ESCATEC designs and manufactures luxury electronic watch with unique curved touchscreen

Showing on booth 430 in Hall 5 at Embedded World 2013, Nuremberg, Germany

(PresseBox) ( Heerbrugg/SG, )
A key differentiator of ESCATEC, the EMS innovator, is that the company can provide customers with a full service - from helping with the initial design, through R&D to prototyping and then on into high volume manufacture. An example of this is a recent contract for a luxury electronic Swiss watch with an innovative touchscreen - the HD3 Slyde -- that went from initial discussion to working prototype and into manufacture in little more than a year. It won the Couture Time Award for Innovation at the 2012 Couture trade show.

Daniel Pfeifer, Head of the Global R&D Team at ESCATEC's facility in Switzerland, explained, "The customer approached us at the concept stage, wanting to create a watch aimed at a gap in the market. Until now, electronic watches have been targeted at the mass market with nothing focussed at the luxury market. The customer's concept was to deliver the quality and cachet of a top-end, luxury Swiss watch combined with the amazing functionality and personalisation that electronics and an interactive touchscreen can provide."

Key was the creation of the unique, curved, capacitive touchscreen that enables intuitive interaction with the familiar swipe movements from smartphones and tablets. Beneath the screen is a custom-made, 240 by 232 pixel display that provides a variety of displays such as photographs, chronometer, video, virtual watch movements and calendar. The touchscreen was one of the biggest challenges as the customer wanted it to be curved so that the front and the back of the watch followed the curve of the wrist to give a sophisticated feel and look. The final design has several layers deposited onto sapphire glass and it took many months to find a supplier who could actually manufacture a curved touchsensor as nothing like this had ever been made before. The design of touchscreen and control electronics was one of the first projects that ESCATEC undertook as a recently appointed Atmel touchscreen design partner.

The watch has an ARM9 32-bit 400MHz processor, 1 GByte of flash memory and 64 MB of RAM on a single sided PCB with ball grid array components. It needs this high level of processing power as one of the design features of the watch is that it can display the working of a mechanical watch movement. Skeleton watches that show the delicate working of the gears and cogs have always been fascinating and this watch generates and displays virtual movements in real time. Software for a number of different virtual mechanical movements is shipped with the watch and new designs can be purchased in future and uploaded.

"A big part of the design challenge was to constrain the power consumption of the processor and display so that the average time between recharges is around ten days," added Daniel Pfeifer. "As the display is the main power drain when it is active, we invented a novel way of waking up the display only when it is touched by a finger, which is in the processes of being patented, and crucially does not need the capacitive matrix to be always on which is another big power drain.

"The watch had to be slim to be elegant," he added. "We got it down to 10mm thick which included designing a special USB-like interface for the watch that enables it to be recharged and have new software, pictures and video uploaded. The custom battery is specially shaped to fit into the curve of the watch and uses a state-of-the-art, lithium polymer design to achieve a capacity of 320 mAh within a volume of only 3mm by 30mm by 30mm. In fact, every part of the watch including the display is non-standard and we had to scour the world to find suppliers who could make the component parts for us and in low volumes. Some variations of the watch are bespoke one-offs to a very high end specification making this the most extreme example that we have ever done of high mix, low run."

Raphael Bertschy, CEO of Slyde Watch SA, said, "We went to ESCATEC with just a sketch and a new market niche of combining top-grade, Swiss watchmaking with the intuitive interface technologies of today to give a navigation system of unequalled simplicity and convenience. Their Design team worked through all the stages solving all the challenges really quickly and finding suppliers who could deliver solutions to really complex and unusual specs. We were particularly impressed by the way that they kept in close contact with us to ensure that there were no surprises. They even built a special facility to manufacture the watches in an ultra-clean environment that as also ultra-secure as these watches can retail for thousands of dollars depending on the specification right up to tens of thousands for a diamond finished one."

The HD3 Slyde watch is in the shops now with prices starting from around $5500. Further details can be found at www.slyde.ch/en/

For further information about ESCATEC, one of Europe's leading providers of contract design and manufacturing services: www.escatec.com
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