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Sony’s e-ink FES Watch goes on sale this week

The FES Watch, Sony’s e-ink watch that launched on its internal crowdfunding site First Flight last year, is coming to stores in Japan this week. MoMA Design Store in Omotesando and Isetan in Shinjuku will be the first to sell the watch; two retailers that target fashion more than the technology market.

First unveiled in September under the guise of Sony’s subsidiary Fashion Entertainments, the FES Watch re-appeared on First Flight later in the year. Sony wanted to see how popular the product was without a major name behind it, hence why it used an off-shoot brand. It gained lots of interest worldwide for its minimalist design and multiple design options.

Updated on 11-16-2015 by David Curry: Added in information on Japanese commercial launch.

The FES Watch uses e-paper across both the face of the timepiece and the strap, allowing both to be customized by the user. It doesn’t have all of the smart notification features of an Android Wear device — Sony already has the Smartwatch 3 to cover that base — but it has an understated minimalist look and a choice of 24 different faces. What’s more, thanks to the low power draw of e-ink, it can last for up to 60 days between battery charges.

The FES Watch is one of the first products out of the First Flight program to become a commercial product, and may not have received any support at all had the program not been unveiled. The watch quickly reached its target of 2 million yen ($16,900) last year, and was sent to backers earlier in the year. Finally, after six months, it will be available for customers that didn’t get a chance to back it.

Five Sony engineers make up the Fashion Entertainments team and they are working on these e-ink concepts in addition to their daily duties at the corporation. According to the WSJ, Sony is “encouraging its employees to come up with new product or business ideas” through a scheme similar to Google’s famous ’20 percent free time’ scheme used in the past.

Another watch project, named Sony Wena, launched on First Flight in September, offering all of the smart functionality inside the strap rather than the watch. Wena reached its 10 million yen ($82,500) milestone very quickly, eventually reaching 100 million yen ($825,000) and becoming the most successful project on the crowdfunding site.