Hands on with Tokyoflash Kisai Stencil, the simple yet hip LCD watch

Kisai Stencil Watch

Do you fancy accessories that are more unique than the next guy’s? Why bother with G-Shock or Rolex watches when you can own a cool arm candy unlike anyone else’s? Tokyoflash, a LCD watch company based in Japan, recently selected a design from one of its lucky fans and made her vision a reality with the Kisai Stencil. The design features a white-space, minimalistic feel that uses lines and dots to form the shape of each digit. Come along for a tour of this one-of-a-kind LCD watch.

First impressions

TokyoFlash Kisai Stencil WatchRight out of the box, the Kisai Stencil is a lightweight, digital-display watch that seems fitting for a younger demographic. The genuine leather straps are about average in width when compared to most traditional watches, but might be a little too wide for a female wearer’s preference. The body of the watch has two buttons on the side, one to light up in the dark, while the other button switches the display from Time to Date.

The design came from American fan Heather Sable, who said she came up with the display by trying “make new, interesting looking digits.” This same design for the numbers is found along the straps of the watch.

“Looking at the watch at first, it appears to be some line segments and dots,” she says on the Tokyoflash blog. “If you read the background instead, it is quite easy to read the time digitally”.

Tokyoflash liked her design so much, it was shortly put into mass production and launched just a mere five months after the blog appeared online. Heather’s is the fifth design Tokyoflash produced that came from a fan submission.

Unfortunately, the first time I tried putting on the Kisai Stencil, the plastic ring at the end popped off. Luckily I was able to piece it back together with little hassle, hoping that wasn’t representative of the rest of the watch. But just how did the Stencil fare after the fact?

Review

TokyoFlash Kisai Stencil WatchBecause I have relatively small wrists, the watch did not fit me very well. The stainless steel plate seemed big on me (nearly taking up my entire wrist width), and it felt like I couldn’t really move much with it on. To give it a fair shake, I had my older brother (who has a more average-sized forearm) put it on and it looked much more appropriate on him. The straps are thin, so it doesn’t feel like you’re wearing anything noticeably heavy.

To set the time, hold the smaller button and the lines on the display will begin to blink. From here, you can keep pushing the lower button to change the digits until your time and date is correct before just leaving it to stop flashing. Each time you push the button, the watch lets out a little beep to let you know you’ve pushed the button. You can use this button to alternate between time, date, and alarm as well.

Stencil TimeIf Heather’s idea was to make the digits difficult to read at first glance, she certainly got the job done. I felt a little dumb trying to figure out how to tell time, until I realized the farther away I looked, the more I could see how the white space formed each digit.

The numbers are divided into four blocks, the upper two indicating hours and lower for minutes. The same concept applies for date, with the upper row representing the month and the lower row telling the date. In case you’re also confused, hopefully this chart can help you visualize the negative space the dots and lines are supposed to form.

Once I did figure out how to tell time on the Stencil, the watch quickly became more appealing. I loved the idea that some people might not be able to read the digits off the bat, and this added a neat quirk to the watch. The backlight also looks great in low light, and might make for a good conversation starter during a happy hour in a bar. The Stencil uses a water-resistant CR2025 battery, which is advertised to last up to 12 months so you can keep styling all year long.

In bright conditions, the display also doubled nicely as a mirror. Just face it under the light source and you can easily see your reflection in the watch face. No more whipping out your front-facing camera on your smartphone and pretend you’re on FaceTime.

Should you buy it?

Kisai Stencil Red
The Kisai Stencil is definitely a unique piece in its own category. If you’re looking for something purely fashionable, it’s a neat accessory to add to your closet. However, at $140, you might want to be more patient and wait for the Pebble from Kickstarter to come out. Although we appreciate the cool, futuristic design of the Stencil, at that price point Tokyoflash may want to incorporate a bit more functionality than just a clever fan design.

Of course, if you want the kind of watch that can trick the eyes of passerbys and leave those smartphone capabilities for another time, the Stencil might just be suited for your modern lifestyle. It’s lightweight, fun, and great for everyday wear. The watch is available in black or white strap with various LED colors: Red, blue, green, pink, or mirror.

Emerging Tech

With cameras that know dogs from Dodges, Honda is making intersections safer

Honda and the city of Marysville, Ohio are working on creating a smart intersection. The goal would not only help better direct the flow of traffic, it could also help save the lives of pedestrians and cyclists.
Product Review

Bigger. Smarter. Louder. The Echo Plus makes Alexa sound better than ever

Amazon’s second-generation Echo Plus speaker is the loudest, bassiest speaker in the Echo fleet. While featuring a smart hub with only Zigbee connectivity, other upgrades make this device a worthy smart speaker.
Smart Home

Google Home Mini vs. Amazon Echo Dot: Which is better?

We put the two most popular smart home speakers -- the Google Home Mini and the 3rd generation Amazon Echo Dot -- together and tested them on appearance, audio, and abilities. So which should you buy? Find out how they did in our showdown.
Wearables

These are the best smartwatches for everything from fashion to fitness

Tempted to buy a smartwatch? If so, then the growing number of great models available means you've got plenty to choose from. But which one should you pick? Here is our list of the best smartwatches.
Movies & TV

The 10 best 'Black Mirror' episodes are thought-provoking, disturbing, mesmerizing

After watching all 19 episodes across four seasons and one special, we've selected and ranked the best Black Mirror episodes released so far. Read on to find out if your favorite episode from the award-winning Netflix series made the list.
Emerging Tech

Boston Dynamics is trying to make fetch happen with its new working robot dog

Boston Dynamics wants to see Spot in the workplace, but not as part of take-your-dog-to-work days. Quite the opposite, in fact, as the technology company believes its extraordinary robo-dog is now ready to start work.
Emerging Tech

Regular paints and plastics will soon be able to ‘heal’ like skin

Imagine if paints, plastics, or other coatings could heal up like human skin in the event that they suffered damage. Thanks to researchers at Clemson University, such technology is almost here.
Emerging Tech

Here’s how Microsoft’s Hololens is helping NASA build the new Orion spacecraft

Lockheed Martin is turning to Microsoft’s mixed reality Hololens smartglasses to help build NASA's Orion spacecraft, which could one day help rocket astronauts as far afield as Mars.
Emerging Tech

Shrimp eyes inspire new camera focused on helping self-driving cars see better

By mimicking the vision of mantis shrimp, researchers were able to make significant improvements on today’s commercial cameras. They hope their technology can help mitigate accidents by letting self-driving vehicles see more clearly.
Emerging Tech

This intelligent parachute system can bail out clumsy drone pilots

Parachutes can save drones when they unexpectedly fall from the sky. Among a number of such systems, Austrian firm Drone Rescue is this week showing off its latest design that automatically deploys when it senses trouble.
Cars

‘Bloodhound’ rocket car needs a speedy cash injection to survive

The rocket-powered Bloodhound car has driven into difficulties, with the company behind the project needing a multi-million-dollar cash injection to save its dream of attempting a 1,000 mph land speed record.
Emerging Tech

Tokyo robotic warehouse needs almost no human workers

Uniqlo has unveiled its first robot-powered warehouse that requires 90 percent fewer human workers to operate. The Japanese clothing giant plans to invest close to $1 billion dollars to convert all of its warehouses worldwide.
Emerging Tech

Curious how A.I. 'brains' work? Here's a super-simple breakdown of deep learning

What is deep learning? A branch of machine learning, this field deals with the creation of neural networks that are modeled after the brain and adept at dealing with large amounts of human-oriented data, like writing and voice commands.
Emerging Tech

Drop everything and watch Boston Dynamics’ robo-dog dance to ‘Uptown Funk’

After a few years of Earthbound training, Boston Dynamics’ SpotMini robot dog is ready to take on Mars. Bruno Mars, to be precise. Check out Skynet's future pet as you've never seen it before.