p>The Motion_Watch, from the MINI_Motion collection, has been one of the most anticipated pieces of MINI gear created yet. It was announced along with other MINI_Motion products back in the winter of 2003 but until this past week had yet to ship in numbers. Through the help of Fuseproject design studio and the primary designer of the MINI_Motion line. He is also one of the most sought after industrial designers in the world. Of course all this just seemed to create more anticipation for the watch and the entire line or MINI_Motion apparel and especially the watch.
One of the main principles that the watch's design is centered on is the ability for clear and easy reading in every circumstance, even while motoring. The digital readout of the watch actually turns 90 degrees to give you a more straightforward view while your hands are on the wheels. Changing the watch's perspective does require a push of the top right button however… it's not automatic despite what the pictures may have you believe. Nevertheless it's a neat trick that actually can be useful. Beyond the horizontal display watch also has two other viewing options; a large readout where the hour is on top and the minutes are at the bottom, and a smaller readout that features both day and seconds. I prefer the latter for daily use.
Another unique aspect is the design of the band. The color is more of a medium grey rather than charcoal or black that you might expect from the photos. The unique color and texture (or lack thereof) is due to it being created out of silicone. Inside the silicone is a steel core which is incredibly strong and not bendable. But the real interesting design aspect of the band is that it's only attached to one side of the watch's stainless steel body. The side of the band that is facing away from you is finished with a metal edge and a small lip of rubber for protection. This gives the body of the watch a floating look – unlike almost anything else out there. Unfortunately it also gives the watch reduced functionality when using the horizontal display view if worn on the right hand. But ultimately the steel core/silicone band and the watch manage to fit very well without a buckle of any sort. This is form and function working together towards an ultimate goal and it's quite impressive.
Despite the emphasis on design, the Motion_Watch watch has all the normal functionality you'd expect. Beyond two separate time settings there's also a stopwatch (with memory), timer, and alarm funcions.
The build quality, for the most part, is fantastic. There are some small imperfections in the silicone near the body that make it less than perfect but there's certainly nothing to complain about. The LCD screen is very clear and readable in direct sunlight but, as you would expect, useless in the dark. There is a blue/green backlight that stays on for three seconds if you hold the top right button. The lighting is adequate… but just.
Interestingly the watch is made in China while the manual is printed in Switzerland… go figure…
As a longtime fan of vintage digital watches I'm happy to report that the MINI_Motion watch hits the modern, jetson-esque look perfectly. It's got a design that reminds one of the easy-going, inspirational future that's been promised since the 50's. Now, where are those flying cars…
The general form of the watch is quite successful. For those familiar with Philip Starck's line of digital watches made for Fossil, several of the design ideas will be vaguely familiar. That being said there's really nothing like this watch, when looking at the sum of it's design, on the market. The design language doesn't rely on anything specifically associated with the new MINI, but more the spirit of the car. At it's core it's a simple design that is executed extraordinarily well.
The fit will surely be something talked about by all who try on the watch. The band's design gives the watch a very light yet secure fit. That being said this is a watch that won't work for all wrist types. Simply put, it seems to be built as a man's watch meant for a man's wrist. While someone with smaller wrists could wear it the fit would be fairly loose and not quite confidence inspiring in daily wear. It fits me rather well but at 6'2″ my wrists aren't exactly what one would call small.
Despite all it's design successes the watch does have a few things that keep it from getting a 5 out of 5. First the silicone band isn't the most comfortable thing when you happen to break into a slight sweat. The band repels all moisture so the surface gets moist rather quickly. While this isn't different than many other watches out there it does seem to show the moisture more readily. Finally, there's the issue of the backlight. While I would the current light completely adequate, I was hoping for something more interesting. White or even orange (matching the MINI's interior lighting) would have been preferred. Perhaps cost issues come into play when you're talking about different color backlighting but it certainly would have contributed to the look a bit.
The Motion_Watch, despite a few misses, succeeds as a brand extension and a great watch. It also succeeds as being a conversation piece and generally something reflective of the MINI spirit which so many of us love. In my mind it's one of the most impressive MINI accessories released yet.
The Motion_Watch from the MINI_Motion collection retails for $165 and can be found at www.Outmotoring.com or www.minimotionusa.com.