Fossil Bluetooth Watches Revisited: A CrunchGear Interview

In light of the failure of Fossil’s Abacus Wrist PDA, last week’s news that the company was dropping four wristwatches with Bluetooth functionality was something of a surprise. An unholy marriage of wristwatch and PDA, it was Fossil’s first attempt at a tech timepiece. While there was some praise for it, consumers for the most part stayed away.

“No one wants to stare at their watch that long,” said Fossil’s Director of Global Business Development and Sales David Tompkins. “Watch faces have the perfect amount of space for at-a-glance information. The Wrist PDA was heavy function and no fashion.”

Tompkins said the Bluetooth project started by looking for a problem to solve and for an industry to join, instead of creating new ones. And with more and more Bluetooth-enabled cell phones coming on the market, Fossil saw a solid opportunity. All they needed was a partner.

“We approached several handset vendors and Sony Ericsson really grasped onto the idea,” Tompkins said. Both companies are very design oriented, so not only did Sony Ericsson bring its software and handset knowledge, but matched Fossil’s desire to make a fashionable watch as well.

Tompkins said there were four criteria Fossil had when it started working on the new watches: They had to look good, be affordable, be simple to use and be relevant. The Wrist PDA definitely lacked relevancy, since the market for traditional PDAs was quickly declining. Text was so tiny that it made it difficult to use. It was bulky and looked a little too geeky to be worn by business types. Finally, its price of $249 was too much money for something with so little style. The new watches however, appear to hit the mark on all accounts.

The watches connect to Sony Ericsson handsets with the push of a button. Even better, because the software contains a watch profile, you can connect both a watch and a Bluetooth headset to a phone simultaneously (something that separates them from the watch Citizen released earlier this year). This allows you to look at the watch’s caller ID display, see who it is and either reject the call or answer on your headset, all without digging out your phone.

This is in addition to the other information it provides, such as letting you know when you’ve wandered out of range from your phone and sending you vibrating and visual alerts when you receive text and voicemail messages. The $399 Sony Ericsson-branded model includes controls for its Walkman phones. Plus, because the OLED screen receives time and date information from your phone, it effectively turns the timepieces into dual time-zone watches. Yes, you’ll have to charge the watches every five to seven days to keep the Bluetooth up and running, but they’ll still keep time for another week if you forget.

It looks like Fossil did things right this time by not bogging the watches down in functionality and keeping design in mind.