The Next Big Thing

Hong Kong smartwatch maker Kairos signs global distribution deal to take on Apple

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 April, 2015, 8:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 April, 2015, 8:00am

A Hong Kong-based smartwatch start-up is partnering with a global watch distributor under the Timex Group.

Kairos Watches aims to quickly expand the adoption of its hybrid mechanical smartwatch line and T-band accessories on the back of a strategic partnership with Sequel.

Kairos will be supplying the technologies behind its proprietary products and custom-designed components to Sequel, which is headquartered in Switzerland and has the exclusive worldwide distribution rights for Guess and Gc watches.

“Mechanical watch enthusiasts who are interested in the convenience of a smartwatch will soon be able to choose among an array of leading watch brands that embrace Kairos’ cutting-edge technologies,” Sam Yang, founder and managing director of Kairos, told the South China Morning Post.

The Kairos hybrid mechanical smartwatch, which has been available for pre-order since May last year through the company’s website, features a modern chronograph design and a sporty 46mm case diameter.

It also measures 16mm thick to accommodate the electronics circuit board with microprocessor, battery, mechanical movement and other components, including a transparent organic light-emitting diode as its display. This allows notices and messages to be shown on top of the traditional watch face.

The operating system used by Kairos is compatible with Apple, Android and Microsoft smartphones.

The company’s adjustable rubber T-band smart accessory can fit onto various band sizes of traditional mechanical watches. The T-band, which is worn like a bangle, has a display on which applications such as WhatsApp and Twitter can be used, and built-in sensors to track health and fitness.

“When we discussed the potential collaboration with Kairos and saw the demonstration of the hybrid mechanical smartwatch and T-Band, we saw an opportunity,” said Sequel chief executive Cindy Livingston.

“The smartwatch technology, combined with the design of our products, fit perfectly with the company culture and was too good to pass.”

The Kairos partnership is the latest strategic technology alliance formed by Sequel amid the much-hyped release of the Apple Watch on April 24.

In August last year, Sequel announced a global partnership with Martian Watches. The United States-based company develops interactive, voice-command wrist accessories.

Research firm Strategy Analytics last month forecast total global smartwatch shipments to grow 511 per cent to 28.1 million units this year, up from 4.6 million last year. It estimated shipments of the Apple Watch will reach 15.4 million units to lead the industry.

David Sadigh, chief executive of Swiss marketing firm Digital Luxury Group, said last month he expected Apple to generate 80 per cent of its smartwatch sales from models “priced less than US$700, a segment that will have more impact on American and Japanese watchmakers than Swiss ones”.

Yang pointed out that would-be partners of Kairos come from a different watch price bracket. “We see the most eager brands to partner with us are those with a portfolio of watches that are sold at under US$500,” he said.