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It’s time to set the record straight.
While we plan to be the first brand that successfully creates a tactile watch everyone wants to wear — and yes, our timepiece includes several unique features — we’re certainly not the first to design a tactile watch.
Throughout our process of designing The Bradley, we’ve found many utility and design patents that are similar to ours. We took that as a good sign: the fact that many people have wanted and tried to invent watches for the blind — our initial goal — proves there’s a deep need for this product.
The designs and ideas that have come before us influenced our approach from the very beginning. We were inspired by many of the past designs, particularly those that died in concept stage. We’re hoping to do the same for many future designers by opening our design patents to the public to adopt and use for free.
Here are a few of the past designs that have influenced our work, as well as how The Bradley is different. We’re only sharing patents that are extremely similar to our design, those that use magnets and ball bearings as time indicators.
The first design patent on record to use magnets and ball bearings was issued in 1959. We were unable to figure out whether they actually succeeded in producing the watch, but you can see the detailed drawings here for Patent No. #2915874. Pretty cool, right?
Another utility patent issued in 1998, Patent No. 5805531, is similar to the one above. When we dove into the legalities, we discovered the earlier patent covers what the latter patent claims, so the earlier patent actually invalidates the latter one.
You’ll note that the design drawn above includes only one time indicator, though it’s unclear whether that tracks minutes or hours. The patent document says it has not been successful at including both minute and hour indicators because of the way the magnets interact.
Unlike many of the other patents we discovered, this designer actually produced a watch. Like the design, the product itself had only one ball bearing that indicated the hour. Since it lacked a minute indicator, the user couldn’t tell time accurately. Abacus, the company that produced the watch, no longer makes them. We’re guessing that telling the hour only was not enough to win the market.
Image source: thisnext.com
As we worked day after day to improve our design, we came up with a solution to the problems of these past designs by putting the hour indicator on the side of the watch, rather than the front. This improves both function and accuracy. It also makes it easier for the user to distinguish between the two indicators, something we discovered during user testing.
Here’s where we are covering new ground: The Bradley is the first tactile watch with both minute and hour indicators, which is why we believe it will work for a wide variety of users — both visually impaired and sighted — where the previous designs failed. As far as we know, The Bradley is the first timepiece with this feature, and we’re proud to bring this innovation to the world.
As we mentioned above, anyone is welcome to use our design patent for free under three conditions:
The reason we’re offering our design patent to the public rather than keeping it to ourselves — and we’ll offer it soon on the blog — is because there’s still room for improvement, and only collaborative efforts can make that happen. While we’re incredibly proud of our design, there’s always more that can be done. We’re excited about how all of you might contribute to improving the design and developing something incredibly innovative.
Is it challenging to design with inclusivity in mind? You bet. But we welcome challenges. Challenge drives innovation.