• From: "Ian Macrae" <ian.macrae@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <access-uk@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 21 Oct 2004 14:52:29 +0100

Hi all,
As promised earlier, here's a digest of my thoughts on the Tissot SilenT 
vibrating tactile watch.  It's slightly augmented from what appeared on the In 
Touch web pages following the show. One thing I haven't included in the formal 
review is that this watch looks like what it is, a quality Swiss watch.  Given 
it's price, it's clearly something which people might choose to buy taking its 
look and style into account alongside its difference from a conventional 
tactile watch.  I'd be happy to try to answer any questions about aspects of 
the watch's design or operation.  But I can't comment further than I have on 
its price or RNIB's decision to carry it as a line as I have no responsibility 
for or control over either of those things.

This stylish-looking watch is very different from other tactile watches.  They 
have lids which you lift up to reveal hands which can be touched and dots 
around the face at the 12 time points.  

The SilenT from Swiss watch-maker Tissot (which also has a silent T) has a flat 
smooth face surrounded by a raised metal bezel.  The bezel has raised markings 
on it to show the 12 time points which also appear on the analogue face itself 
as white marks with numbers at points 12 and 6.  The face is black and the 
watch has white hands which makes them easy to see.  But the hands are not 
available to touch.  However, as you'll find out, you don't need to be able to 
feel them.  For people with some sight, the watch face is clear and is also 
illuminated in the dark.

The watch is very easy to operate and has only one control, a button positioned 
at the 3 o'clock point on the outside casing where you'd normally find the 

To tell the time you simply press this button for less than 2 seconds and run 
your index finger clockwise around the smooth face.  When I first had the 
watch, the temptation was to run my finger around the raised metal bezel 
because that's where the markings are, but it's important to remember that you 
have to touch the flat face.  When you reach the point where the hour is 
indicated you feel a continuous vibration.  When you reach the point where the 
minute hand is, you feel a series of intermittent vibrations depending on how 
many minutes through the hour you are.  For example, at 18 minutes past 6, 
there will be a continuous vibration at the six o'clock point on the face and a 
burst of three intermittent vibrations to show that the time is three minutes 
past the 15 minute point.  Similarly, at 22 minutes or 36 minutes past the hour 
you'll feel bursts of two and one vibrations at the 4 and 7 points 
respectively.  When the hand is pointing at the actual mark (at quarter past, 
twenty to etc) you feel a continuous stream of intermittent vibrations.  When 
both hands are over the same point, for example at twenty to eight, there is a 
long burst of vibration followed by a succession of shorter intermittent ones 
indicating the number of minutes past that point have been reached.  The other 
thing to remember is that, when going back up the hour from the half hour, the 
watch continues to represent the time as minutes past the hour, not minutes to 
it.  So, although the time may be quarter to nine, the continuous hour 
vibration will continue to appear at the 8.  Users of talking or visual digital 
watches will quickly get used to this.

If you press the button and run your finger counter-clockwise around the face 
the hands automatically move to the time at which the watch's alarm is 
currently set.  Setting both the time and the alarm are easily done without 
sight although the instructions which come on an audio CD with the watch make 
things appear more complicated than they actually are.  However, I understand 
that the RNIB is proposing to re-write the instructions and supply them in 
Braille with the watch.

I found that this watch allows sight impaired people to tell the time through 
touch quickly effectively and discretely.  Setting the time and the vibrating 
alarm was easily done by tactile means.  Indeed, the watch appeared to have 
been designed for use with the needs of VI people particularly in mind since 
there were tactile vibrating cues for most of the functions.  The vibrating 
alarm was useful both as a reminder and a wake-up alarm.  

The watch will be available from RNIB from November 1 and will cost £285 for 
the version with a sturdy black leather strap and £295 for one with a metal 
bracelet. Those prices are inclusive of VAT so that can be deducted for blind 
and partially sighted customers.  Enquiries and pre-orders at RNIB customer 

One UK resident I know of has already bought the watch from


a US-based website where prices are $165 and $229 respectively.  However, there 
was a shipping charge to this customer of $100.  Tissot has also told us that,

                "Tissot watches are only available from stockists - jewellers, 
department stores - and for this piece, the RNIB.  We do not sell direct to the 
public or from any web site."

So, if you intend to buy from this or any other website, you should check that 
they are offering the full 2 year warrantee which authorised Tissot 
distributors, including RNIB offer with the watch and that all other consumer 
rights are in tact.  

RNIB acknowledges that the price may seem  high but both they and Tissot point 
out that this is a high quality Swiss watch and a high value product.  RNIB 
also makes the point that it now supplies tactile, talking and easy=-to-see 
watches to fit every lifestyle and pocket from a talking watch for £5.00 to 
this luxury item at the high end of the range.  When I suggested to them that 
it was a shame that such a revolutionary, useful and easy to use item was 
priced so prohibitively for many of their customers.  Sandra Taylor from the 
Peterborough office said that if customer feedback indicated that  more people 
would by the watch if it was cheaper, she would be prepared to make 
representations to Tissot to see if the price could be lowered.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/ - World Wide Wonderland

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