AW 500 multi-alarm wristwatch from Amplicomms

AW 500 multi-alarm wristwatch from Amplicomms

A multi-alarm wristwatch designed with deaf people particularly, though not exclusively, in mind also manages to look good, says Ian Macrae

As disabled people we often have to accept that, when it comes to things which are made to enable us, style is often forfeited to functional utilitarian appearance. From old-fashioned NHS wheelchairs to bathroom equipment which looks more like it belongs in a hospital ward rather than someone’s home and clunky bits of kitchen equipment, adjectives such as cool’ and stylish’ all too often do not leap readily from the pages of the dictionary. So when something comes along which has as one of its main selling points a medically related purpose, the fact that it also looks good and wears well welcomes as a refreshing bonus. Such is the case with the AW 500 multi-alarm wristwatch from Amplicomms. The company specialises in products which are designed to make the lives of hearing and sight impaired people easier.

Their catalogue has featured mobile phones with enhanced volume and highly tactile buttons, alarm clocks which ring more loudly and vibrate and headphones which boost the level of what the user has chosen to listen to. In this case the AW 500 watch has the capacity for setting up to five alarms a day which, when activated cause the watch to strongly vibrate. The idea is that if, for instance, someone has to take medication at particular points in the day, each alarm discreetly alerts them to the fact that it’s tablet time. Once set, each alarm will recur daily until its setting is changed. But in terms of its look, the AW 500 has style and individuality. Its slightly elongated shape and domed contours set it apart as stylishly different. The analogue face boasts strong black markings with numbers at the 12, three and nine points while the black hands also stand out. This means that despite having a partially patterned background, the time shown on the face is relatively easy to see. Below the analogue dial is a narrow LCD digital strip. This is where the alarm settings are controlled and displayed.

The watch has four buttons each with a clearly defined function and a traditional crown-type pull-out control for setting and adjusting the time. The steps for setting each of the five possible alarms are clearly set out in the user manual and are pretty straightforward with each of the four buttons having its own clear and distinct place in the process. The digital display can show current time and set times for each alarm at the push of a couple of buttons. When in set mode this display is backlit. However, this light is not strong and barely shows up in daylight.

The LCD window is very narrow, the characters small and the contrast between them and the background is not high. This might well make the alarm functions difficult to use particularly for older people who have degrees of sight loss but who would also benefit from the reminders the multiple alarms give. The alarms themselves come in two-second bursts of vibration followed by one-and-a-half seconds during which the light shows in the digital display. The vibrations are strong enough to leave the wearer in no doubt that they are there but they also offer a degree of discretion. There is no audible alarm. Clearly the AW 500 can be worn purely as a stylish wristwatch by people who do not need the multi-alarm reminder functionality. For those who do need reminders, while setting alarms is intuitive, seeing the small digital display might present some people with problems. And, of course, you always have to face that moment when the thing your vibrating watch is reminding you to do has completely deserted you.

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