The History of Burg Smartwatches

January 8, 2021

Sim card enabled smartwatch

The Burg Smartwatch Series

Smartwatches are another piece of consumer technology that we’re gradually beginning to take for granted.

They’ve developed from their humble origins, as watches with integrated calculators, calendars, and other simple apps, to the highly connective standalone smartwatches we have now with LTE connectivity and high-def screens. 

Smartwatches now boast standalone independent functionality and allow for seamless connectivity to phones and other devices.

To check out the history of smartwatches, we’ve got to go back to some names and brands that will largely be unfamiliar these days.

One such manufacturer is Burg, owned by Hermen van den Burg, a prolific Dutch designer and trend specialist that worked alongside brands such as Ikea and Target. 

Burg was always devoted to creating in-trend items that combined functionality with style and fashion.

Burg watches are famed for being affordable and also offer the ability to make and receive phone calls and messages independent of your cellphone via an onboard SIM card.

The Burg watch series includes the popular Burg 12 smartwatch which is a best seller.

A Burg smartwatch is known for being feature-packed but being reasonably priced at the same time.

The smartwatch market is awash with expensive watches so it’s refreshing to see something aimed at the other end of the spectrum.

Burg trumped the ugly designs of the 2000s and created something far more refined, useful, and aesthetically pleasing. 

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smartwatch with long battery

Pre 2010s Smartwatches

Before 2010, there were very few attempts at building what we now consider a smartwatch.

Most smartwatches involved apps that couldn’t connect to phones, they were simply digital watches with LCD displays and simple apps.

Some were able to store phone numbers and other data and the more advanced ones alerted phones via Bluetooth when calls or messages had been received. 

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This all changed with the first ‘smarter’ smartwatch, the Burg. The Burg was the first smartwatch to integrate a sim card so it could make calls without phone connectivity. It could also connect to a phone to share information like calls and texts.

Overall, though, the Burg was designed primarily to be a standalone device allowing users to leave the house without their phone, or always own a backup device at all times which had similar levels of functionality to a smartphone.

The original Burg was still very much a prototype, though, and after a lag period of 4 years, the Burg 12 was released to become the first feature-packed consumer smartwatch with quality independent functionality. 

The Burg 12

The Burg 12 was designed with features in mind. It was not a minimal watch and instead aimed at packing as many innovative features in as possible.

It combined Dutch design with high-tech features to create a smartwatch that finally penetrated the market as something people would want to wear for fashion reasons as well as technological reasons. 

Van den Burg had tested the Burg 12’s software extensively and the watch strap and case, etc, were made from appealing synthetic materials – it was neither too conspicuous as a smartwatch or understated.

Additionally, the Burg 12 was designed to be relatively inexpensive compared to the competition from the likes of Samsung and was priced around $199.

Combined, these qualities propelled the Burg 12 and smartwatches in general into the public eye. 

Burg 12 Specs

The Burg 12 had an impressive set of features for the time. 

  • OS Android 4.0
  • 3G and WiFi connectivity 
  • SIM-enabled
  • 1.54-inch screen. 240 x 240 pixels. 
  • 2.0mp camera
  • Bluetooth 3.0 
  • FM radio and MP3 player
  • Send/receive calls via the watch itself of via connected phones using Bluetooth 
  • Micro SD slot up to 32gb 
  • 2 to 3 days of battery life

The Burg 12 came with a $25 SIM card for free (depending on region) and a 4GB Micro  SD card for out-of-the-box functionality. It could be customized with additional fascias and straps. 

The Burg 12 rose in popularity to become one of the most highly reviewed watches around and it helped carve out new ground for smartwatches in general.

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Indeed, the Burg 12 was the first truly modern smartwatch that was usable independently and when paired to a phone. 

The Burg 12 did feature some issues and it showed signs that packing too much into a smartwatch was likely detrimental to the product.

Nevertheless, he bridged the gap between smartwatches and phones – users could now depend on either or both. The modern smartwatch was born. 

Burg in the Future

So where did Burg go from there? Samsung had started releasing smartwatches including the highly successful ‘Gear’ smartwatch.

In 2015, Burg released its evolved form of the Burg 12, the Burg 16. This smartwatch was square, not circular, and featured most of the time tech in much-upgraded form.

It swapped out Bluetooth 3.0 for Bluetooth 4.0, used android 7.1, and featured a 5.0mp camera. It was also much slimmer than the Burg 12. 

The Burg 27 took elements from previous watches but made a strong attempt to integrate higher quality materials.

It used stainless steel to create a classier casing, moving away from the plastic more outdoorsy watches produced by Samsung at the time. 

The Burg 31

The Burg 31 was Burg’s last smartwatch and departed from previous models significantly by dropping the touchscreen in favor of a traditional watch face with mechanical hands.

Instead, this watch was targeted at children and pensioners who would be able to use it to make calls without touching their phone via preset phone numbers. 

It also featured tracking using the ‘Find My Burg’ feature, allowing parents to track their children’s whereabouts. For pensioners, the watch had a panic call function that contacted 911 when triggered. 

Burg’s Legacy 

Burg has ceased as a company now Korean and Japanese tech giants have taken over the smartwatch industry.

Burg watches played a very important role in the genesis of the modern smartwatch industry, though, and the original Burg watch is generally regarded as the first truly smartwatch ever built. 

Lifestyle designer and inventor Herman van den Burg has taken up other pursuits now but his smartwatches ensured that European design was strongly represented in the smartwatch market.

In the future, it is likely that Burg watches will become collectible devices. 


Burg smartwatches were innovative and increased the leverage of the entire industry.

Burg now longer trades in this industry but their legacy lives on.

Burg smartwatches made the impressive maneuver of fusing style with technological functionality. 

About the Author Jamie

Jamie has a background in physics and electronics and has always been interested in technological innovation.

Since getting a Garmin Forerunner 220 way back in 2014, he's been obsessed with smartwatches, in particular running/exercise watches. He's our "go-to" guy for these!

He's currently wearing a Garmin 645 Music but can't wait to try the Venu 2 out in an upcoming review.

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  1. Hi,

    Accidently we found your website, so nice to see your story and nice words about Burg smartwatches. I feel sad to tell you that founder of Burg watch, Hermen van den Burg, has passed away 5 years ago. This is why the company has stopped. But it feels heartwarming to see that his legacy lives on.

    All the best

    Kind regards,

    Jasper van den Burg (second son of Hermen)

  2. It is great to read something about the company I worked for back in the days in China. Hermen was a visionary person with good feelings for design and color. He was a colorful guy which made the time very interesting to work with.

    Unfortunately at that time the company ran out of funds and could not deliver the customers their orders anymore. Even with huge orders in the books from large retail chains around the world the right finance could not be found in time and the company ceased trading with pretty huge debts. During these last days of the Burg Company Hermen found out he was ill and did not have much time left on earth.

    I had a blast working for the company, visited various places around the world to promote the product to the various buyers.

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