Ultimate Steampunk Cell Phone – $275,000

by Matt Forcey

Forget digital. The future of cell phones may just be mechanical. As flat, touch screen slabs like the iPhone make our lives more virtual, a half-dozen guys from the luxury watch world are trying to drag mobile phones back onto the physical plane, in which every function would operate mechanically through human energy.

Celsius is a French company founded in 2006 by four young entrepreneurs. In March 2010, after three years of research and development, and help from watch-industry icons like Richard Mille and controversial movement maker Confrerie Horlogere Hublot, Celsius X VI II are launching a range of high-end micromechanical phones featuring some exceptional patented mechanical complications.

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Celsius X VI II‘s first product, LeDIX, is an impressive merging of a mobile phone with a tourbillion watch that integrates a patented rewinding mechanism hidden within its hinge.

Inspired by tourbillion watches—invented in the late 18th century to offset the supposed effects of gravity on accuracy by rotating a full 360º within a cage—Celsius’ love for mechanical triumphs of centuries past permeates the many components of the the LeDIX.

Made using close to 600 mechanical components (most of them hand-finished), LeDIX is indeed a watch/phone with some unusual new aspects.  Ultimately, Celsius’s goal is to physicalize the digital. They imagine that Caller ID could be a flipping board of shifting letters, quietly clattering, like the destination sign in a railway station. A phone could indicate waiting messages by shifting small, silvery balls, or ticking a tiny watch hand. You could dial with a dial. Pretty much only the radio needs to remain digital.

That dream is a ways away, but if anyone could get there, it’s these guys. They’re building art objects, not weapons of mass production. When they needed a big, complex piece of titanium, they invented a new way of forging it.

Obviously, a mechanical phone’s functions are going to stay pretty simple. That said, they’re not looking to get into a war with Apple; in fact, many of their potential customers will also be carrying iPhones or BlackBerrys.

LeDIX’s main menu offers phone calls, text messaging, a camera, contacts, and a calendar. It has e-mail and Web browsing, too. But it’s designed for ease of use and elegance, not for a deep feature set.  Future, more mechanical phones may have even fewer features.

The LeDIX was unveiled this past March at Baselworld 2010.  The company plans on initially making 50 phones in two limited-edition models, with a starting price of $275,000.

Via Watchismo and PC Magazine

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