Early smartwatches attracted disdain from the old guard, but the emergence of truly capable, appealing incarnations from leading tech firms has finally forced Switzerland’s hand. Five years on, the market is rich – and even if specs and tracking are your main concerns, there’s no need to compromise on watchmaking appeal.
Montblanc Summit 2+ ($1580)
Montblanc’s latest Summit model declares war on the conventional smartphone with the addition of Google Wear, which allows for internet connectivity and calls directly from the wrist. Its new apps include Timeshifter, which offers personalised advice on beating jetlag; a virtual fitness coach that works with the watch’s biometric sensors; and a travel Info app that offers not only local intel but, thanks to the built-in speaker and mic, live translation services. The functions are housed in a 43.5mm case, available in steel with plain, black, rose gold or bronze finishes.
Frederique Constant Vitality Smartwatch ($1385)
The fourth generation of Frederique Constant’s “horological smartwatch” sees the overall package continue to improve in terms of neatly ticking both boxes. The dial houses a digital display that’s all but invisible until you press the crown, at which point it reveals dual time info, your latest messages, a heart-rate readout, the weather forecast and more.
Significantly for the Vitality, the watch is more handsome than its predecessors, which relied on a cluttered mechanical display to interpret its range of smart functions. It’s available in stainless steel or gold case finishes, with grey, blue or black dials and a range of straps.
Hublot Big Bang E ($7200)
Though it marks Hublot’s entry into the arena of premium smartwatches, there’s nothing that is tentative about the Big Bang E. The luxury house takes all it learned from creating a bespoke watch for World Cup referees in 2018 (and borrows plenty from LVMH stablemate TAG Heuer) to create a piece that boasts all the smartwatch functions you’d expect, only with an extra dose of character. To this end, Hublot collaborated with French artist Marc Ferrero on a conceptual eight-dial design that swaps and changes throughout the day. Expect plenty of similar partnerships to come. Cased in black ceramic or titanium, at 42mm, it is no bigger than a standard Big Bang.
TAG Heuer Connected ($2600)
Back in 2015, TAG Heuer was among the first Swiss watchmakers out of the gate in response to the tanks-on-their-lawn launch of the Apple Watch. Now available in titanium or steel and with added chronograph-style pushers for improved ease of use, the 2020 version of the 45mm Connected is distinguished by TAG Heuer’s newly launched Sports app. As well as providing generic exercise data, the app supports in-depth tracking for walking, running and cycling. TAG Heuer also offers a dedicated golfing model, with a detailed guide that features thousands of courses across the world and a white leather strap with a dimpled, ball-like texture.
Apple Watch Series 6 (From $599)
King of the incremental upgrade, Apple recently released the sixth version of its laconically named Watch. Its new features include a blood-oxygen monitor (handy for all your high-altitude triathlon training); extra case colours and straps; and a range of display options that nods to traditional watchmaking. These include a classic Rolex-esque GMT design that lets you set any colours you like for day/night, and a “Count Up” mode that apes a stereotypical dive watch. It’s faster, brighter and – perhaps surprisingly for Apple – cheaper than its predecessor was at its launch, at least in its most affordable trim.
Tissot T-Touch Connect Solar ($1475)
More watch than device, this Tissot model retains physical hands, with a hidden screen in the lower third of the dial. However, it offers a host of functions, from activity tracking, calorie logging and weather reports to notifications and multiple time zones. As befits its sporty disposition, it’s cased in titanium with a sapphire crystal and ceramic bezel, is water-resistant to 100m and is available only on a rubber strap. The watch offers compatibility with iPhone, Android and Huawei operating systems; Tissot boasts that no provider or third party will be able to access any user data. And, as the name suggests, it’s solar-powered, so it promises an almost indefinite battery life.