[GALLERY_HERE]So today we will review and have a closer look at ZeTime, a smartwatch designed by the swiss company MyKronoz. Or as they like to advertise it for themselves: the world’s first hybrid smartwatch combining mechanical hands with a round color touchscreen.
The watch itself initially started off as a Kickstarter campaign, where they managed to collect a whopping 5.3 million dollar from over 26,000 backers. Being one of them, this also marks the exact way we got hold of our samples. Although this was the company’s first kickstarter campaign, it is not their first product in this market segment, by far. They already released a broad range of smartwatches and activity trackers and therefore should also already possess valuable experience in this field. Furthermore they also don’t fail to point out their swiss heritage when it comes to design and watchmaking. So combining all these factors, the bar and our expectations were set pretty high for the finished product. This is just further amplified by their bold claim to “create a wearable without compromises”.
Well, let’s come along and have a look whether they succeeded in their noble quest or if they ended up having to make compromises after all like the rest of the industry does (unsurprising spoiler: the latter is the case)
Just a few more words: As I have been using Pebble smartwatches on a daily basis myself for half a decade now (wow, that really sounds way longer than it should ^^), I will be taking these as the main products of comparison. In particular this would be the original Pebble since it was released and for the past years the Pebble Time Steel.
Now before we address the finished watch itself, it is really worth saying a few words regarding their kickstarter campaign first. Having already backed nearly 30 projects on the platform, also including all 3 pebble campaigns, i am by no means a stranger when it comes to various problems, (long) delays or just outright failure to deliver. So for this: full marks to MyKronoz. They did a great job describing and showing off the product. The tiers you could back were communicated clearly (for the most part) and we knew exactly what to expect for our money. Furthermore they did and still are providing regular updates on topics like stretch goals, shipping status, software improvements or watch faces.
The initially estimated delivery was set for september 2017, which in our case turned out to be actually october. Now if you’re not familiar with shipping estimates on kickstarter: that is damn impressive. I so far I only had one project really meeting its communicated delivery date, with several being pushed back as far as even years (check out the original Pebble for instance).
Now enough of this boring introductory stuff already. How does that watch actually look and feel like? Is it worthy of the company’s bold initial claims?
Well, as far as the sheer physical appearance and build quality is concerned: Heck yeah it is!
So just to clarify what we’re talking about: This review is based on the “brushed titanium” regular model as part of the “Elite package” including a Milanese metal watch band. A smaller (“petite”) version of the watch is also due for release later on, but will not be covered by us. As far as the pure specifications are concerned, the watch measures 44 x 12.8 mm with a standard replaceable 22mm watch band and weighs a good 90g. Although bigger as my previous pebble, I wouldn’t consider this too big in any way and it really comfortably fits on my wrist (which are not the biggest at all to be fair).
As you can see for yourself in the shots below, the watch really does look classy and modern at the same time, while the brushed titanium finish just rounds off a real piece of beauty and quality. Due to the real mechanical hands over its touchscreen, you don’t even notice that it is in fact a smartwatch, as long as the screen is turned off. Which is an awesome thing in my personal opinion, as the Pebble for instance, while not looking bad, did clearly lose to most of the classic “dumb” watches in terms of appearance. So for this watch I also wouldn’t hesitate to wear it on more formal occasions or in combination with a suit. So no compromises this time, right? Yeah for the visual part their statement definitely holds true and they really deserve credit for this design. Of course design will always be very subjective and come down to individual taste. So you can make up your own mind by having a look at these shots. However for me personally this is definitely and by far the most elegant smartwatch I have yet laid eyes on.
The Milanese metal watch band, as can be seen attached to the watch in most of the pictures, really further adds to the overall look and feel in a positive way. And thanks to its magnetic mechanism of closing you can adjust it without steps: just awesome and comfortable. Now they also offer classic metal link bands as well as leather and standard silicone options. While this is also certainly a matter of taste, we would recommend to go at least for the leather option, as the silicone one does not really do the watch justice. However it does not look bad in any way and is certainly usable as well.
The watch is furthermore officially rated for 5 ATM of water resistance. I can confirm that for instance wearing it in the shower is no problem at all and I have been doing so since i switched over to it. Furthermore it also survived a full day of swimming, whirlpools,… while visiting a public thermal bath. Once I unintentionally even wore it in the sauna for a few minutes before realizing i forgot to put it off. But no issues so far at all regarding this category.
The battery is rated for 200 mAh which results in a battery life (as given by the manufacturer) of 30 days in analog mode or 3 days in smartwatch mode. The TFT color touchscreen below the hands measures a good 1.22 inches and sport 240*240 pixels while being reasonably bright. Now after using the watch for a while I’m actually quite impressed regarding the battery life. I would consider myself a rather heavy user and do have all possible notifications enabled (more on this later though). With the display set to medium brightness, heart rate monitoring turned off and under normal daily use I usually charge the watch once a week. This of course comes down to personal usage and settings but I seriously can’t image a practical usage scenario that would really chew through your battery in just 3 days. Since i never turned off the smartwatch features I can not really comment on the 30 days of analog use, but based on my experience I would expect it to be even longer.
Charging is done by placing the watch on the included charger that uses a included standard micro USB cable. While this is fine we really would have liked to see a type C connection. The charger itself also features an included battery. So you can also charge your watch in case there’s currently no socket around and just recharge the chargers battery later on. Neat!
You can also optionally buy an improved charger as visible in the pictures below. Which in turn of course also adds some extra cost. If you opted for a metal band though, you should really consider this option as it’s really cumbersome placing the watch on the standard charger when you are not able to fully open the watch band (as is the case with the silicone and leather options). While the improved charger does look a lot better than the standard one (especially when placed on your desk with the watch on it) and is without question superior in terms of build quality, it really is up to you whether this is worth the additional cost.
So the hardware part seems promising, then how does the software fare? And how is it like to really use that supposedly awesome little piece of technology?
Well… to put it right in the beginning: This is where their promise of no compromises starts breaking.
First of all, the companion app is only supported on iOS (8+) and Android (5.0+). If you’re still using a Windows phone you’re unfortunately out of luck (but come on, why would you seriously still hang on to that?). In any case if you do not match these minimum requirements: go get a new phone before thinking about getting a smartwatch, it really is time.
Now before diving deeper into software features, usability and my personal experience note this: The App as well as the watches firmware are constantly being updated by MyKronoz, so some of the issues and critique mentioned below may no longer apply by the time you’re reading this. Some of the most severe issues i personally had with the watch were actually fixed right in the midst of me writing this review.
Now in order to write a proper review on something like a smartwatch you really have to give it a try by using it on a daily basis for a prolonged period of time. Some issues might not manifest themselves right away and others might be heavily based on how you individually utilize the product. So this review is written after using the watch 24/7 for over a month now. And by 24/7 I really do mean just that, as apart from charging I do never put away my watches.
Setup / Switching over
So after unboxing the ZeTime i pretty much put away may Pebble and just switched over to it completely. The process of which is dead simple: Install the App, pair the watch with your phone and you’re pretty much good to go. The App will walk you through the initial setup and calibration. Although there were some calibration issues right at the beginning, they have been resolved by now. So no worries.
The App presents itself structured and clean. Your daily statistics like steps, distance, sleep or heart rate are presented right on the dashboard. With goals you can set for yourself. Various reminders (medicine, sports, meetings, wake ups,..) can also be set right from the app.
Now if you move on to settings you can further customize and tweak stuff like notification settings and much more to your personal liking. For the most part this is ‘set and forget’ as under normal circumstances there’s no reason you would have to frequently change things. If you’re not all that interested in the activity or fitness tracking aspect of the watch, you most likely won’t even open the app for most of the days (like me).
So switching over from the Pebble Time, what are the first things i noticed? Well let’s start by again complementing the design. The watch just looks and feels really nice and even after having it on my wrist for more than a month i just really like the design. Furthermore I also do like the fine grained Milanese watch band over the metal link one i had on my Pebble. That’s really personal preference though. I got really positive responses regarding the looks of it from almost all friends or family that noticed me wearing a new watch. And almost no one would believe me that it actually was again a smartwatch before i switched the display on.
Now finally moving on to the actual smartwatch features. As these are quite a lot we will not be able to cover all of them in detail. You can find a full list on the MyKronoz website if you are interested. The features elaborated on below are the ones I find to be the most important and the ones I actually do use myself on a regular basis. A list with suggestions, missing features and minor issues that i collected while using it for the last months can be found at the end of this review.
As far as watchfaces are concerned, you can choose from 24 different ones. Now while this includes some really odd ones for my taste, there are also more classic ones so you should probably be able to find one that suits your style. If no there is also the option to create your own custom one within the App by uploading a picture.
Now this is the essential part for every smartwatch: displaying notifications on the wrist. It’s also the main reason I bought my first smartwatch (the original pebble) back in the day. Just not having to pull out my phone every time I receive a notification, as most of the time it’s nothing important that requires instant reaction or response.
Over the years I have come to fully rely on my smartwatch and always have my phone on full silent mode (vibration is turned off as well). So if the smartwatch fails, I completely miss whatever happens on my phone. This was no problem at all with my Pebble Time as all (!) of my notifications would be pushed to the watch and connection losses would occur only very scarcely. On the ZeTime though: completely different story, especially in the beginning. For the first few days and weeks the watch would constantly loose connection and as a consequence I missed most of my messages and even calls. I was seriously back to my old habit of checking my phone every 30 minutes or so for missed messages. Now to be fair the situation got better update after update but still isn’t there where I was with my Pebble. Occasional connection losses still occur, with the watch sometimes failing to automatically reconnect. A further critical issue: App support. Being a completely proprietary watch and implementation, only a hand full of Apps are supported. Even my main messenger (Telegram) was not supported in the beginning. This has been changed since though. But what this essentially comes down to is the following: If you’re using some exotic or unpopular messenger, you’re basically out of luck and have to hope for the Dev team to start supporting it. So for this aspect I still really miss my Pebble where every (!) notification could be pushed to the watch.
Well, not much to say here: Calendar is supported and the next upcoming appointments are quickly accessible by pressing the back button on the watch when on the watch face. No complaints here.
As for the fitness tracking part, the following values are monitored: Steps Distance Active Time Calories
As I’m not really interested in these and also do not regularly go for a run or something, I don’t really check these values. With the exception of the steps. I would consider them as pretty accurate, as they roughly match the values previously reported by my Pebble. In the ZeTime App you can furthermore manage your individual goals and also view your history of the past weeks or months. Sadly there is no option to synchronize these to say Google Fit or something similar, nor can you export the data locally.
In the same manner as the aforementioned fitness values, the watch can also track your sleep duration and patterns if you so desire. However the tracking algorithm of the Pebble was far superior to the one on the ZeTime. While it certainly is not bad and more than enough to give you a rough estimate of your sleep duration and quality it has some flaws. It only automatically tracks within the configured interval in the App, which is suboptimal if the time you go to sleep varies a lot. Furthermore it often starts tracking in still situations like prolonged work in front of the keyboard or watching a movie, which the Pebble mostly did not.
Heart Rate Monitoring
Yet another checkbox in the monitoring and tracking department: heart rate. You can either start a single measurement manually (which takes around 15-20 seconds) or set a custom interval in the App to regularly measure your pulse. The tightest supported interval thereby being 5 minutes. You can also set a range alarm in order for the watch to alert you in case your pulse exceeds or undercuts custom settable values. Now for the most part the measurements are pretty accurate and we tested this using a professional pulse oximeter as you can see below. However when the watch shifts during measurements the resulting values can be off by quite a margin. This of course regularly happens when moving around and so the resulting heart rate curve in the app ends up with spikes in both directions. This also wrongfully triggers the range alarm and can therefore get quite annoying. I got notified with values >150 doing simple things like walking down the stairs. So in order to save on battery life and because I could not find a reason to have monitoring on 24/7 I ended up just turning it off completely. If unlike me you’re one of those sporty persons that would want to monitor their heart rate while exercising it should be noted though, that continues monitoring is not supported. So one measurement every 5 minutes is all you can get.
Music control is of course also present and a feature i use quite regularly on my way to work in the morning. Now while functional, everything is there and does work like expected, there are minor points I’d still like to mention. First of all being able to control the volume by just twisting the hardware wheel is a great idea and i love it. However you always have to activate the display first before anything is registered. What i have come accustomed to over the years when using the Pebble is being able to just quickly skip songs by pressing a hardware button without having to look at the watch. It was just quick and easy. On the ZeTime though I have to activate the display and then try to hit the appropriate button (which is way too close to the play/pause button btw) every time I want to skip a song. This may sound nitpicky but really annoys the heck out of me in daily use as it is so unnecessarily complicated and also does not work in winter when wearing gloves.
Now there are various different types of alarms you can set. However the only one I personally use is the Wake Up. All alarms have to be set from within the App. Putting aside the really annoying and slow custom time picker they implemented (typing would be so much faster or just use the standard android time picker please?), the only thing you can do from the watch itself is turn those configured alarms on or off. You can’t even change the time on them without having to launch the App. Again, this may be nitpicky, but if Pebble managed to do everything on the watch itself (and also quicker when compared to the ZeTime App) by only having 4 physical buttons available, why wouldn’t you find a solution with 3 buttons, 1 wheel and a touchscreen?
Now as mentioned there are even more software features but we can not possibly cover all of them in depth. However to add just a few more general notes on the watches interface: I love the hybrid concept of having both the physical hands as well as a full touchscreen for the smart features. And also including the traditional watch wheel and buttons on the side is awesome. However the concept of utilizing those to control the interface is not fully mature and sometimes inconsistently implemented. For example it’s not possible to navigate all the menus by using just the buttons, which would have been easily achievable. It’s a mix of touch and physical controls I’ve gotten used to by now, but felt just a bit off at times when using it at first. It’s not bad by any means and this really is criticism at a high level but i feel there’s still room for improvement.
Furthermore they do not provide any sort of SDK and have not communicated an intention of doing so. So there won’t be any option for the community to implement custom watch faces or apps for the watch. So an app store as you’d know from Android, iOs or even the Pebble containing an app for practically any problem or use case won’t become reality for this product.
Switching topic completely now. From the limited contact we had with customer service up until today I would rate it as pretty ok. Still room for improvement but certainly not bad.
A friend of ours did receive a faulty unit from the KS campaign. Opon contact, the support did immediately acknowledge the issue and the unit was exchanged with no extra cost and given the circumstances (still shipping KS units) within a reasonable timeframe.
As for me personally I did contact support regarding the bluetooth connection issues and missing support for lots of notifications (including my main messenger Telegram). To which i got a standard reply about two weeks later asking me to update to the newly released app and firmware version. Which i already had and of course changed nothing. After again outlining my issues in more detail and waiting another two weeks i finally got a friendly message stating that support for Telegram is already being worked on and they did not yet receive significant feedback for the other Apps mentioned by me and therefore will not support them for the time being. Ironically they did publish an update about two days prior to this message that finally included support for Telegram. So there’s cleary room to improve communication between the Dev and Support department. Furthermore they do have to process a lot of request at the moment. But lots of it could easily be avoided if they would clearly state already reported bugs and features being worked on or planned on their website
So, what’s the conclusion then? Well if I would have to put it in one sentence it would say something in the neighbourhood of: A physically stunning piece of technology with great potential that is unfortunately held back by its software. The watch certainly looks and feels awesome and the solution of having the time displayed by actual mechanical hands over the touchscreen is certainly unique. However I feel like a lot of potential has been lost by lots of tiny flaws that are currently present in the software side of things. Furthermore the fact that only selected apps are supported and that there is no way of forwarding all notifications is a major negative aspect. And by the current way of them handling and implementing things this also won’t change. Combine this with the occasional connection losses I’m still experiencing, the ZeTime comes nowhere near the Pebble in terms of reliability. Additional features and gimmicks are nice for sure, but completely irrelevant if the main functionality of the smartwatch is not yet perfected: simply pushing all(!) my notifications, calls, mails,… to my wrist.
So do i like the ZeTime? Definitely yes. Will i keep using it as my daily watch? Also, yes. Is it perfect? No, certainly not. So what it ultimately comes down to then is the one thing they promised to avoid, but will probably stay a constant in the tech industry forever: compromises.
Where to get
Now in case you made it all the way through here and are now considering to buy this watch. You can currently order it on Indiegogo and a limited batch is also available via Amazon. If you go for the second option please consider using our affiliate link listed right hereafter to give us a small kick-back.