#Trending: Not forgetting the importance of a good watch face

From shape to materials to band to clasp, we talk a lot about the design of smartwatches, but I wonder if watch faces are sometimes still a bit of an afterthought.

I love a good watch face, and it’s always a shame when someone has a nice smartwatch let down by an ugly face. The watch’s ugly face, not the person’s, I mean.

As smartwatches become better looking, we’re getting more watch faces to choose from and more ways to customise them once they’re on our wrists, which is more important as we try to move away from techy-looking smartwatches.

Some of the new smartwatches we’ve seen at IFA this week have left us particularly impressed – the new Samsung Gear S3 and the Asus Zenwatch 3 chief among them.

And more and more, companies are realising how important both design and choice are when it comes to devices we’re going to strap onto our wrists and let the world see. I think that’s particularly important when it comes to faces, as often there’s a lack of choice when it comes to the watch itself.

WEAR – Google

Google’s got the right idea, doing its typical thing of opening up the box and seeing what we do in it. You can already install third-party faces on Android Wear, and this week Google announced a new social media competition for people to submit their own design ideas.

“No need to be a computer whiz: snap a picture, sketch on a napkin, play with fabric, paint on canvas,” said Google. The faces will be judged by a panel of fashion industry icons with the winning five turned into downloadable Android Wear faces later in this year. And let’s not forget that Google partnered with the likes of Ted Baker, Nicole Miller and Mango last year to create a range of designer faces.

Read next: The best Pebble Time and Pebble Time Round faces

We’re also giving a shout-out to Pebble here, with it announcing that its latest update, Pebble OS 4.0, will be rolling out to watches in September. A lot of the new functionality revolves around the face, including the ability for faces to react and resize to Timeline Quick View.


Sony has announced a crowdfunding campaign to get its new e-paper watch, the FES Watch U, off the ground. You may recall the company’s original FES watch didn’t make it out of Japan, but we’re hoping we’ll see this one make its way around the world.

The watch is less heavy on features than many other smartwatches, but it’s big on looks. Yeah it’s monochrome, but you can change the design of both the watch face and strap, which is neat, and the watch can store 24 designs at once. What’s more, the e-paper design means those faces look less like a screen and more like a traditional watch – always a good thing. Just think how brilliant a coloured version would look.

SQUARE – Apple Watch

Before you call me crazy, hear me out: I do like some of the Apple Watch faces, I just wish there were more of them, and more to customise. I’m also writing this on the eve of watchOS 3, which will bring more faces and customisations with it. But I feel like Apple should have been hotter on this out of the gate.

For example, I love the ‘Simple’ and ‘Colour’ Watch faces, but why can’t I have my calendar updates along the bottom like I can on the Utility face? The simple answer is “Because Jony Ive said so”, but I think it’s about time Apple changed that. Come on Jony, it’s time to stop hogging it and let third parties contribute their own designs.