Kairos smartwatch floats a transparent display on a mechanical watch (hands-on)

Regular watch, overlaid with a see-through glowing smart screen: the Kairos Watch is crazy indeed.

Scott Stein

Scott Stein

Editor at Large

I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets.

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I think I've found the award for weirdest smartwatch gimmick: the Kairos smartwatch was hiding in a corner of Mobile World Congress, and I'm flabbergasted.

Instead of just using a glowing OLED or LCD display, or simply embedding hidden components in a mechanical watch, the Kairos does both: a transparent OLED display -- the first one I've seen in a functioning demo -- hovers over the exposed guts of the watch. Bizarre, and sort of neat. For most people, completely pointless.

Kairos offers a hybrid smartwatch for the haute horologists (pictures)

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The Kairos watch was announced last year, but I never saw one. The demo-loop version I tried on my wrist was ridiculously thick, but the display worked, running odd fake notifications from "Arnold Scharz" and sample fitness-type messages. It's hard to even see the OLED display in these photos, because the display's refresh rate didn't seem to work well with our camera's fast shutter.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Kairos Watch promises to blend a smartwatch and mechanical watch into one form, getting notifications and tracking fitness data as well as providing the time. Prices range from $549 to a whopping $1,249 on Kairos' website, depending on whether you get the Japanese or Swiss-made model.

Running a display over a watch face may be an odd marriage, but there could be another cool future for this tech: overlaying or mixing reflective always-on displays with glowing notifications. I don't know. But hey, if you wanted to see a different take on smartwatches in a show already full of them, here it is.