Intel Digital Electronic Watches & Wearables
Throughout the years Intel has attempted to break into the electronic digital watch market
Intel's first Electronic Digital Watch - The Microma LCD (1972)
In July 1972, Intel acquired digital watchmaker Microma Universal, Inc. in their first attempt to enter the electronic watch market. The idea to purchase Microma came from Intel's co-founder Gordon Moore, who was vice-president of the company that year, but would later become CEO. He was looking for new product opportunities for Intel to expand their growing chip business, outside of their lineup of chips used for calculators and computer memories.
Before Intel acquired them, Microma was a leading semiconductor manufacturer based in Cupertino, California. They were a pioneer in developing liquid-crystal displays (LCDs) for use in timekeeping products, such as digital watches.
The $300 Intel Microma watch was the first watch available to retail customers that had a liquid crystal display (LCD). The digital watches that other companies were offering had red LED displays that the user had to push a button in order to see the time displayed. With the LCD display on Microma's watch, the time on the watch was displayed all the time. The Microma watches were also very popular gifts awarded to Intel employees during the 1970's when employees reached their 5 year anniversary with the company.
The original Microma watch featured an Intel 5810 CMOS integrated circuit that gave the watch it's brains. The Intel 5810 chip is now considered to be one of the very first examples of a true system-on-a-chip (SOC). The Intel 5810 SOC chip supported an 3.5 segment LCD display with Time/Seconds/Date functions, and was part of the MCS-5000 clock family of Intel semiconductor products.
Starting in 1975, Intel began putting their new Intel 5830 micro-programmable watch chip into their Microma watches. This chip supported Microma's new 6-Digit LCD display with added Chronograph feature.
By 1977, competition in the digital watch business had become fierce. No less than than 60 companies in the United States were making digital LED & LCD watches, including industry leaders like Fairchild Semiconductor, Texas Instruments, Commodore, Hewlett-Packard, Hughes Semiconductor, and National Semiconductor.
Due to the heavily saturated market and falling prices of LCD digital watches, Intel made the strategic decision to shut down their Microma digital watch business in 1977.
In late 1978 Intel would work a deal to sell off the Microma brand to swiss watchmaker called Endura, and sell the watch designs and the manufacturing site in Cupertino to Timex Corp. Intel has lost more than $15 million dollars over the 6 years they had held Microma.
Intel's first "Smart" Watch - The MICA luxury smart bracelet (2014)
More than 40 years later, Intel would once again attempt to enter the electronic watch market. But now electronic watches had become more than simple timekeeping pieces - now they had become wearable "Smart" communication devices.
This time Intel's new devices group wanted to showcase their own idea for a smart watch, and one that would also be very fashionable. The idea of a new style of smart watch grew into a wearable smart bracelet design.
Intel's MICA (My Intelligent Communication Accessory) wearable smart bracelet was introduced on September 4th 2014 during Fashion Week in New York City. It was a collaboration with fashion label "Opening Ceremony" and luxury retailer Barneys of New York. MICA was created for fashion conscious women who also needed to monitor their social media feeds and calendar reminders.
The luxurious 18k Gold plated MICA featured a 1.6" curved sapphire color touchscreen display, AT&T mobile 3G communications with SMS text capabilities, and could be charged wirelessly or thru a USB cable.
The brains inside the MICA smart bracelet was a 32-bit, single-core Intel Quark SOC chip. The Quark chip was a smaller, low powered version of Intel's ATOM processor. It was compatible with Facebook, Google, Yelp, and other applications.
The $495 MICA smart bracelets were offered with black or white water-snake skin, Russian obsidian, Chinese pearls, lapis gemstones from Madagascar, and South African tiger's eye.
This same week that intel introduced their MICA smart bracelet in New York City, Apple would unveil their upcoming $349 Apple iWatch line of smart watches, which would quickly become the worlds most popular wearable device when it became available to the public in early 2015.
Intel enters the fitness watch market - The BASIS Peak (2014)
Also in 2014, Intel would purchase San Francisco based wearable device leader BASIS Science, Inc. for $100M, in an attempt to enter the growing fitness watch market. BASIS specialized in wearable device technology for health tracking and wellness applications.
Intel introduced the BASIS Peak fitness watch on September 30th 2014. Their BASIS Peak model became a popular iOS-compatible fitness tracker watch that competed in the growing wearable device market with Fitbit, Misfit, Garmin, Apple, and others.
On August 3rd 2016, Intel voluntarily issued a full recall of all Basis Peak smart watches sold worldwide, due to risk of overheating. With Apple now dominating the smart watch sector with their Apple Watch, Intel would abandon their attempt to maintain a branded foothold in the wearables and smart watch market.
Intel would continue to make chips for some watch manufacturers
In 2017 Intel teamed up with Swiss watchmaker Tag Heuer to create their Tag Connected Modular 45, a $1600 luxury smartwatch.
The Tag smart watch used a processor that was designed for smart phones, the Intel ATOM Z34XX, a 64-bit dual-core processor that supported Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS. It had 4GB of flash memory storage and used the Android Wear 2.0 OS.
In 2018 the smaller Tag Connected Modular 41 smart watch was introduced, which offered double the RAM and flash memory storage as the previous Tag Connected Modular 45.