Product review: the Bradley timepiece

The Bradley timepiece is a stylish tactile watch designed for visually impaired people.

Developed by Eone with the principles of inclusive design in mind, the watch has had a lot of interest from non-visually impaired people attracted by its stylish appearance.

We asked Dr Philip Gafga and Shaun McGarry, who are both deafblind, to see how the Bradley measures up as a practical device for telling the time.

The Bradley timepiece – review by Dr Philip Gafga

The Bradley timepiece with silver mesh wristbandBeing deafblind means that it is not always easy to tell the time by sight. If light levels are too low or if it is too dark, I cannot see the watch’s face to keep track of time.  It can be disorientating if you cannot tell the time if you don’t have a watch that gives tactile feedback on the time.

Using watches that speak out the time is effectively ruled out due to my profound deafness. There are some downsides to using speaking watches in that they potentially attract attention to you as a blind person, and it may be difficult to make out the robotic voice of the watch in noisy environments.

Some tactile watches have flip-up covers that let you feel the hands on the watch, but they can be problematic for some reasons. There are possible scenarios when the hands may become obstructed by foreign objects, such as food and grit, and the watch’s hands may be damaged if not handled gently.

My first thought was to wonder why it was called a ‘timepiece’ instead of a ‘watch’.  The manufacturer, Eone, explained that you shouldn’t need to ‘watch’ your wristwatch to tell the time, and that’s why it is called a ‘timepiece’.

My second thought was on the design of the timepiece. Many timepieces for the blind have compromised aesthetics in design for functionality. Some blind people have asked what their watch looks like.  The Bradley timepiece looks minimalist, but it has struck the ideal midpoint between aesthetics and functionality.  The design is certainly innovative and practical.

The Bradley timepiece came in a presentation box. The packing sleeve for the box had Braille embossed on it, identifying its contents. A booklet was enclosed with the timepiece and was both in print and Braille. This gave some brief background on the design of the watch and gave basic operational advice on using the timepiece. I was well acquainted with using the timepiece after about ten minutes.

There may be some aspects where you might need to seek help or support in familiarising yourself with the watch, or making some adjustments to the watch’s straps. Some communicator-guide assistance may be needed.

Some sighted assistance may be required for reading the booklet for those who do not read Braille.  Some basic operational information needs to be communicated to the user such as the ball bearing on the front indicates minutes, the ball bearing on the side indicates hours, and the watch can be gently shaken to return the ball bearings to the right locations.

Close up of hands telling the time with the Bradley timepiece

The Bradley timepiece is available with several options for watch bands, including stainless steel mesh, various colours of fabric and leather straps. You might need to take the watch to a jeweller’s shop to make adjustments to the watch’s bands if your wrist is large or small. If the watch’s band is not to your liking, jewellers can supply and fit alternative designs if you prefer.

After receiving the watch for review, I synchronised the watch with an accurate time signal and have observed that it keeps good time over the past two weeks of using it. The Bradley timepiece has a Swiss watch movement inside it, and should be able to keep good time, which is important if your lifestyle requires you to be time conscious.

The time can be adjusted by pulling out the knob at the side of the timepiece and rotating it.  One niggling point is that you need to rotate the knob towards you to move time forward, and away from you to move time backward. Normally, I would expect to rotate the knob away from myself to move time forward, so a bit counterintuitive.

Eone’s design philosophy was to put the minute ball bearing on the front since most people look for the minute hand first as they have a good sense of which hour it is. The hour ball bearing is at the side of the watch. It was easier telling the minutes on the front face than to tell the hours on the side. At the three o’clock position, there is a knob that lets you adjust the time.  When the time is around three o’clock, the hour’s ball bearing will be in close proximity to the adjustment knob and it might be difficult to feel this.

The ball bearings do take some getting used to. You need to be gentle in touch to feel the ball bearings as they can be easily pushed away from their correct locations. This is remedied by a gentle shake of the watch to bring back the ball bearings to the right places. There is a small risk that you may accidentally tell the wrong time and be panicked if you think you are very late, so it is best to develop a technique to tell the correct time on the Bradley timepiece.

People may have different degrees of touch sensitivity. Some may find it easy to feel the ball bearings, while others may not.  It was a design compromise made by Eone when developing the watch otherwise if the ball bearings got any larger, the watch would have become too clunky. My advice is if you are interested in the Bradley timepiece, it would be best to find an opportunity to try out the watch by feeling for the ball bearings and see if you are comfortable with this before making a decision on whether to buy or not.

The Bradley timepiece is ideal for those who have active lifestyles because the watch face is made of titanium and would be less prone to scratches.  The watch is robustly constructed so that it would be very difficult for the ball bearings to fall out.  As a bonus, Eone claims the watch is rated water-resistant up to a depth of 50 metres, meaning you can wear it when doing the washing up at the sink or when swimming (but not for snorkelling or scuba diving).

The Bradley timepiece uses batteries for the Swiss time movement inside and should last many years. There is no need to send the watch away for battery replacement as most local jewellers will be able to do this for you. The watch uses standard Renata 371 Button Cell watch battery which is commonly used in Swatch, Timex and Casio popular brands.

One concern is the watch’s stainless steel mesh band. The fastening clip does not seem to fasten securely enough and there is potential for it to come undone and the watch falling away. It can be horrendously difficult for people with sight problems to find lost objects that have fallen off on to the floor. The best option is to go for a fabric/leather watch strap at time of purchase as these are more practical. As mentioned earlier, a jeweller can supply and fit alternative bands if you prefer. Eone will need to look again at the stainless steel mesh band to make sure the fastening clip can be used more securely.

One suggestion for improvement is to slightly raise the markers at 3, 6, 9 and 12 above the other markers to be more tactile as an aid to those with less sensitive touch.

I would certainly mention the Bradley timepiece to another deafblind person, but with the caveat that he/she should try it out first.

I’d rate the watch 8/10 – one point deducted for the insecure fastening on stainless steel mesh band, and another point deducted for possibility of telling wrong time if ball bearings are not in the right places.

The Bradley timepiece – review by Shaun McGarry

Man wearing a suit with the Bradley timepieceThe wristwatch came in a very posh, well made case with a slide on cover with braille writing saying “Bradley Timepiece” done to grade 2 level.

The box is a long thin construction with a hinged lid. Inside is the little braille  booklet with a little tag tucked under it to allow an easy method of getting it out without tipping the whole box upside down!

The booklet is six pages of thick paper brailled on one side, again at the grade 2 level. Unfortunately I am not very good at grade 2 braille so I couldn’t read the booklet. I don’t know what it said. I went on the web site (www.eone-time.com) but couldn’t find the booklet online either.

The wrist watch is laying flat out on soft foam held in by two clips half way along each strap. They had pieces of folded up paper to protect the leather straps at the watch ends, and a plastic circular disc gently stuck on the face and rear of the watch itself.

But it took me ages to realise that there was a third piece of plastic inserted behind the twist knob, it was quite small and did not protrude much at all. This piece is designed to make sure the knob is kept out to avoid draining the battery during shipment. This piece of plastic protection could be bigger. I wondered why it wasn’t working! Smile!

This particular watch came with real leather straps, they had the feel and smell of good quality leather. The only thing I would like to mention is the leather is very stiff and fairly thick and it resisted being bent around the wrist.

According to Eone’s web site, the leather straps are made of two layers with a tough nylon outer layer for durability with a soft inner layer for gentle skin contact.

The watch itself is made of solid metal, it is apparently made of titanium, engineered to a tight tolerance to give a crisp and well defined feel. The round face is forty millimetres (just a shade over an inch and a half). There are no glass, displays, or any other electronic indicators at all, just solid metal!

The face has a flat disc in the middle of twenty millimetres across with no symbols, writing or anything else I could feel, or nothing visual either.

Around this disc is a circular slot where there is a small ball poking up proud of the surface. This is the indicator for the minutes. You can feel the ball wiggle in the slot when you touch it and it does sometimes slip away from your fingers and disappear, but I found that a quick gentle shake of the wrist makes the tiny ball spring back into place.

Anyway continuing outwards, the face now has raised sharp lines coming into view under the fingers. These lines are orientated to travel outwards towards the outer edge of the watch. there are 12 of them and as you might have guessed, these are the hourly marks. They are about six millimetres long (quarter of an inch) and they feel quite sharp to make it easier to notice them. The 12 o’clock mark is very distinctive and different, shaped as a downward pointing triangle.

Now we are right on the outer edge of the watch, which is a nice gentle rounded feel to it and this leads us to the side of the watch where we find a second slot. This is exactly the same idea as the first smaller slot and there is another little ball also showing itself just above the surface. The ball feels the same, wiggles the same and also you can push it too far and slips away again. but as before, just a quick wiggle of the watch and it springs back.

I have been using the Bradley’s Timepiece for a week now, and I am getting use to the gentle touch it needs. The strap is slowly shaping itself to my wrist but it is still too stiff near the connection point. I had to deliberately bend the straps to force a better fit on my wrist.

When I need to check the time, I bring my right hand over and feel the face to find the little ball, but having found it, and the marks, I am not sure whether the mark is actually the six o’clock position or not (or the three o’clock or nine o’clock ones as well).

The angle of my finger and arm is naturally only about 60 degrees as for most people, and this will take some practice to get my finger more at the ninety degree angle. It would be nice if the three o’clock, six o’clock and nine o’clock positions had a different style and shape of a mark to make the tactile feedback more informative and positive.

At this point I discovered that the marks at the three o’clock, six o’clock and nine o’clock were indeed longer than the other marks. I never realised this!

I don’t know if the little booklet had any description of the watch but I couldn’t find any on Eone’s web site either. Eone provides a braille booklet but no other printed material at all for a sighted person to read to me, or an audio CD or memory stick to allow me to listen to the content of the booklet, if indeed the booklet actually described this point.

The Bradley timepiece with a green fabric strap

Going out and about with the watch, strapped on my wrist, under my shirt sleeves, I discovered that it is a bit awkward to find out what the time is as my long shirt sleeve is somewhat tight around the timepiece and I couldn’t slide my finger under the cuff. There wasn’t enough tactile impression to feel the time through the cloth material. The timepiece is quite a big device so it is always going to be tight when wearing long sleeves and that it something to bear in mind.

When the timepiece was on display, some people did notice it and admired it. I got my fellow visually impaired friends to try out the watch and some were impressed with it. One or two of my lady friends that they liked the look of it but wished it was much smaller and thinner.

But the most common feedback I got was the need to be very delicate with feeling for the balls, and some couldn’t find it even after being guided by me. Even for me, sometimes it takes a few seconds to find the ball again especially if I had forgotten what time it was, so you end up feeling right around the face looking for the minutes ball.

Yes it was discrete, allowing me to find out the time, without disturbing the room, and I learnt that if I bring my left arm further around to meet my right hand then the angle was much more natural to, more accurately, tell the time.

Conclusions

The timepiece is very smart indeed, it is certainly a fashion piece and would look good on your wrist…at a price!

It takes quite a while to train yourself to be gentle with your finger and you do indeed need sensitive fingers to get the most out of this timepiece, so warning to those who find it difficult to feel with their fingertips.

Even though you can give the timepiece a quick shake before you find out the time as I started doing by habit, it still took a while to locate the ball to learn the time.

I would worry about dirt getting in all the slots, there is no mention of how to clean the device, apart from the warning message on their web site that the timepiece is not completely water proof. I would be very wary to take the watch on the beach and get sand in it.

It is not designed as an everyday watch while you are doing chores like gardening, washing the car or other practical jobs in and around the house. I worried about the high value of it so I would and have done so, leave it off most of the time and only put it on when I am going out.

What about the price tag?

Well, it depends on your sense of worth and whether this watch is worth it for you. I mean that you struggle with talking watches, cannot see any of them, so perhaps this Bradley timepiece may be for you, to allow you that freedom and gain confident to manage your time and your life.

If you are a fashion conscious person, attend lots of meetings or like showing off a smart piece of technology then the Bradley is for you.

But if you are a practical person who likes getting their hand dirty, don’t go out so much then perhaps you wouldn’t get your money worth out of it.

Finally I would like to say that the Bradley Timepiece does work, it will tell you the time, quietly, elegantly with your sensitive fingers.

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