Update (3/18/05): Watch Report reader John Dale recently informed me that the Sand Digital is no longer available on Fossil’s site. Thanks, John!
When I first decided to review the Fossil Philippe Starck Collection, I initially associated the French designer with minimalism. As I did a little research, browsed his site, and read some interviews, I started to think of Philippe Starck as more of an avant-garde weirdo. Quotes from his site like “Everything has a Birth a Live a Dead” [sic], “We are God,” and “We are mutants” probably didn’t help my perception. Ultimately, however, I decided the only fair way to judge Philippe Starck would be from his work of which there is certainly no shortage. Starck has designed everything from baby bottles to toilets to lemon squeezers to buildings to an entire street block. If something can be done differently (and someone is willing to pay for it), Starck seems to be happy to do it. And I must admit, whether he’s an avant-garde weirdo or not, I like his work. Most of it isn’t as out there as his bizarre photographs and philosophies might have you believe, but it’s definitely unique enough to be interesting. In other words, I guess you could say that in the end, Starck won me over. And there was one quote I uncovered on his site which I certainly can identify with: “From Technology to Love.”
I found Fossil’s Philippe Starck collection of digital watches to be entirely consistent with my impression of the rest of Starck’s work: unique, minimal, functional, weird, and fun. All the watches in the collection are relatively simple, affordable, and no doubt serve as both time and conversation pieces.
The Dish Digital
According to Fossil’s website, the Dish Digital “is based on reinterpreting the analog in a digital format.” That’s an artsy-fartsy way of saying that it’s a digital watch with an analog LCD display. The dial of the Dish Digital is divided up into two sets of 720 (60 minutes x 12 hours) LCD bars arranged in two rings, one inside the other. For the hour hand, only an inner LCD bar is lit, and for the longer minute hand, both an inner and outer LCD bar are lit. Seconds are marked by an LCD dot going around the parameter of the dial which shows the full number every five seconds (. . . . 05 . . . . 10, etc.). The date is displayed at the 6 o’clock position, and there are two buttons used for setting the watch built into the rubber strap.
The Dish Digital is a simple, unusual, and possibly even elegant digital watch. My only complaint is that it is not easy to read. If you look at it at too much of an angle, it’s actually impossible to read, and if you look at it straight on, it’s readable, but faint. I reviewed the orange one with the gray dial, so it might be that the black one with the while dial has more contrast, but it will still not be readable at an angle (the unfortunate nature of LCDs). This isn’t so much a problem as it is a warning. Don’t get the Dish Digital, or any of the Philippe Starck watches, if you’re looking for a good sports training watch, or if you otherwise need to be able to check the time with a quick glance. Philippe Starck watches are for people for whom fashion and uniqueness is more important than readability and convenience.
Retail for the Dish Digital is $95.
The Sand Digital
The Sand Digital is the most complex of the three Philippe Starck watches I reviewed. Features include:
- Two time zones.
- 12 or 24 hour time.
- Day and date.
- Countdown timer.
- Two daily alarms.
The Sand Digital has a very unconventional interface. You have your hour on the left, minutes on the upper right, and sort of everything else on the lower right. By everything else, I mean mode indicator, date, timer, chronograph, alarms, etc. It’s a lot to fit into that small, crowded region which affects the usability of the watch. The sample watches I was sent didn’t come with any instructions, so I struggled with the Sand Digital for a while before completely figuring it out. Once you get the hang of it, it isn’t bad, although I’m guessing that if you don’t use all the different functions on a fairly regular basis, it’s likely that you will forget how.
The hours and minutes of the watch are fairly readable, which I like. The other functions in the lower right-hand corner of the watch are less readable, but considering the fact that 99.9% of the time, you just want to check the time, I think that’s perfectly acceptable. The buttons and some of the circuitry of the watch are located in the strap rather than in the case which keeps the case small and sleek. I actually really like the idea of putting the buttons in the strap because you don’t have to worry about them being accidentally pushed. The case naturally protects them from jacket cuffs, etc., but still leaves them accessible to your fingertips. And moving them out of the case gives the watch a simple, minimalist feel even though it contains a good amount of functionality.
If you are attracted to the Philippe Starck collection, but you need all the functionality of a standard digital watch, then the Sand Digital is probably the right choice. It’s a nice looking, light-weight, functional digital timepiece. Just be prepared to tackle a somewhat non-intuitive interface.
Retail for the Sand Digital is $95.
The L.E.D. Digital
I usually don’t play favorites, but the LED Digital is my favorite in the collection which is ironic because it has the fewest features and is the least convenient and readable. It basically does nothing but tell you the time and the date, and it will only do that if you hold down the upper left-hand button for two seconds. That means no glancing at this watch to check the time while your hands are full. I like it anyway because it is the most unique, and in my opinion, the coolest looking. It was also the easiest watch I’ve ever photographed since it doesn’t have a crystal to create glare.
As Philippe Starck himself might say, the LED Digital is a modern interpretation of the old Japanese LED digital watches of the 70’s that are now going for thousands of dollars on eBay. (LED, or light-emitting diode, is not to be confused with LCD, or liquid crystal display.) What I like most about it is that there is no separation between the strap and the case. In fact, there really isn’t a case. Just a continuous strap with 52 “light pipes” protruding through the polyurethane strap which form numbers when lit. The numbers are nice and bright, and readable even in direct sunlight. In fact, I found the watch to be much more readable than even the image to the right implies. The only problem is that you have to hold down a button to see the time at all (press the button again to see the date), just like the old Pulsar LEDs. But just think how long your battery will last!
If you’re looking for a unique digital watch that is more cool than practical, and you don’t need features like alarms, timers, chronographs, etc., then check out the Philippe Starck LED Digital. If all you need is to be able to check the time occasionally, and you want to do it in a funky, retro way, then you can’t go wrong with one of these.
Retail of the LED Digital is $125.
All three of these watches have stainless steel casebacks and are water resistant to 165 feet (50 meters). All Philippe Starck watches come in clear museum display cases, and have 11 year warranties.
- Men’s Philippe Starck Collection.
- Women’s Philippe Starck Collection.
- The official Philippe Starck website.
By Christian Cantrell