The 'World's Thinnest Watch' becomes another cautionary Kickstarter tale

After raising more than $1 million in crowdfunding, Central Standard shuts down and leaves backers empty-handed.


Two years ago, Central Standard promised a beautiful, bracelet-like smartwatch with an E-Ink display, but now backers are getting nothing but apologies.

It’s just the latest of many crowdfunded wearable disasters, as the makers of the “World’s Thinnest Watch” realized that mass-producing such a device was more or less impossible. The  project’s halt has left many backers empty-handed, and it’s unclear whether they’ll get any of their money back.

“As disappointed as we are in ourselves, we’re even more sorry to have disappointed our backers,” Central Standard’s Dave Vondle and Jerry O’Leary wrote in a project update. “We’re trying to keep our chins up, but we feel awful and are trying to resolve everything as quickly as we can.”

Why this matters: It’s bad news for backers, but it also speaks to the larger issue of crowdfunded campaigns that can’t deliver. Wearable technology seems to be especially problem-prone, as people with no electronics manufacturing experience jump in on what appears to be a hot opportunity. Central Standard may have tried its best, but it simply wasn’t prepared for the many problems that come from building a new gadget from scratch—especially one that must be stylish enough to wear on the wrist.

Timeline of a broken watch

As The Verge points out, Central Standard launched its CST-01 Kickstarter campaign in January 2013, promising an E-Ink display on a stainless-steel enclosure measuring just 0.8 mm thick. Pre-orders were priced at $129 each. The project raised more than $1 million, with an original delivery estimate of September 2013.

Since then, the project has run into several major issues. First, a vital battery component went out of production, necessitating a custom solution. Problems with the manufacturing process created further delays, and then it turned out that Central Standard’s band supplier was producing thicker hardware than expected.

Even after resolving these issues and several other minor concerns, only about 55 percent of the watches were coming off the assembly line without problems. The cost to produce each watch had effectively ballooned to $300—more than twice the original price. By May, Central Standard had run out of money, with only about 135 units ready for shipment.

All of these issues culminated in a June 15 post, in which Central Standard announced it was breaking up with its manufacturer and giving up on finding another partner. Currently, the plan is either to liquidate all assets and redistribute the money, or to make all development and documents open-source for backers.

Either way, it doesn’t sound like there will be any broken records—except the one we keep hearing about crowdfunded wearables gone wrong.

This story, "The 'World's Thinnest Watch' becomes another cautionary Kickstarter tale" was originally published by PCWorld.

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