The watch may be a portable device with a long history, but it is now becoming the technology battleground of the future.
Samsung is expected to unveil a smartwatch in two weeks, and leaks suggest it will have a camera in the strap, speakers in the clasp, and sensors that detect when it is being looked at.
With Apple's next big product expected to be an internet-connected timepiece, the South Korean manufacturer is dealing the first blow in the war for the wrist. Reports suggest Samsung's Galaxy Gear watch will be seen for the first time on 4 September, with launch events expected in Berlin and New York.
Prototypes sent to developers creating applications for the digital device say the finished product will have an accelerometer that switches the screen on when the wrist is moved up towards the eye, the GigaOM website revealed. The movement will also fire up apps installed on the phone, allowing downtime in between moments of activity so that the device conserves power.
The device will measure more than time. Taking a cue from Nike's popular Fuel wristband, which monitors distances walked and calories burned during the owner's daily activity, the Gear is expected to help users count steps or monitor their heart rate, technology which Samsung has already explored with its smartphones.
Developers said the Gear would have a touch-sensitive, full-colour screen using similar organic light emitting diode (OLED) technology to Samsung's top of the range phones.
GigaOM predicts the display will be square, and 2.5 inches on the diagonal, or three inches including the case.
However, patents filed by Samsung in South Korea, reported by local website Moveplayer, illustrated a long flexible rectangular screen which curves around the wrist. Samsung began demonstrating flexible full colour screens at trade fairs this year. At January's CES gadget show in Las Vegas one of the company's executives showed a plastic screen that could be bent into a U shape, promising the technology would soon be in commercial use.
Running on Google's Android software, developers say the Gear will respond to touch and swipe gestures just like a phone, though it is unlikely to be able to connect directly with the internet or mobile phone networks. Instead, it will rely on Bluetooth 4.0 short range radio technology, which will connect it to Samsung smartphones and tablets, and will require the watch to be within a few metres of a paired device in order to receive an internet signal.
One of its most appealing uses is likely to be displaying the emails, text messages and names of callers being received by the smartphone without the need to take the larger device out of a handbag or pocket. Tightly linked to Samsung's other gadgets, the technology is reportedly able to automatically open on a smartphone the last message seen on the watch screen.
Samsung first officially confirmed it was working on a watch in March, when Lee Young Hee, an executive in the mobile business, said: 'We've been preparing the watch product for so long. We are working very hard to get ready for it. We are preparing products for the future, and the watch is definitely one of them.'
Tech consultancy Canalys has predicted smartwatches will explode from 330,000 units shipped last year to more than 5 million in 2014. But the idea is not a new one, and the products released to date have held limited appeal for consumers. In 2010 Sony Ericsson created Live View, which connected to Android phones to serve up emails, texts and incoming calls. Similar functions are managed by the independently produced Pebble smartwatch, but it has received mixed reviews. As long ago as 2009 Samsung itself released a watch with a touch screen that could make calls. Called the S9110, it went on sale in a limited number of markets.
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