Tissot / Swatch Group
By Columnist
updated 8/10/2004 10:46:39 AM ET 2004-08-10T14:46:39

Another MSN Direct wristwatch, just what the world needs, right? Actually, right! That’s because the new Tissot High-T watch brings some very interesting features to the table: including a touch-screen data controller and rugged good looks, both firsts for smart watches.

The High-T is very similar to the first round of smart watches that were introduced months ago. The idea is use your watch to receive constantly updated information via a special signal coming from a FM radio station in your town. Using a special Web site, you control what information the watch receives.

The MSN Direct service lets your watch receive local, national and international news reports, sports scores and stories, weather reports and forecasts, stock quotes and lottery numbers. You can also receive instant messages from friends on MSN Messenger, download and save new watch "faces" and receive reminders of appointments from your Microsoft Outlook calendar.  

(MSNBC content is distributed by MSN. MSNBC itself is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)

Previous smart watches forced you to press numerous buttons to get from mode to mode or even story to story. It wasn't a major problem, but like any new gadget it took some time to learn where everything was and to get proficient.

Swiss master watchmaker Tissot has improved upon this functionality with their terrific touch-screen know-how, borrowed from their nifty T-Touch watch that I reviewed a few years ago. So now, instead of having to do a little dance with your fingers, you press one button to turn on the touch screen and then navigate easily by just touching the watch face.

The watch face's touch-screen has five sensitive areas that allow you to navigate up and down, backwards and forwards plus a “button” in the center to delve further into the text or subsections.

All told, the touch screen makes life with this smart watch a dream. Navigating on the High-T is simple and intuitive. And the touch-screen takes nothing away from the legibility: text is easy to read and the bright green backlight makes the watch very visible in the dark.  The internal battery lasts 3-4 days between recharges.

Tissot has also added a large touch of class to the whole smart watch concept.

My main complaint with the first round of smart watches was that they were ugly. Not just ugly: ugly, clunky and way too geeky looking for the idea to catch on.  The problem is endemic with the design, I think.

Tissot, however, has done an amazing job at making a smart watch look almost elegant. The watch is still clunky but it is designed to be large enough to pull the whole thing off elegantly.

Unfortunately, you have to pay for your thrills. Tissot’s High-T sports a suggested retail price $725 and will be sold at the kind of jewelers that deal in high-class Swiss watches.

On the upside, when you buy a High-T you get six months of MSN Direct service for free before you have to pay for the service. With all the other watches you currently get one month free when you choose the monthly service plan ($9.95/mo. plus taxes), or three months free with the yearly plan ($59 plus taxes). 

I’m hoping that Tissot’s parent company, Swatch, is planning on making other smart watches in the near future. It will be nice to see what else they can design to whet our appetites.

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