’s important to know that only projects that are completely funded within the allotted campaign schedule receive any funds. It’s all or nothing.
So lets get started with our rundown of Kickstarter watches with the one that everyone is talking about. As we speak, the Pebble continues to strengthen its grip on the #1 spot atop Kickstarter’s most funded list. With the original goal of raising $100,000, the Pebble is at $7.8 million and climbing with 17 days remaining on the campaign. So what’s all the hype about? Well, the Pebble is a sleekly designed digital watch that features a 144 x 168 pixel e-paper display and loads of tech, most significantly of which is its ability to communicate with your iOS or Android smart phone. It does so over Bluetooth, and you control the watch with its four buttons or 3 axis accelerometer. The watch also features a vibrating motor for notifications and the ability to load apps through a custom Pebble app store.
So with all this tech, what can the Pebble actually do with your smart phone? Well, it will notify you when you have an incoming phone call, email, calendar alert, Facebook message or twitter message. It will also shoot you weather alerts and vibrate with your alarm or timer. Syncing with your phone’s GPS, the Pebble can also track your runs or bike rides. Oh, and of course there is built in control of your phone’s music player, which works with both the native music player and third party apps, like Pandora or Spotify. There’s also a Pebble software development kit (SDK) so more exciting applications are sure to come.
With the Pebble utilizing so much amazing tech functionality, its really much more consumer electronic than watch. I mean, if this thing didn’t tell the time, do you think anyone would care? Time telling really seems secondary. Nevertheless, its extraordinary to see any project get this level of funding on Kickstarter, let alone something that could be considered a watch. It will be exciting to see what happens next with the Pebble, and what types of apps people come up with to make its functionality even greater.
Up next on our list are two products that were previously the #1 most funded Kickstarter project from late 2010 to earlier this year, the TikTok and LunaTik by the design company MNML. The TikTok + LunaTik project initially set its sights on raising $15,000, but instead raised nearly $1 million. Not bad at all. The idea of both the TikTok and LunaTik is simple; easily and beautifully convert the Apple iPod Nano into a digital watch with all of the idevice’s built in functionality at your fingertips. With the immense popularity of all things Apple, specifically the iPod Nano, it’s no wonder that these products did so well on the Kickstarter platform. We spent some time with the LunaTik LYNK, an all metal version of the LunaTik, and we liked what we saw. The design of these products is simple, intuitive and extremely functional.
Since the success of the TikTok + LunaTik, MNML released the LunaTik Touch Pen, a writing utensil for both your analog and digital writing needs. While not quite as popular as the watch moduals, the Touch Pen far exceeded its campaign goal of $75,000 with over $300,000 in pledges received.
Taking a step toward a slightly more traditional watch design, lets now look at the Zeniick watch, which was fully funded in January 2012. The Zeniick is a simply designed quartz watch, which today sells for $27.95 from the company website. Available in four colors, (white, black, silver, red), all Zeniick models feature a clean 38 mm dial with minimal markings aside from Zeniick branding on the hour and minute hands and “Water Resist Quartz 1” at the 6 o’clock position. The straps measure 18 mm in width and are made of leather and plastic. All models also feature a polished black bezel, that appears to be 12 sided, much like the Issey Miyake Twelve watch. In fact, the printing of the watch name on the hour and minute hands is also reminiscent of the Twelve’s design. I’m beginning to see a pattern here… Similarities to the iconic Twelve aside, the Zeniick watch is an example of a more traditional watch that found success on Kickstarter. Its a watch for the design minded who don’t have deep pockets, and who’s angry at that?
Now on to a bit more of a watch geek’s watch. The appropriately named Solid Watch is cut from a single piece of steel and was successfully funded in August 2011, bringing in over $130,000. The Solid Watch is also one of the few watches on Kickstarter that is truly a watch collector’s watch. The Solid Watch is powered by either a Swiss Ronda quartz movement or one of three ETA mechanical movements, the 2804, 2824 or the hand wind 6497-1 skeleton. The design of the piece is rooted in an unfinished aesthetic. To quote the Solid Watch Kickstarter page “The concept preserves all the actions involved in forming the watch. The saw cut marks from the steel yard, the water jet pattern and lathe cuts are unpolished and clearly visible. The fasteners are even exposed.” A unique approach indeed. The Solid Watches range in size from 34 to 48 mm for the skeletonized model and all are cut from 303 stainless steel. The Solid Watch also comes on your choice of a hand made leather strap of a commercially constructed leather strap.
So the Solid Watch managed to run a successful Kickstarter campaign without any complex technology or amazing functionality outside of telling time. It features some truly unique design elements and very high quality components. But there is one interesting detail of the Solid Watch campaign that sets it apart from the others on our list. The original Solid Watch campaign goal was $100, which seems a little strange for Kickstarter. One of the main selling points of the platform is that project backers are not charged for their pledge unless the project is fully funded. I always assumed this ensured that a project had sufficient support for full implementation before it was awarded any money. But in this case, it seems that the campaign goal was pretty much meaningless, and that the platform was simply used as a vehicle to pre-sell watches. This isn’t a bad thing, per se, as at the end of the day watch fans got their watches and the designers of the Solid Watch got their money. Its just an interesting use of the Kickstart platform.
The last watch on our list is the Project ORCA Dive Watch by the Caliber Watch Company. It represents what is likely the most traditional watch featured on our list, and from what I can tell, one of the most traditional watches on Kickstarter. The ORCA is a military style dive watch powered by a Miyota 9015 automatic movement, featuring 300 M water resistance, sapphire crystal, unidirectional rotating external bezel, screw down crown and super luminova on the dial and hands. The case and bracelet come in either stainless steel or black PVD finish and the dial comes in four color ways (Black, Black on White (“ORCAflage”), Orange lume, and Killer Phantom). The ORCA also comes in a wooden display box, accompanied by a watch travel roll.
Adding to the value of the ORCA campaign is its partnership with the Veterans Watchmaker Initiative (VWI). Through this initiative, U.S. military veterans are trained to become watchmakers. In partnership with the VWI, ORCA watch components will be used by VWI trainees as they learn the craft of watch making.
Unfortunately, the ORCA watch project has just 8 days left on its $75,000 campaign with just over $5,000 raised. A tactical dive watch with stealthy looks, quality components and a great cause behind it, the ORCA seems like a watch the indie watch community would get behind pretty quickly. There’s still time left though, so if you’re an ORCA fan and want to make this watch a reality, head over to Kickstarter and make your pledge today.