Synapse joins forces with Nixon to create groundbreaking ultra-rugged smartwatch

January 30, 2017 – Product development firm Synapse has worked with watch and accessories brand Nixon to create the world’s first action sports smartwatch. The Mission is water resistant to a depth of 330 feet – significantly deeper than any other smartwatch – thanks to its breakthrough patent-pending MicLock™ sealing process.

The team at Synapse, a Cambridge Consultants company, faced a complex engineering challenge. It was tasked with developing an audio port that was water resistant to three feet under water – but could also be put into ‘lock’ mode for activities such as surfing, with water resistance to 10 ATM. This level of water resistance – down to 330 feet under water – has never been achieved by any other smartwatch on the market.

In addition to the water-resistance challenge, the team could not deviate too far from the watch’s small form factor. And the task was full of contradictions. The moveable seal for the audio port had to be small enough to match the industrial design, but large enough to ergonomically suit active hands. Further, the audio port itself had to be large enough to allow for voice recording, but small enough to seal and keep out contaminants.

“Our solution was to create a two-phase sealing process – water resistant to three feet under water for the microphone audio capabilities and to 10 ATM for activities like surfing or snowboarding,” said Ray Nicoli, mechanical engineering program lead at Synapse. “This two-phase sealing with audio capabilities had never been done before and it means the Mission watch has unprecedented water-resistant capabilities, while still achieving the attractive aesthetic.”

The mechanical engineering experts at Synapse developed multiple concepts to explore what was feasible before selecting their two favorite options for prototyping. Air had to be able to enter the watch to record audio and allow use of the barometer, but fluids and dust had to be kept out at all times. The two-stage prototypes were tested to the two different water-resistance standards required – and gained the seal of approval.

“The groundbreaking water-resistant capabilities delivered by the Synapse team have enabled the Mission to achieve the highest water-resistance rating of any smartwatch on the market,” said Joe Babcock, director of watches and technical products at Nixon. “It means our watches can withstand twice the depth of many similar devices – a feat of engineering that has given us an ‘all-terrain vehicle’ for the wrist. You never know where life will take you, but now your watch can handle anything.”



Notes for editors

Synapse is a product development and consultancy ­firm. We work with the best companies in the world to drive innovation and introduce cutting-edge devices that positively impact our lives. Fueled by a desire to solve complex engineering challenges, we develop products that transform brands and accelerate advances in technology. For more information, visit

Synapse is part of Cambridge Consultants, which develops breakthrough products, creates and licenses intellectual property, and provides business consultancy in technology-critical issues for clients worldwide. With a team of more than 700 staff, including engineers, scientists, mathematicians and designers, in offices in Cambridge (UK), Boston (USA) and Singapore, Cambridge Consultants offers solutions across a diverse range of industries including medical technology, industrial and consumer products, digital health, energy and wireless communications. For more information, visit:

Founded in 1998 in Encinitas, California, Nixon is a premium global watch and accessories brand. Nixon’s team-designed, custom-built watches and accessories are sold in the best boardsport, fashion and specialty retailers in over 90 countries around the world. For more information, visit

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