A ‘Wellness Wearable’ on Your Wrist – The New York Times
Leonor Anthony always fell ill during the second week of December. Emerging from the deluge of billionaires, hand-rolled cigars and champagne fountains otherwise known as Art Basel Miami, “I know I’m going to be horizontal for a least a week or two because it’s just too much,” the multidisciplinary artist and activist said.
One year it was sheer exhaustion; in another, a bad cough that got worse. For the past seven years, Ms. Anthony was stuck in the same cycle.
Every year, that is, but this past one. “In 2019, the only difference was a watch,” she said.
On her left wrist, Ms. Anthony, 53, now wears a black Teslar Re-Balance T-2 with a diamond-studded dial. Just before the art fair, Enrico Margaritelli, Teslar’s chief executive, had reached out to her via Instagram and, when they met, he gave her the $995 timepiece.
“It is a watch, yes,” said Paolo Marai, president and chief executive of Teslar’s owner, the Timex Group Luxury Division, “but we like to talk about the wellness. The watch category is not a wellness product, and that’s what we are making. Something that helps reduce some of the negative effects of pollution and stress.”
Over the last two decades, the World Health Organization and its members have researched the health effects of exposure to the electromagnetic output of everything from X-rays to microwaves, including a condition called electromagnetic hypersensitivity.
The condition is not recognized by the medical establishment, but the W.H.O. says symptoms include stress, headaches, lack of sleep, dizziness and hormonal imbalances.
Teslar said its product contained a Swiss-made quartz movement that powered the timekeeping, but also functioned in tandem with a proprietary chip that created a signal mimicking the Earth’s natural frequency. And that signal is “carried throughout the body, helping to strengthen the wearer’s electromagnetic field,” Mr. Marai said. And the result was “less stress and sleeping better.”
Ms. Anthony is a believer. “I’ve always loved watches, but since Enrico gave me my Teslar, all my other 20 watches haven’t moved from their cases,” she said. “I feel really relaxed — and maybe it’s completely mental, but it’s calming to know I have this watch on. I plan on buying another.”
Spending on wellness products and experiences has been growing worldwide, with the total exceeding $4.4 trillion in 2019, according to the Global Wellness Institute, a nonprofit research and education organization.
Last summer Teslar introduced its first men’s and women’s collections through Timex, with prices from $595 to $1,195.
While Mr. Marai would not disclose sales, he noted that the watches are sold on the company’s website as well as in stores in 11 countries.
Not exactly fitness trackers but more than conventional wristwatches, such wellness wearables — each with an analog dial and hands — come equipped with proprietary technologies. And each manufacturer, and the products’ fans, say the timepieces combat stress and activate the wearer’s immune system.
“It’s very simple,” said Andrea Larsen, 72, a licensed nutritional consultant in Florida who has been wearing a Philip Stein watch since 2005. “I had very bad migraine headaches, and I put a Philip Stein watch on and they got less and less until they were no longer an issue at all.”
She owns more than two dozen. “I bought one, and then I got hooked. People are skeptical, but I just feel better, more balanced and grounded,” Ms. Larsen said. “I’ve bought watches for every person in my family.”
Philip Stein, a Miami-based watch company owned by the couple Will and Rina Stein, inserts what it calls a Natural Frequency Technology disk into all its timepieces.
That disk “acts like an antenna, harnessing and channeling the natural frequencies that are beneficial to the human body,” Mr. Stein said. “Earth has a frequency that we as human beings are in sync with. The problem is that we are also bombarded by an increasing number of man-made frequencies from today’s technology.”
The company said that, since it was founded in 2003, it had sold close to one million watches.
Its men’s and women’s collections include chronographs, dual time-zone and date displays and skeletonized designs along with diamond pavé cases and Italian calf straps.
Mr. Stein sources Swiss quartz and Japanese mechanical movements from companies that include Citizen and Ronda. Most are water-resistant to 50 meters and cost $250 to $2,600.
“Our watch design is quite unique,” Mr. Stein said, adding, “someone standing 20 feet away will recognize your watch as a Philip Stein, versus a brand that’s a little more mainstream.”
To debunk its critics, the company worked with Heather Hausenblas, a professor of kinesiology at Jacksonville University’s Brooks Rehabilitation College of Healthcare Sciences in Florida, to conduct and then publish a study that examined what it called “Natural Frequency Technology.”
Dr. Hausenblas said that the four-week study used a double-blind method: Neither the participants nor those conducting the experiment knew who was wearing the Stein product and who was wearing a dummy, or placebo, watch. “The Jacksonville University team found an extremely clear case in which Natural Frequency Technology was statistically shown to significantly improve mood, stress, food cravings and cognitive function,” she wrote in an email,
There’s a wellness benefit inside a beautiful watch, Mr. Stein said. “That’s why we, as a watch company, are still in demand.”
Garmin, known for its GPS navigation units and smartwatches, took a different approach to well-being and timepieces. The company said it reverse-engineered the idea of an analog-looking watch to create the Vivomove, which debuted in 2016.
“We decided to experiment,” said Phil McClendon, Garmin’s lead product manager for consumer wearables. “We started with digital and knew we had the technical chops to make an analog watch.”
On first glance, the dial, bezel and hands of the Vivomove resemble a traditional wristwatch. But the timepiece also monitors the wearer’s energy, hydration levels and stress, along with heart rate and steps.
Garmin calls it a fashion hybrid smartwatch.
Last September it expanded the line with the Luxe, Style 3 and 3S models, and now offers 16 styles, including rose or gold stainless steel, graphite or silver aluminum cases, leather, silicone and woven nylon bands, and three sizes.
With the expansion, Garmin also introduced two-layer Amoled, or active-matrix organic light-emitting diode, screens in the Vivomove styles. “Creating a dial that hides a bright digital display is surprisingly technical and difficult,” Mr. McClendon said.
“We’re not trying to compete with the heritage brands and go all mechanical, that’s not part of our DNA,” he said. “But a watch for watches’ sake is something that’s a very important accessory for many people. That’s not going to go away.”
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