Why Fine Jewelers Shouldn’t Dismiss the Coming Tide of Wearable Tech

About eight weeks ago, I bought myself a bracelet and since then, I’ve worn it all day, every day without fail (except for the night I attended Elton John’s Oscar party and when I shower). It’s a sleek black cuff with a silver-colored accent, and it hugs my wrist perfectly. I even sleep with it.

No ordinary jewel, my new bracelet is the UP24 fitness band from Jawbone and what it tells me about the steps I’ve walked, the hours I’ve slept, and the ways in which I could live my life healthier is nothing short of amazing.

My UP24 from Jawbone

For example, I spent this past weekend in New Orleans, celebrating my friend Kenna’s 40th birthday with a group of my best friends from L.A. On Saturday, I walked 16,897 steps—168 percent of my daily goal—burning 1,873 calories in the process. The device has a cool graphical presentation that showed me the peak times when I had my most active periods.

Here’s a snapshot of one day in NOLA, as tracked by my fitness device.

My sleep that night, however, suffered. I went to bed at 4:01 a.m. and woke up at 8:01 a.m., reaching just 47 percent of my nightly goal. (What do you expect from a night in NOLA?!)

And this is a snapshot of one NOLA night.

I started thinking about getting a fitness device last fall. Then, in February, I had dinner with a lovely group of women at the JCK Tucson show and noticed that all of them wore fitness trackers—a couple had Fitbits, one had a Jawbone like the one I bought, and though the Nike+ FuelBand wasn’t represented at our table, I’m sure someone nearby was sporting one.

I ordered mine in mid-February and paid $149.99 plus shipping. My UP24 arrived just before I left for the Hong Kong International Jewellery Show, which was the point. I was desperate to see how many steps I’d walk at the world’s largest spring jewelry fair. I sensed—accurately—that knowing I had passed my daily goal of 10,000 steps would mitigate the frustration of schlepping all over the Hong Kong convention center.

I’m now a wearable tech believer—and so are my friends. While having Friday brunch at the French Quarter institution Galatoire’s, for example, I turned to my right and was struck by the vision of my best friend Anna and her husband, Jerry, both leaning on their left elbows, with their matching Fitbits conspicuously occupying their left wrists. They looked like an ad for wearable devices, so I snapped a photo of them.

Anna and Jerry with their matching Fitbits at our fancy Friday brunch at Galatoire’s. I swear they weren’t posing!

Like my UP24, the Fitbit allows you to add a friend to your app so you can see how many steps and sleep hours he or she is logging. Anna and Jerry have turned the experience into a mini-competition to see which one can reach their daily goal of 10,000 steps sooner. Jerry even copped to doing a few laps around the house, up and down his stairs, when he comes home and realizes Anna is beating him.

I can see a lot of jewelers wondering how this plastic fitness tracking device revolution impacts them. They sell precious jewelry for special occasions. Whether it’s made of gold, silver, diamonds, colored stones, or all of the above, it’s beautifully designed, well made, and expensive. A woman looking to accessorize herself for a fancy evening out wouldn’t dare choose the clunky plastic band over a sophisticated diamond-set bangle. 

Or would she?

What I’ve learned about these devices from using my own and from watching my friends use theirs is that they’re addictive. The gaming features they employ are a big part of that. And as many experts have noted, a fitness device conveys something powerful about its wearer:

“Technology is becoming a status symbol,” Dory Carr-Harris, managing editor of PSFK.com, a global trendspotting agency, told me when I was researching a story about smartwatches. “You’re adorning yourself and you’re also demonstrating your ability to be tuned in, affluent, informed, and educated.”

There’s also the matter of wrist space. The more accustomed you are to wearing your device, the less need you have to junk up your wrist with other things. So while fine jewelry is a different beast, it would be wrong of retailers to dismiss the wearable technology phenomenon out of hand.

Look to JCK’s upcoming June issue for a feature on the makers who are attempting to bridge the gap between fashion and function. And mark my words: A year from now, if not sooner, we’ll start seeing devices that look less plasticky and more posh, which will force retailers to ask themselves a big question: If you can’t beat ’em…?!