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Review – Nooka Zot

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Rarely does something come along that forces you to rethink old ways of doing things. Think about it… what piece of design or engineering, in the past, say, ten years, has really caused you to reconsider the ruling paradigm?

Now, we here at WWR believe there is a fine line between stupid and clever, and we don’t want to go around telling designers to go nuts with their bad selves because that leads to Hello Kitty and the beadazzeler. However, we can truly, unequivocally state that Matthew Waldman of Nooka is on to something good.

The Nooka Zot is an odd watch. There are twelve dots, for the hours and months, and a long bar for the minutes. Finally, below those two, there is a small window for seconds, flush left. Look at it cross-eyed and the face looks like a small, cool radio. Then try to read it. It’s very self-explanatory: the dots darken to show the hour and the bar grows as each minute of your, long, tedious life passes you by. Press the lower right button and you get the date: the month appears in the dots and the day appears in the seconds box. A button on the upper right lights up the green backlight and there is a small, recessed button on the left for setting the time.

And that’s it – it’s as basic as a $2 Timex but means, in an aesthetic sense, so much more. At first, checking the time was a pain. You had to count the dots. You had to check the bar. You had to stop looking at the seconds because they weren’t going to tell you much. You essentially stop thinking about numbers and about halves of a day or a quarter of an hour. It’s a very Panerai-like feeling: you get the general gist of the time at first and then, with practice, you become a pro. Now, looking at the watch tells me exactly what I want to know in seconds. It is a new way to tell time.

Waldman, the designer, talked to me about how we all learn to tell time, first on a clock face then on a digital watch. The Zot face is impish and fun and, it seems to me, perfect for a first time watch owner aka Junior. There’s really nothing to read and it teaches kids to count and tell time without forcing them figure out where the big and little hands are and the extrapolate information from an age old design motif, the dial, that has taken off because there are few other attempts at improving upon it.

Now, is the Zot itself, as a physical object, a massive improvement on the traditional watch? No, but it could be. In its current incarnation, the watch is a bit on the fragile side and the odd use of a die-cut face and LCD screen causes some annoying shadows in bright light. The backlight is excellent and the dots really glow when its on. Otherwise, you really have to take a close look to see them all when their on in a bright room. Do these problems surface often? No, only when you first get the piece and slowly get used to it.

One major concern is the metal face. It is brushed aluminum and easily scratched. Careful wear will prevent this, but who is careful these days? Nobody, that’s who.

The band is thin, nice leather (available in multiple colors, including L’Orange International which is French for Tang-colored) including and the buckle, with two prongs, is excellent. The case finish is excellent as well and the button feel is perfect.

The price? Well, Mr. Nooka sells these puppies for $250, which I would say is fair when considering the pedigree and one-of-a-kind nature of these pieces. They will be sold in the MoMA catalog this year and are available in some retailers, like Flight 001 in New York. This is not a hearty aviator or a heavy-duty diver. It is an experiment in design and high-tech materials and worth taking a look at, at least for the unique spin on time-telling that we rarely, if ever see.

Quality: 3/5
Style: 5/5
Overall: 4/5

The Zot is available for $250 here.

By John Biggs

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