Culture

The new TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Tourbillon Nanograph is a lot of buzzwords in a beautiful package

Posted by | carrera, chronograph, Clocks, Culture, Gadgets, luxury brands, tag heuer, TC, time, tourbillon, watches | No Comments

Almost every word in the name of TAG Heuer’s new watch – the Carrera Calibre Heuer 02T Tourbillon Nanograph – is important. Carrera connects it to TAG’s long history of chronographs while Calibre suggests a handmade watch made with some technical prowess. Tourbillon means you can expect this thing to cost more than a car (about $25,000 when it goes on sale) and Nanograph suggests that this thing is doing something quite unique. And it is.

TAG Heuer loves experimenting with new materials and the Nanograph features a new hairspring design that is unique to TAG. The hairspring, which is made of carbon-composite, is lightweight and unaffected by gravity or shock. It also offers “perfect concentric oscillations” and is completely antimagnetic. Couple that with the rotating tourbillon and the suggestion is that this watch will remain accurate under all sorts of pressure.

Further, rest of the movement includes carbon fiber and aluminum which reduces the effects of temperature and looks pretty darn cool. It doesn’t do much – it basically shows elapsed time – but it does it in a decidedly sexy way.

“This new interpretation of the TAG Heuer Carrera with its advanced in-house technology underscores our legacy in achieving watchmaking excellence and proves that we remain true to our values of performance, disruption and avant-garde,” said TAG CEO Stéphane Bianchi.

It is quite fascinating to note the range materials that went into this little mechanical marvel are surprisingly new. Not many manufacturers are using carbon fiber in this way and the fact that it’s going into a chronograph mechanical watch for less than $100,000 is surprising. Now you just have to convince yourself to spend $25,000 on a watch.

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See you tomorrow in Las Vegas

Posted by | Consumer Electronics Show, Culture, Gadgets, Las Vegas, meetup, TC, WeWork | No Comments

We will be holding a small event during CES in Las Vegas and we want to see you! We’re looking to meet some cool hardware and crypto startups, so the good folks at Work In Progress have opened up their space to us and 200 of you all to hold a meetup and pitch-off.

We’ll have some pizza and beer and we can hit a bar after the event for some one on one time with the TC folks.

The event will be held at Work In Progress, 317 South 6th Street on Wednesday, January 9, 2019 between 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM PST.

The meetup is sold out but please attend if you’ve picked up a ticket. Thanks!

See you in Vegas!

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A startup’s guide to CES

Posted by | Airbnb, burning man, Consumer Electronics Show, Culture, events, Gadgets, Las Vegas, TC, Walgreens | No Comments

The Consumer Electronics Show, like Burning Man, is a massive event in the middle of the desert. Also like Burning Man it is populated by some of the greatest minds in technology. But, unlike Burning Man, these people are all dressed and only a few of them are on hard psychotropic drugs. Also CES is mostly inside.

Here are some tips and tricks I’ve collected over a long career spent staying in awful hotels and wandering around massive conference halls full of things that won’t be released for another year. Hopefully they can be of some use.

Why should you go?

CES is not about innovation. It is about networking with potential buyers. The show is massive and it is popular primarily because it is in Las Vegas, a city so nice they made the movie Casino about it. But the days of you and your brother being dragged out into the corn and beaten to death are gone and what’s left is an adult playground of 24-hour craps and bad drinks.

You are not going to CES to drink and gamble, however. As a startup you are going there to find customers or get press. If you have the hustle and the will you can easily meet hundreds of potential buyers for your technology, including some big names who usually buy massive booths to show off their “innovative” systems. When you go, bypass the armed booth guards who stand at the front directing traffic and go talk to the most bored person at the booth. This is usually some middle manager who was wrangled into telling people about his company’s most boring innovation. Talk to him or her like a human being, offer to take them out for a coffee, do whatever it takes to get a warm lead inside that massive company. Repeat this hundreds of times.

CES costs $300 and the tickets to LV and the hotel will cost far more. Be sure you’re not cash-poor before you go. This isn’t a Hail Mary for your startup, it’s a step along the way.

If you don’t think you can pull off this sort of social engineering I describe, please don’t go to CES, or instead send the most personable member of the team. It’s too big and there are already enough nervous nerds walking around.

You haven’t planned yet?

So you’ve decided to go. Do you have tickets? A hotel? At least an Airbnb? It’s pretty much too late right now to get any of those things in time for January 8th, but you can try.

Further, if you have a friend who lives there, go stay with them. The hotels gouge you during this week. Check out the Excalibur, arguably one of the worst on the strip. Right now, you can stay at this illustrious medieval-themed hotel for $25:

Need a smoke-smelling room abutting a flying buttress topped with an animatronic Merlin around January 9? Fear not, my liege!

The best time to book for CES is a year before CES. The second best time is never.

Maybe you’re going to buy a booth. I wouldn’t, but go ahead and give it a try. I like what my friend Tommy here did. Instead of going through one of the countless staffing agencies in Las Vegas he put out a general call for help and he got plenty of responses. Lots of people would be willing to go to Las Vegas to help out for not much cash.

Do everything in your power to stay as close to the Convention Center or Sands (the hall with all the startups) as possible. It is a living hell trying to get around Las Vegas and you’ll thank me later for every hour in a cab line you save for yourself.

Go to where the action is

If you are trying to get press for your product launch then you came to the wrong place. First, if you’re going to CES to launch then you MUST LAUNCH AT CES. I’ve seen too many idiotic startups who flew in, paid for everything and then told the world they’d launch in like two months or whenever Sven back at the main office in Oslo was done putting the finishing touches on the device driver. If you’re not ready to ship don’t go.

Do not spam journos about your product unless you know them. Your emails will fall into a black hole.

Further, instead of getting a booth at the show I recommend getting a booth at Showstoppers or Digital Experience. The events cost about $8,000 for a booth and are approximately the same. They are held before the main event and they’re where all the journalists go to get free prime rib and ignore you. It’s also where all of the small market journalists and the weird freelancers who wear fishing vests and live in Scranton wander around, so be ready to do a little target acquisition.

Want my advice? Put one person at your booth who can tell your story in two minutes exactly. That person must tell that story as many times as possible and give the odd journalist who will stand there asking dumb questions for an hour the stiff arm whenever someone else comes up. Maximize your message dispersal. Also, if you have product, then have about 20 pieces there ready to give away to Engadget, Gizmodo, The New York Times, The Verge and the like. Don’t give anything to me if I see you. I don’t want that crap in my suitcase.

Now for the ingenious part. Find the most popular food item at the buffets and stand next to it. When a hungry journo comes up to grab a spaghetti taco or whatever, scope out their badge and offer to walk them over to your booth. They’ll harrumph a little but unless they are one of the countless millennial reporters who believe they have to live-blog these events they have nothing else to do that night except get drunk on gin and tonics. Drag them over to your booth and give them the two-minute pitch. They’ll be so busy eating they won’t be able to ask questions. Write down their email address — don’t ask them for a card — and give them yours. Then email the heck out of them for the next few days to remind them about your launch.

Further, never rent a suite and invite journos to come to you. They have enough trouble getting out of bed, let alone getting a cab to your dumb room. If a journo wants to meet, you MUST go to them. Don’t make them come to you.

Manage expectations

Like Burning Man, CES is the worst show on the planet held in one of the most unforgiving habitats known to man. As long as you accept these two points you will be fine. You will not “win” CES. At best, CES will give you a kick in the pants in regard to your competition and actual value to the world. Want to know if you have customer fit? Go to CES and meet your customers. Want to see if journalists care about your idea? Pitch them when they are fat and sassy at CES and feeling powerful. That experience will humble even the biggest ego.

Remember: The world is a cold, uncaring place and this is doubly true at CES.

Be careful with PR people

See that animated GIF above? That’s how I manage my CES email. I scroll through the subject lines, look for people I know, then select all unread and delete them. One of the worst things about CES is that the letters “CES” show up in multiple words and, barring writing a regular expression, it is very difficult to filter them out; 99 percent of your CES emails will go unread.

So should you hire a PR person? Yes and no. If you hire them to just send emails then you might as well burn your money. However, if that PR person can lead you around the show and introduce you to folks who can help you get your story out then it might be worth it. Sadly, there is no way to tell how incompetent a PR person is until you get on the ground with them. I know a few I can recommend. Email me. Otherwise be very careful.

Don’t go

Look, CES sucks. I’m not going to lie to you. It’s too big, everyone there is distracted by potential blackjack winnings, and trying to get noticed or launch at CES is akin to holding a poetry reading in the middle of a rock concert: nobody is paying attention and you actually may annoy more people than you reach. It’s your call whether or not you want to give it a try, but be ready to hustle. Besides, there’s always next year.

Bonus Tip: Buy a humidifier

I learned this trick from Brian Lam, formerly of Gizmodo: when you land go to Walgreens and buy a very cheap humidifier. Put it in your room and leave it on all day. Las Vegas air is very dry and you’re almost guaranteed to get chapped lips and a cough if you don’t have at least one spot where it doesn’t feel like you’re on the surface of Mars.

This was us at CES 2008 or so. We were such sweet summer children.

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The Tissot Seastar 1000 is a low-cost and high-quality Swiss diver

Posted by | Bank, Clothing, Culture, Diver, eta, Fashion, Gadgets, luxury brands, omega watches, seastar, seiko, swatch, swatch group, tag heuer, TC, watches | No Comments

In the pantheon of watches there are a few that stand out. Looking for your first automatic watch? Pick up a Seiko Orange Monster. Looking for a piece with a little history? The Omega Speedmaster is your man. Looking for an entry-level Swiss diver that won’t break the bank? Tissot’s Seastar has always had you covered.

The latest version of the Seastar is an interesting catch. A few years ago – circa 2010 – the pieces were all black with bold hands and a more staid case style. Now Tissot, a Swatch Group brand, has turned the Seastar into a chunkier diver with massive bar hands and case that looks like a steel sandwich.

The $695 Seastar 1000 contains a Powermatic 80/ETA C07.111 movement with an eighty hour power reserve which means the watch contains a massive mainspring that keeps things going for most of three days without winding. The Seastar is also water resistant to 1000 feet thanks to a huge screw down crown and thick casing. The new model has an exhibition back where you can see the rotor spinning over and balance wheel. The watch also has a ceramic bezel, a fairly top-of-the-line feature in an entry level watch.

Tissot has a long and interesting history. Best known for their high-tech T-Touch watches which had touchable crystals, allowing you to activate a compass, barometer, or altimeter with a single tap, the mechanical pieces have always seemed like an afterthought. The company also produces the classic Tissot Le Locle as well as a chronograph that I absolutely loved, the T-Navigator, but that has been discontinued. The Seastar, then, is one of the few mechanical pieces they sell and at sub-$1,000 prices you’re basically getting a Swiss watch with solid power reserve and great looks.

Watch folks I’ve talked to over the past few months see a distinct upturn in the Swiss watch market. Their belief that the Apple Watch is driving sales of mechanical watches seems to be coming true, even if it means cheaper fashion watches are being decimated. Tissot sits in that sweet spot between luxury and fashion, a spot that also contains Tag Heuer and Longines. Ultimately this is an entry level watch for the beginning collector but it’s a beautiful and beefy piece and worth a look.

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Grand Seiko is an homage to watchmaking’s past

Posted by | Culture, Gadgets, luxury brands, rolex, seiko, TC, time, watches | No Comments

The 1960s were a beautiful time for watches. Horology was in its prime and the great names we know and love today – Rolex, Omega, Cartier – were just one of many watchmakers churning out commodity products to a world that needed to tell the time. Their watches – simple, elegant, and mechanically complex – were the ultimate in mechanical efficiency and design and no one did it quite as well as Seiko. This mechanical golden age ended in the late 1970s with the rise of the quartz watch but Seiko is resurrecting it with their Grand Seiko line of luxury pieces.

Grand Seiko is special for a few reasons. First, it’s Seiko’s haute horlogerie skunkworks, allowing the company to experiment with all the fancy materials and techniques that Swiss watchmakers have worked with for years. The watches are made of precious metals and feature Seiko Hi-Beat movements. These watches “vibrate” 36,000 times an hour or ten times a second. This means that the balance wheel inside the watch is moving back and forth far faster than, say, an Omega Co-Axial 8500/1 series which is clocked at 25,200 vibrations per hour. What this means in practice is that the seconds hand moves with an almost uncanny smoothness.

The rest of the watch I tested, the euphoniously-named SBGH263G, is based on a piece from 1968 that came from Seiko’s mechanical hey-day. The $6,200 watch has a 39mm case and, according to Seiko, is style for maximum elegance. They write:

The dial has elegant and easy-to-see Arabic numeral for the hour mark. The concept color “Shironeri” is a reflection of Japanese tradition. The color and texture of the dial come from the glossy white silk of the outfit worn by the bride in a Japanese wedding. It symbolizes purity and innocence.

This watch is a formal piece for wearing, presumably, to your own wedding. That said, it’s also very reminiscent of 1960s style watches. The size, case shape, and polished hands and numerals all hearken back to a simpler time in watchmaking when everything didn’t have to look like a robot’s goiter or a pie plate.

It is quite small and if you’re used to Panerais or Nixons you’ll definitely notice a grandpa vibe about this piece. Because it is not very complex – that is it does not have any real complications like a stopwatch – it is very pricey. However, knowing Grand Seiko’s dedication to a very lost art of non-Swiss horology, it’s well worth a look.

I’ve been following Grand Seiko for years now and the quality and care the company has been putting into these watches is palpable. This watch is no commodity product. The case is polished to a high sheen and everything – from the screws to the beautiful domed sapphire crystal – is put together with great care. Seiko also makes lower end pieces – my favorite is the Orange Monster – but this is far above that in terms of build quality and price.

Pieces like this Grand Seiko remind us that, before Apple Watches and Fitbits, there was an entire universe of truly striking timepieces made for the absolutely sole purpose of telling the time. I love pieces like this one because they are no frills and yet they are full of frills. The watch is as simple as can be – three hands and a date window without any lume or extraneous buttons – and yet it shows amazing technical skill. It is expensive but this is a handmade watch by a storied manufacturer and it’s well worth the price of admission if you’re a lover of the elegantly antiquated.

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Bag Week 2018: Why I still love the Peak Design Everyday Backpack

Posted by | bag week, Bag Week 2018, bags, Culture, Disney, equipment, Gadgets, luggage, metal, Peak Design, TC, technology | No Comments

Welcome to Bag Week 2018. Every year your faithful friends at TechCrunch spend an entire week looking at bags. Why? Because bags — often ignored but full of our important electronics — are the outward representations of our techie styles, and we put far too little thought into where we keep our most prized possessions.

A few months back I declared the Peak Design Everyday Backpack the best thing at CES 2018. It was a silly comment since the bag was released a couple of years back but it was new to me. I had purchased the bag from Best Buy a few days prior and was in love with the bag and had to tell the world. I’m happy to report that after carrying the bag around several more conferences and a family trip to Disney World, I’m comfortable declaring it the best backpack I’ve ever used.

The company recently released a black version and sent me one to test. It looks mean. It’s the backpack Darth Vader would carry if he needed to tout around a full frame DSLR, a couple of lenses and a MacBook Pro.

The bag’s main clasp is wonderful. It’s designed in such a way that the wearer can quickly open and securely close it. Just pull down and away to open the bag. To close it, pull down so the top is tight, place the clasp next to the metal rungs and let go. Magnets hold the clasp next to the bag and the tension on the top causes the clasp to find the next available rung. Try it and you’ll love it. I do.

Peak Design equipped the bag with solid hardware. All the clasps are metal and the zippers are durable. I don’t think there’s plastic anywhere on the bag.

Like I said several months ago, the bag is best described as smart and solid. It’s a confident design with just enough pockets and storage options. The bag features one, large pocket that makes up most of the bag. Foldable dividers allow the wearer to customize the bag as needed. And quickly, too. These dividers fold in several ways, allowing the bag to hold, say, a large telephoto lens or several smaller lens.

The bag is packed full of surprises, too. Straps are hidden throughout allowing it to hold a surprising amount of items even a drone.

Small packing cubes make the Peak Design Everyday Backpack a storage cabinet. This is my bag while traveling overseas.

Peak Design positions this bag as a camera bag, but it can be so much more with some little bags. I use these and they fit perfectly in both the 20L and 30L bag. It lets me keep things organized and separated in a way that I’ve haven’t found possible in other bags. Peak Design should look at making a series of these bags. I would be all over them if they did.

The bag I bought back before CES was the 20L. It’s the smallest option though far from small. My 15-inch MacBook Pro squeezes into the laptop compartment and the bag has yet to feel too small even when it’s holding a camera, a couple of books and a travel pillow.

The new black bag looks amazing but it seems to show scuffs and dirt more than my grey one. That’s a shame, too. I throw my bags around and expect a lot out of them. This black bag looks more dirty after one oversea trip than my grey one does after six months of use.

Just like I said back at CES, I’m not going to run through all the details of this bag. A few more are worth calling out: The sternum strap is fantastic. It uses clips without moving parts so it should last a lifetime. The shoulder straps are attached to the bag with a rivet that allows the straps to swivel as needed — it’s a smart advancement in the design of a backpack. And inside the laptop sleeve is a small pocket that is absolutely perfect to hold a Traveler’s Notebook and a pen.

As backpacks go, the Peak Design Everyday Backpack costs more than most. The smaller 20L is $260 and the 30L is $290. To me, the higher price is justified and if there’s a backpack worth the extra cost, it’s this one. I highly recommend this bag.


Bag design with Peak Design

Folks, it’s Bag Week! Tito Hamze visits Peak Design’s HQ in San Francisco to learn about the company and how they create their bags. From humble beginnings starting with a clip to hold your camera to a full-fledged accessory company, this outfit is growing and creating quality products — all while never having taken any traditional VC funding.

bag week 2018

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Bag Week 2018: The Nomadic NF-02 keeps everything in its right place

Posted by | BackPack, Bag Week 2018, bags, Culture, equipment, Gadgets, luggage, nomadic, TC, technology, toto, United States, walker | No Comments

Nomadic, a Japanese brand sold by JetPens in the US, makes some of my favorite bags and backpacks. The Wise Walker Toto was an amazing little bag and I’ve always enjoyed the size, materials, and design. The $89 Nomadic NF-02 is no different.

The best thing about this 15×7 inch backpack is the compact size and internal pouches. The Nomadic can hold multiple pens, notebooks, and accessories, all stuck in their own little cubbies, and you can fit a laptop and a few books in the main compartment. This is, to be clear, not a “school” backpack. It’s quite compact and I doubt it would be very comfortable with a much more than a pair of textbooks and a heavier laptop. It’s definitely a great travel sack, however, and excellent for the trip from home to the office.

The bag comes in a few colors including turquoise and navy and there is a small hidden pouch for important papers and passports. There is a reflective strip on the body and it is water-repellent so it will keep your gear dry.

Again, my favorite part of this bag are the multiple little pockets and spaces. It’s an organizer’s dream and features so many little spots to hide pens and other gear that it could also make an excellent tourist pack. It is small enough for easy transport but holds almost anything you can throw at it.

Nomadic is a solid backpack. It’s small, light, and still holds up to abuse. I’m a big fan of the entire Nomadic line and it’s great to see this piece available in the US. It’s well worth a look if you’re looking for a compact carrier for your laptop, accessories, and notebooks.

bag week 2018

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New system connects your mind to a machine to help stop mistakes

Posted by | artificial intelligence, baxter, Culture, Gadgets, industrial robot, MIT, robot, robotics, TC | No Comments

How do you tell your robot not do something that could be catastrophic? You could give it a verbal or programmatic command or you could have it watch your brain for signs of distress and have it stop itself. That’s what researchers at MIT’s robotics research lab have done with a system that is wired to your brain and tells robots how to do their job.

The initial system is fairly simple. A scalp EEG and EMG system is connected to a Baxter work robot and lets a human wave or gesture when the robot is doing something that it shouldn’t be doing. For example, the robot could regularly do a task – drilling holes, for example – but when it approaches an unfamiliar scenario the human can gesture at the task that should be done.

“By looking at both muscle and brain signals, we can start to pick up on a person’s natural gestures along with their snap decisions about whether something is going wrong,” said PhD candidate Joseph DelPreto. “This helps make communicating with a robot more like communicating with another person.”

Because the system uses nuances like gestures and emotional reactions you can train robots to interact with humans with disabilities and even prevent accidents by catching concern or alarm before it is communicated verbally. This lets workers stop a robot before it damages something and even help the robot understand slight changes to its tasks before it begins.

In their tests the team trained Baxter to drill holes in an airplane fuselage. The task changed occasionally and a human standing nearby was able to gesture to the robot to change position before it drilled, essentially training it to do new tasks in the midst of its current task. Further, there was no actual programming involved on the human’s part, just a suggestion that the robot move the drill left or right on the fuselage. The most important thing? Humans don’t have to think in a special way or train themselves to interact with the machine.

“What’s great about this approach is that there’s no need to train users to think in a prescribed way,” said DelPreto. “The machine adapts to you, and not the other way around.”

The team will present their findings at the Robotics: Science and Systems (RSS) conference.

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Researchers create a real cloaking device

Posted by | cloaking, Culture, fiction, Gadgets, Physics, TC | No Comments

Researcher Amanda D. Hanford at Pennsylvania State University has created a real cloaking device that can route sound waves around an object, making it invisible to some sensing techniques.

From the report:

Hanford and her team set out to engineer a metamaterial that can allow the sound waves to bend around the object as if it were not there. Metamaterials commonly exhibit extraordinary properties not found in nature, like negative density. To work, the unit cell — the smallest component of the metamaterial — must be smaller than the acoustic wavelength in the study.

Hanford created an acoustic metamaterial that deflected sound waves under water, a difficult feat. In testing she and the team were able to place the material in water and measure sound waves pointed at it. The resulting echoes in the water suggested that the sound waves did not bounce off or around the material. This means the new material would be invisible to sonar.

Obviously this technology is still in its early stages and the material does not make the objects invisible but just very hard to detect in underwater situations. However, the fact ship captains could soon yell “Activate the cloaking device” as evil, laser-toting dolphins appear on the horizon should give everyone a bit of cheer.

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Bell & Ross creates a transparent tourbillon

Posted by | bell & ross, breguet, Clocks, Culture, economy, Gadgets, honda, luxury brands, TC, time, tourbillon, watch | No Comments

It’s spring and that means it’s time for Basel, the definitive international watch show. Around this time every year all of your favorite brands – and brands you’ve never heard of – launch unique timepieces that cost more than a few dozen Honda Accords and look like something made by Doctor Manhattan during one of his less melancholy moments.

Today’s wild timepiece comes to use from Bell & Ross, makers of big square watches that look like aircraft dials. This new piece, called the BR-X1-Skeleton-Tourbillon-Sapphire, maintains the traditional B&R shape but is almost completely clear with a case made of sapphire and held together by pins and screws. The movement, which comes in three colors, is a complete hand-wound tourbillon system and is beautifully visible from all angles.

A tourbillon, for the uninitiated, is a system for rotating the watch’s balance wheel 360 degrees. This system, originally created by Breguet, ensured that a watch didn’t slow down when subjected to odd gravitational forces. Now, however, it’s a wildly expensive conversation starter.

This is a beautiful update to B&R’s original see-through watch and, while the vast majority of us will never own something like this, it’s nice to know that someone still cares about horological complexity paired with wild design. How much does it cost to own the watch equivalent of Wonder Woman’s Invisible Jet? About $500,000. The piece, for those interested in picking one up, will be available online.

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