Product review: Meteor watch
by Shaun McGarry
The Meteor is a vibrating and inaudible watch for deaf and blind people to find out what the time is. It was developed and manufactured by the Swiss company Alexandravision.
It is very discreet and useful for attending meetings, rather than having a talking watch blaring out the time!
It comes in a posh silk-lined presentation box, with a sheet of paper containing printed instructions, but no braille or other accessible formats, to explain how to use it.
How it feels
It is black and sleek, with smooth curves and shaped like a hollowed out pebble. It fits very comfortably into the palm of your hand, with three polished small buttons in the hollow part.
There are no other features or holes on this elegant plastic moulded gadget, not even a point where you might wish to attach a lanyard cord or a key ring loop to it.
On the back is just one tiny screw near the pointy end and an embossed logo near the bottom. This screw will apparently allow access to the battery for replacement, but it is recommended to take the watch to a qualified watch repair outlet or jewellers to change the battery.
How it works
The three metal chrome buttons, which are about the size of a large pin head, can be pressed, in any order you like, and upon releasing the buttons, the unit will vibrate in a particular pattern.
The vibrations are either a short pulse or a long pulse and that is all you have to remember, there are no other fancy patterns to worry about. It is the pulses that tell you what the time is, broken into three parts hence the three buttons.
With the watch in the palm of your hand, with the fatter end sitting naturally downwards, the more pointy end upwards, the three buttons are aligned vertically. The top button will indicate the hours, the middle button will tell you the tens of minutes, and the bottom button will pulse the single minutes to you.
So the logic of these long and short pulses is that you count the pulses and add them all together. A long pulse represents a count of 5 and a short pulse means 1. So for example, a pattern of long, short, short pulse would mean 5, 1, 1, and added together would be 7. It's like the old Roman numeral system where the V letter and the I letter would represent 5 and 1. So VII would mean 5 + 1 + 1 which is 7!
So by pressing the buttons on the watch, you will get a pattern of pulses, telling you the time.
Here is an example. Pressing the top button, you get four short pulses, the middle button vibrates two short pulses and the bottom button gives one long pulse and four short pulses. This translates into 4 hours, 2 times 10 minutes which equals 20 minutes, and the sum of 5 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 which is 9, so the time is 4:29!
To indicate zero (0) minutes or zero tens of minutes then the watch does not vibrate at all, like a silent blank.
So for example, you get two long and two short pulses for the top button, a blank nothing response on pressing the middle button, and one short pulse for the last and bottom button. This means 5 + 5 + 2 which equals 12, 0 times 10 minutes which is 0 and finally 1 minute for the last part of the time, bringing the whole time to 12:01.
This watch only indicates 12 hours and there is no way to know whether it is AM or PM. There is no 24 hour mode possible.
You can press any button in any order you like, so if you know it is already eleven something then you can just press the middle and bottom buttons to find out how far the hour has gone.
A word of warning: if you are waiting for a particular time like an appointment, the start of a film on telly, or waiting for when to put on the water for the vegetables, and you are regularly pressing the buttons, then the watch will not update the time being vibrated to you until you leave it alone for at least one minute! So if you are you are waiting for 12 o’clock and you press the buttons and the watch tells you the time is 11:49, and you regularly keep pressing the buttons, it will keep telling you 11:49, even though time has moved ahead.
When you leave it alone for a minute or so then it will suddenly jump forward and tell you the correct time again. It seems to be a design flaw missed by the programmers! Technically it seems that the watch only updates the pulse patterns for the buttons on each tick of a minute. So if the watch is too busy doing all those vibrations, it misses that “tick” moment and so falls back in time.
Setting the time
Setting the time on this watch is quite simple. It is a matter of pressing and holding down each button for at least three seconds, at which point the watch responds with a very long vibration pulse to indicate that it is ready for you to set the time. This is done by simply doing a short pulse every half a second and it is up to you to count them and let go of the button when you have counted up to the number you want.
For example, to add an extra hour on for the British Summer Time (BST), you hold down the top "hour" button for three seconds, then a long drawn out pulse will occur and a series of short, widely spaced out pulses will commence. You just start counting them and lift your finger up when the count reaches the new hour time you want.
Apparently the battery will last at least two years and quite possibly up to five years - it all depends on how often you press the buttons to find out the time.
It also says in the instructions that the watch is waterproof, but I haven’t dared find out how good that claim is! Especially with a price tag of £60! But the design does seems quite solid and it seems unlikely that water can get in, and this should mean cleaning it with a damp cloth should be no problem at all.
The Meteor watch is only for a pocket or hand bag. It is not a wrist watch, and is far too large for that anyway. It could do with a hole near the point of the unit to attach a cord so that one could wear it around their neck to reduce the likelihood of losing it.
Other features that I feel are missing are hourly chimes like a grandfather clock, or a built-in alarm function. This especially could be a very nice feature where you could set the time of a wakeup call for the morning and put the watch under your pillow, ready to buzz you awake.
Or perhaps it could include an aerial to receive the radio time control signals, so that setting the time is fully automated, and it would cope with the daylight saving switchover as well.
The Meteor watch certainly shows why the price is high. The design is high quality, solid, and very elegant, with no sharp corners or edges, but maybe the price also reflects the highly specialised and niche market. The manufacturers could add some of the extra features suggested above to increase the watch's value-for-money rating, and perhaps sell even more of them!