The best smartwatches that don’t look like smartwatches
After a glittering start, the Apple Watch’s gunmetal sheen is fading. And reports that sales have slumped by more than 90% since launch doubtless mean smiles in Switzerland. The traditional watch industry has belied its talk that smartwatches aren’t a threat by scrambling its own takes in an effort to prevent a rerun of the Quartz Crisis. Then, like now, new technology threatened to turn people off the idea of spending thousands to tell the time. After being decimated through the 80s, the news that Cupertino isn’t muscling in their territory as effectively as they thought must be a relief.
Despite Apple getting their wrist candy on the arms of Karl Lagerfeld and Beyoncé, it turns out that smartwatches just aren't that smart. Because tech aside, a Mickey Mouse face doesn’t cut it when the rest of you is clad in Brioni tailoring. These watches, however, offer forward-facing innards with a more aesthetic package.
Mondaine Helvetica Smart 1957
Though not as well-known as its high-end compatriots, Mondaine's design is as Swiss as a cuckoo clock made of Toblerone. The brand's iconic face is ripped straight from the national railway clocks and its new model celebrates the nation’s most ubiquitous export, the font Helvetica, found everywhere from the New York subway signs to the care label in your trousers.
But its minimalist look masks some serious smarts. The subdial is a step and sleep tracker – not the chronograph most will assume – with a host of other smartwatch functions relegated to your phone (which is why, unlike Apple’s 12-hour battery, you get at least two years before it runs down). The app updates you on how much you’ve moved and uses the motion monitor to rouse you during a light sleep cycle. Which means you wake up as fresh faced as what's on your wrist.
Pre-order now from £520 from shop.mondaine.com
Frédérique Constant Horological Smartwatch
If Mondaine’s take on the smartwatch is best suited to creative directors at advertising agencies, the similarly specced offering from Frédérique Constant is for his head of sales. The Swiss brand is no stranger to invention – despite being a hundred years younger than its competitors, it produces in-house movements that sell for a third of the price – so no surprise that it’s also leading the smartwatch charge.
For under a grand you get a similar sub-dial set up as the Mondaine, again displaying your progress towards sleep and step goals, while the accompanying app coaches your shut-eye and keeps tabs on whether you’re moving enough. That’s where the similarity ends. In place of chunky midcentury design think Roman numerals, pin-thin hands, a choice of luxury leather straps or a stainless steel bracelet, and even a rose gold iteration that lets traditionalists enjoy cutting-edge tech as well.
Available now from £870, at thewatchgallery.com
Montblanc TimeWalker e-Strap
If your attachment to cogs and gears means that no smartwatch will ever quite be smart enough, Montblanc offer a compromise. You can keep your mechanical watch uppermost, then sneak the tech in out of sight, thanks to a second screen on the clasp that leaves your traditional timepiece uncluttered.
To start with the e-Strap is available only on the Montblanc TimeWalker range, although expect to see that offering expand quickly. You get everything you’d expect from a smartwatch – activity tracking, notifications and the ability to control your phone’s music and camera functions from your wrist. But you can still smugly Tweet that appreciating traditional horology is the mark of true taste. While keeping tabs on every favourite and retweet from your wrist.
Available from 17 August, from £2,335, at thewatchgallery.com
TAG Heuer Carrera Wearable 01 Smartwatch
A host of horological giants announced their step into smartwatches at Baselworld, but TAG Heuer brought the biggest squad. Though details are still patchy, the fact that the guts come from chip manufacturer Intel, and the accompanying software is Google’s well-tested Android Wear, means you should get a lot of watch for your money.
Where you might question that £900 outlay for a smartwatch that’s redundant in two years, TAG Heuer is promising the same longevity that drives a traditional watch purchase, hinting that the smartwatch will be upgradeable to ensure its functionality is as long-lasting as its looks.
On the latter, TAG Heuer boss Jean-Claude Biver has said that the smartwatch shares more than just a name with the recently announced TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01 (above). So no one will know that what’s on your risk is capable packing GPS, health monitoring and fitness tracking under its rather handsome hood.
Video: the VERY BEST SMARTWATCH...
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