Hands on: MyKronoz ZeTime review

Analogue hands and a digital display blends tradition with tech

What is a hands on review?
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For

  • Affordable price point
  • Slick fusion of hands and display
  • Water and swim proof

Against

  • Interface is mediocre
  • Performance a little sluggish
  • No GPS

The MyKronoz ZeTime is the world's first smartwatch that features mechanical hands on top of a digital touchscreen display, fusing tradition with technology.

It was successfully funded on Kickstarter in 2017, with MyKronoz receiving $5.3 million in pledges to makes its smartwatch a reality.

The ZeTime is now a fully-fledged device, with a range of features including smartphone notifications, heart rate tracking, fitness tracking and of course the mechanical hands that sit on top of the display.

The MyKronoz ZeTime is available directly from the firm's website as well as from other online retailers and physical stores, with the price starting at $199.90 (£179.99), which makes it one of the more affordable smartwatches on the market.

Design and display

The ZeTime features a premium stainless steel case which sits well on the wrist, although it is a little bezel heavy. 

The display is protected by super tough Sapphire glass, which provides a good level of protection to the fun that's underneath.

That fun consists of the mechanical hands that sit on top of the touchscreen display. With this stacked arrangement, there's a noticeable gap between the glass and screen to give the hands space to move. It looks impressive, and works neatly.

Each hand has an elongated gap in it, allowing them to be illuminated by the screen behind, which makes checking the time in the dark easier.

A trio of buttons reside on the right of the ZeTime, with the central crown rotating to allow you to scroll on screen. There's also a heart rate sensor on the rear of the watch body.

It's waterproof up to 5 ATM, and also swimproof, which means you can track your workout when you hit the pool.

It comes in two sizes, regular and petite, with the regular ZeTime measuring 44 x 12.8mm and weighing 90g, while the smaller model is 39 x 12.6mm and 80g, making it a good size for smaller wrists.

That means there are two different display sizes too, with the regular featuring a 1.22-inch screen, and the petite a 1.05-inch offering, but both have the same 240 x 240 resolution.

The screen on the petite does feel a little cramped, and we were thankful for the rotating crown as it made scrolling more manageable than swiping the small display. It also means text is small on screen, and those with poor vision may struggle to read what's written.

There are a range of body colors to choose from, as well as silicon, leather and metal straps, allowing you to customize the ZeTime to suit your look. Straps are also easily switchable, perfect for transitioning from the gym to a meal out.

MyKronoz ZeTime hands on gallery

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Interface and performance

The MyKronoz ZeTime is uses the firm's own operating system, rather than Google's Android Wear platform, as it needed to be able to code specifically for the mechanical hands as well as the touch display.

What that means is an interface that isn't quite as slick as Google's, and we found it to be a little sluggish when navigating around and jumping in and out of apps.

There's a smartphone companion app for both iOS and Android, allowing the ZeTime to be compatible across both Google's and Apple's handsets.

While the software may not be the most accomplished, it is easy to use. From the watch face you can swipe down for quick settings, swipe up for notifications, swipe right to left for the menu and swipe left to right to see your daily activity data and goals.

There's also a selection of different watch faces, which you can access by pressing and holding the screen. MyKronoz allows for third party watch faces to be added to the ZeTime, so you can expect to see more options here as the community starts developing them.

Notifications are uniquely formatted on the ZeTime, with the mechanical hands automatically aligning horizontally whenever you open a notification.

The text is then display above the below the handset, ensuring they don't cover up anything. The hands then return to the correct time as soon as you exit a notification.

Battery life

MyKronoz says you should get between three and five days of use from a single charge of the 180mAh battery. We think that's a little optimistic as the majority of smartwatches we've used generally last a couple of days, but we'll put the claim to the test in our in-depth review.

Battery life doesn't end there though, as the mechanical hands can actually operate for up to 30 days from a single charge, allowing you to still tell the time even if there's not enough power to have the touchscreen on.

The ZeTime uses a magnetic charger the sticks onto the rear of the watch, similar to the Apple Watch, which makes putting it on charge easy as you don't have to line up any contact pins.

Early verdict

The MyKronoz ZeTime stands out from the smartwatch crowd with its unique and innovative display and hands combo, and with an affordable price tag it's a tempting proposition.

Its weakness is on screen, with slightly sluggish performance and limited apps, but if you're in the market for a smartwatch that doesn't break the bank and gives you all the features you'd expect, the ZeTime may well fit the bill.

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What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.