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Swatch Paparazzi Spot Watch

Posted Feb. 14, 2004 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor

Those were brave days when we went out the door without knowing the weather, headline news, sports scores and our horoscopes. But those days are over. The new digital age shows us how easy it is to get all that information before having your first cup of coffee in the morning by simply lifting your wrist and looking at your SPOT watch. SPOT (Smart Personal Objects Technology) watches were introduced by Microsoft and some major watchmakers including Fossil, Suunto and Citizen in Jan. 2003. These watches do double duty as a time piece and a personal information device that can receive news from major new sources, stocks from US and International indexes, weather for local city and any other cities, sports scores, movie listings and much more. Microsoft created MSN Direct to update the information which is sent via FM radio towers. MSN Direct categorizes the information sent to your watch using Channels and you can personalize the channels to get only the information you want.

Since the announcement of the SPOT platform, several SPOT watch models from Fossil, Suunto and Tissot have been released. The latest addition to the market is the Swatch Paparazzi SPOT watch line. The main features on these watches are similar and are based on Microsoft’s specs. The major channels offered by MSN Direct are the same with only some variations of watch faces and watchmaker’s specific channels. When you shop for a SPOT watch, style and comfort might just be the deciding points.

SPOT watches

Above: the Fossil Abacus and Swatch Paparazzi SPOT watches

Design and Ergonomics

The Swatch watch is a sporty and hip addition to the SPOT watch line up. While most SPOT watches come in black and silver color combinations, the Swatch SPOT watch aims to steal the lime light with four color combinations: blue and beige, black and silver, red and black, orange and blue. We tested the red and black color watch in this review.

Swatch Paparazzi






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The watch is larger than the Fossil Abacus and thicker than most other SPOT watches. The Swatch has the same number of the control buttons as the other watches, however instead of the “knob” design, the Swatch controls are embedded in the watch body. The control buttons are easy to use and are covered in black dotted plastic in contrast to the red cover that surrounds the watch face. The rest of the watch is in black with a red band that’s made of rubber and is stiff because it contains a metal antenna. Be sure not to twist or damage the band as the antenna is required to receive FM radio signal for the information sent by MSN Direct. The rubber band has size adjustments and the smallest size is about 7 inches. You can not make the size smaller by punching additional holes without risking damage to the antenna. The rubber material isn’t breathable so you don’t want to wear the watch very tight. The rubber material of the watch band also attracts dirt easily and the blackened band isn’t very easy to clean.

The display screen is slightly bigger than the Abacus screen and has very nice contrast that makes the watch easy to read. The nighttime mode is also very easy to see with green backlighting turned on. Swatch is Swiss made and is water resistant up to 2 ATM. Swatch didn’t make the SPOT watch waterproof because the FM radio signal can’t reach deep underwater.

The Paparazzi has a rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery and comes with a wall charger. You will find the charging port on the top right corner in the back of the watch. The manual states that depending on your usage, the battery will last 3-5 days. In our tests, the Paparazzi consistently got 4 days on a charge.

Smart Features

The Paparazzi has basic digital timepiece functions and SPOT smart watch features. The basic functions include alert and alarm sounds (hourly chimes available), stopwatch functions, a countdown timer and a calendar with monthly view. The smart features on the Paparazzi include receiving wireless content provided by the MSN Direct, automatic time zone updating and time syncing (this means you don’t ever need to adjust the watch to the correct time) and Internet time which is a special feature offered by Swatch. For most of the content served by MSN Direct, the Paparazzi offers personal customization functions. For example, if you are getting headline news from MSN Direct channels, you can set the number of stories you wish to see on your Paparazzi. If you are getting weather for multiple cities, you can set the watch to display only your local weather or include the weather from other cities. Similar customizations can be made for sports scores, stock quotes, messages and more. These customization features help you customize the watch to provide the exact information you need.

Even though the Paparazzi blends basic digital watch features and SPOT smart features together well, it does offer a control to shut down only the FM radio on the watch so that you can enjoy the timepiece features (but not wireless data) when in flight.

MSN Direct Services

To take advantage of the wireless content offered by MSN Direct, you will need to activate the service and choose your channels. MSN Direct offers two plans; one is a monthly $9.95 and the other is a $39.95 yearly plan. For an additional $20 per year, you can add one-way (receiving) Personal Messaging via MSN Messenger and Outlook Calendar sync for your appointments features. The service is available in most US metropolitan regions.

MSN Direct currently offers 13 channels that include News, Weather, Stocks, Sports, Movies, Watch Faces and more. You can not only select the channels from which you wish to receive information, but more importantly you can also specify the sources of the information, location and the amount of the information you wish to receive. Go into each channel page to make the modifications such as selecting news sources from major and local news providers, add the cities you are traveling to for weather reports, change sports teams you wish to get scores on, downloading new watch faces, etc.

For road warriors, MSN Direct offers an easy way to get all the information you are used to getting at home when you’re on the road. Simply add the cities you are traveling to on the MSN Direct channels, and you will receive the local weather, news and other information, and the watch adjusts to the new time zone automatically as soon as your plan lands. We tested the Paparazzi in three major cities and the radio tower switch over was fast and smooth.

Two of many watch faces

watch face

watch face


The Paparazzi’s sporty design changes the SPOT watch’s “business only” image. It will attract younger users who like high tech timepieces but also want to look.

Pro: Swiss made high quality watch. It’s the first SPOT watch to offer four color combinations. The display screen is large and easy to see and has a nice nighttime view option. Good battery life and loud alarm audio. Strong radio signal in metro areas and towers switch seamlessly when you are in new cities. The watch is relatively reasonably priced. Reliable service from MSN Direct with a wide range of information offered by the channels.

Con: The non-breathable material used in the watch band could cause mild skin discomfort, especially in hot weather. The band attracts dirt and gives the watch an unattractive look. Generally, SPOT watches, including the Swatch are too large for women. For digital watch users who are used to having vibrating alarms, this is not the watch for you as it lacks this feature.

Price: $150





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