Sony's FES Watch U makes e-paper cool

This Sony-backed smartwatch is a chameleon, allowing you to change its design with the press of a button.

Adam Bolton

Adam Bolton

Adam Bolton is a contributor for CNET based in Japan. He is, among things, a volunteer, a gamer, a technophile and a beard grower. He can be found haunting many of Tokyo's hotspots and cafes.

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The FES Watch U is Fashion Entertainment's second-generation e-paper watch, coming a year after the first made a splash in crowdfunding circles, albeit backed by Sony.

As a timepiece, the first FES Watch was an attention grabber, thanks to its unique E-Ink strap that could be changed with the tap of a button, and 24 E-Ink watch face variations.

It was a simple affair, however, with just the e-paper design and timekeeping. The upcoming FES Watch U adds new features and a sturdy makeover -- and aims to compete with increasingly stylish smartwatches such as Michael Kors' Access and Samsung's Gear S3.

The FES Watch U adds digital modes to its face, along with multiple calendars. As most of the watch is made from e-paper, the calendars and even the clocks themselves now smartly extend beyond the metal bezel to display dates and time around the strap.

The new watch also supports wireless battery charging through its watch stand, eliminating the need for battery changes.

Perhaps the most sought-after feature was the ability to add custom designs to the displays themselves. With the FES Watch U, you can download designs from a dedicated phone app, adding to the 24 designs carried over from the first watch. You can also use your phone to take pictures and convert them into patterns, making any texture or image fair game. From there, you can share your unique designs with the FES online community.

The new version of the FES Watch is also much sturdier, with glass facing and stainless steel casing. The watch also comes in three flavours: silver, white and a premium black, which has additional sapphire glass with anti-reflection coating and titanium ion-plating for high scratch resistance.

The FES Watch U is still seeking crowdfunding, with over 15 million of its 20 million yen ($195,000) target already raised. It has until 7 October to reach its goal.

No pricing has been set for the new watches, and there's no word on whether or not the device will officially go on sale outside of Japan. If you wish to take part in the funding process to make sure the FES Watch U gets made, you can find it on the First Flight website, though note our usual caveat below. Funding options start at 44,710 yen, which converts to around $440, £335 or AU$580.

Editor's note: CNET's reporting on crowdfunding campaigns is not an endorsement of the project or its creators. Contributing to a crowdfunded project comes with risk. Before contributing to any campaign, read the crowdfunding site's policies, such as those for Kickstarter and Indiegogo, to learn more about your rights (and refund policies, or the lack thereof) before and after a campaign ends.

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