Seiko, Nike put flexible LCD into watch

Seiko Instruments and Nike are putting some of the latest LCD (liquid crystal display) technology to use in a new watch the two companies have jointly developed.

Nike wanted to make its new Triax Speed and Triax Stamina watches curved so they could fit closely around the wrist, but also wanted a large LCD panel that could be easily read. Using conventional LCD technology this would be difficult because a large display means a large flat case, and thus a gap between the watch body and the wrist.

Seiko Instruments managed to overcome this by using a new LCD based on a flexible plastic substrate rather than glass, which is normally used as the base on which the LCD is constructed.

"The watch uses a polymer substrate," said Masayuki Kawada, a spokesman for Seiko Instruments. "It's the first time we have used such a display in a watch."

The result is just what Nike was after -- a large display curved to match the watch's wrist-clinging shape. By using plastic instead of glass, the watch display is also more resistant to shocks and blows.

Nike, which will sell the watches under its own brand name, plans to put them on sale in the U.S. in mid-October and in Japan in November. They will be priced at US$135 and $149 in the U.S. for the Triax Speed and Triax Stamina respectively. Sales in other regions are expected to start in October or soon after, although precise launch dates were not available.

Flat panel displays based on plastic substrates are currently under development by a number of companies which see countless uses for them, from advertising boards that curve around pillars to thin sheets that can be held like a piece of paper but display video and refresh instantly.

Late last year, two Japanese companies unveiled their latest research in the area. Pioneer Corp. took the wraps off its development work into flexible organic electroluminescence (EL) displays by showing a small monochrome prototype at an electronics exhibition, while Canon Inc. also showed for the first time a prototype digital display that is only slightly thicker than a sheet of paper.

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Martyn Williams

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