Wait, What's the Clockwork Manicure?

We tried it out.

What Is a Clockwork Manicure?
Photo: Courtesy

You know those times when you have an event to go to, and although your nails are crying out for some polish, you just don't have time for an hour long manicure? Same! But to turn lemons into lemonade, I figured this was the perfect opportunity to squeeze in a Clockwork MiNiCURE. I was excited by the fact that in less than 10 minutes, I could have my nails polished to a professional-looking standard, for only $8.

If you haven't heard about this new phenomenon already, a Clockwork MiNiCURE is the first fully autonomous 10 minute polish change. In other words, it's a robot that paints your nails. "We wanted to create an accessible and affordable option for women to get a quality service, without having to spend a bunch of time and money," says co-founder and CEO, Renuka Apte. "We are revolutionizing express beauty! But not quite in a salon environment."

The new nail-painting robot has everyone talking, even nail artists are amazed by the technology. "I find it fascinating," says Rita Remark, Essie's Global Lead Educator and Nail Artist. "In my opinion, any new nail innovation can only benefit our industry as a whole and I'm excited to try it."

Read on to find out more about what you can expect during a Clockwork MiNiCURE.

How Does a Clockwork MiNiCURE Differ From a Regular Manicure?

The Clockwork MiNiCURE is an express manicure that precisely paints nails in just 10 minutes. "The automation gives users a new option for when they need the speed and quality guarantee, or when they aren't in the mood for the luxuries of a salon experience," says Apte.

If you're looking for the full manicure experience, Remark explains that the Clockwork MiNiCURE may not be right for you. "The Clockwork MiNiCURE only polishes the nails and that's not a manicure, it's a polish application. A manicure involves filing and shaping the nails, detailed cuticle care along with hand treatments. If your nails are uneven and your cuticles jagged, this will provide an even polish, but not necessarily a flawless manicure."

What Is a Clockwork Manicure?

What Can You Expect When You Go For a Clockwork MiNiCURE?

When I arrived for my Clockwork MiNiCURE, I was greeted by the attendant and asked to select a nail polish color. I was then directed to the Clockwork MiNiCURE robot and informed on how to use the touch screen and the machine.

The lead up to the Clockwork MiNiCURE was pretty exciting as I didn't really know what to expect and how a robot could possibly paint my nails, but I was willing to give it a try. I began by pressing start on the robot and inserting the nail color cartridge. If you've loaded a pod into a Nespresso machine, inserting the nail color cartridge is pretty similar.

Before I could start my Clockwork MiNiCURE, the robot displayed a quick tutorial video explaining the tips and tricks to getting a great polish. Following the tutorial, I placed my hand on the hand-rest and was instructed to verbally say "ready" to the robot. It felt a bit weird shouting out "ready" to a robot but needless to say, it heard me and it got to work, painting one finger at a time. After each nail was completed, I quietly said, "ready" to indicate to the Clockwork MiNiCURE that I was ready for the next nail to be painted.

The experience was therapeutic, and I must admit, it was nice to sit there in silence and not have a manicurist ask me about work or how my week was going.

How Long Does a Clockwork MiNiCURE Take?

The Clockwork MiNiCURE takes roughly 10 minutes, but I'd say mine took about 15 minutes. The robot does take a little getting used to, especially if it's your first time, you'll need to watch the full tutorial first.

The key to getting a great professional-looking polish with the Clockwork MiNiCURE is sitting still. The slightest movement can disrupt the robot and mess up your pretty manicure — so no cups of coffee beforehand.

How Does the Robot Know Where to Paint?

Honestly, I was amazed by the accuracy of the Clockwork MiNiCURE, given the fact that everyone's nail beds are different in shape and size, it managed to paint my nails perfectly with just the right amount of space around the cuticle.

Apte explains that the Clockwork MiNiCURE is so precise because the robot takes a picture of each finger with its dual 3D cameras, stitches them together, and ships the result to its proprietary AI. "Our AI can identify edges within 0.3mm accuracy and tells the robot what is skin and what is nail. This is then sent to our sophisticated algorithms which determine how the nozzle should move to deposit nail polish in the right places."

Do You Need to Prep Your Nails Before Getting a Clockwork MiNiCURE?

Yes. Before I went to my Clockwork MiNiCURE appointment, I removed my old nail polish and filed down my nails. If you're not used to doing this yourself, you might need to invest in a good nail file and a nail clipper, but I promise you it's worth it as a Clockwork MiNiCURE costs less than half the price of a full manicure.

Complimentary nail files are also provided at all locations along with disposable nail polish remover pads, in case additional cleanup is needed prior to service.

VIDEO: Clockwork — The First Robot Manicure

What Nail Polish Does The Clockwork MiNiCURE Use?

The Clockwork MiNiCURE uses various, well known nail polish brands. "All of our brands are non-toxic and range from 5-free to 10-free. Currently we offer nail polish options from OPI, Essie, Zoya, China Glaze, Salon Perfect, and from our own proprietary formulas," says Apte.

Unfortunately, you can't use your own nail polish for a Clockwork MiNiCURE yet. "The polishes used are specifically chosen or formulated so that they have great coverage, don't stain the nails, work well with the Clockwork MiNiCURE, are at a minimum 5-free (made without the use of toluene, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, or camphor), and they also come in pre-filled single-use cartridges to ensure safety and hygiene," says Apte.

Are You Required to do Anything to Your Nails After The Clockwork MiNiCURE?

Just like a salon manicure, it's best to give your nails time to dry. I hung around at the salon for a little while to make sure my nails were touch-dry. Before I left, the attendant applied Quick Dry Drops to make sure I didn't have any mishaps. To help the polish on my nails last longer. I applied a quick dry top coat when I got home.

How Long Does a Clockwork MiNiCURE Last?

The Clockwork MiNiCURE lasts the same amount of time as a regular manicure 𑁋 anywhere from four to seven days. Applying a top coat at home can help extend the life of the polish.

How Much Does a Clockwork MiNiCURE Cost?

The Clockwork MiNiCURE only cost $8, yep, that's less than lunch!

What Are The Pros and Cons of a Clockwork MiNiCURE?

"The main pro is the consistent and even nail polish application," says Remark. "Another pro is the speed of the service, as it is much faster than a human hand — this saves time at the salon which is beneficial to the customer and the manicurist. However, because it only polishes the nail, it only fulfills one portion of a manicure service."

Apte says to think of the Clockwork MiNiCURE as a vending machine or a fast casual restaurant. "Just as those things have not affected sit down restaurants, we don't think of ourselves as competitive to traditional salons," explains the founder. "When people want an elaborate, pampering service they will go to salons, when they want something quick, they can use the Clockwork MiNiCURE."

Where Can You Get a Clockwork MiNiCURE?

"The service is currently in three Target stores — two in the Bay Area and one in Minneapolis," says Apte. "We have three coming opening in Dallas next month, and we also have one location in NYC, at the Rockefeller Center."

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