LAS VEGAS — Android Wear watches aren’t usually the prettiest to look at, with their oversized frames and chunky bodies. But big-name fashion designers are working to make those unattractive smartwatches relics of the past. Kate Spade is the latest high-end brand to make a touchscreen smartwatch, and it’s the best-looking of the bunch.
Kate Spade is a well-known New York-based women’s brand, beloved by stylish ladies for its classic handbags and whimsical accessories. (Think ladybug earrings and leopard print shoes.) Its first smartwatches bring that playful aesthetic to the world of Android Wear devices, which tend to be utilitarian, and lean masculine in both size and design.
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Kate Spade’s lineup features three touchscreen watches: a $295 rose gold model with a blush-toned leather band, a $295 gold model with a black leather band, and a $325 rose gold version with a rose gold link bracelet. All three sport 1.19-inch round AMOLED displays with a scalloped trim. The watches are 42mm in diameter, which is larger than the 36mm base-model Apple Watch, but smaller than most Android Wear watches. Kate Spade’s devices will work with both iOS and Android. I saw all three at CES, and they are pretty damn cute.
The brand wanted to add its signature spin on the smartwatch, which comes in the form of a watch app called Choose Your Look. The app customizes your watch face to your outfit, based on four prompts: time of day, jewelry color, handbag color and outfit color. Other smartwatch makers have customizable watch faces, too, but Kate Spade’s approach targets the woman who cares about personal style.
Kate Spade's smartwatches also offer animated watch faces, which Apple and Samsung also have in their smartwatches. The Kate Spade versions feature classic Kate Spade motifs, such as a moving yellow taxicab, a daisy whose petals fall as you reach your daily activity goal and a “leading lady” who winks when you receive a notification.
We’ve seen plenty of rugged, sporty smartwatches on the market, but small and stylish models designed for women are still tough to find. I tried on the rose gold model with the blush leather band, and loved how it fit on my small wrist, even though it’s larger than my 36mm Apple Watch. I have to confess that I’m basically Kate Spade’s target demographic — a professional creative who lives in New York, and already has a few Kate Spade items in her closet — but I’m not sure a more fashionable take on the smartwatch will tempt more women to buy one. Still, smartwatch makers are finally taking note of an underserved market, and the more options there are, the better.
Stay tuned for a deeper review of Kate Spade’s smartwatches before they hit store shelves in February.
Kate Spade is owned by Fossil, which is showcasing a slew of new smartwatches for spring. Fossil-owned Skagen is also releasing its first touchscreen smartwatch this month. Instead of targeting New York sophisticates, the company is focused on Danish minimalism with the Falster: a $275 device that capitalizes on the ongoing hygge trend. The watch itself is simple, with clean lines and muted colors, so it won’t make a bold statement like Kate Spade’s offerings. However, you’ll get battery-efficient watch faces, smartphone notifications and voice assistance. The Falster goes on sale this month.