It used to be that you had to choose between a traditional watch and a smartwatch. No longer ... there's a whole new breed these days
It’s not that there’s anything wrong with an Apple Watch per se. Or a Samsung Gear watch, or a Fitbit, or any of those other clever things. They can be tremendously useful, particularly for work and fitness purposes.
But there’s no denying that they fall down in other areas. It’s simply that their lineage isn’t so much the Swiss watchmakers of yore, but rather the Japanese watchmakers of the 1980s.
Now, however, a new breed of watches claims to offer the best of both worlds. Here are some favourites.
Frederique Constant Horological Smartwatch
The Geneva-based firm has just brought out this beautiful watch, which looks particularly handsome with a dark blue face. It looks every inch the archetypal Swiss timepiece – with real hands and a real face – but inside it is full of all sorts of modern trickery.
As well as automatically setting the time and date depending on the timezone that you’re in, it records your activity – in classic smartwatch fashion, with daily steps taken and calories burned etc – while also monitoring your sleep. All the output comes via the associated smartphone app.
Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45
Though Tag have dabbled in smartwaches before, this is the company’s first Swiss-made effort – and it’s a rather extraordinary piece of gear. There are literally dozens of different design configurations possible (56 in all, and that’s before you’ve even thought about the straps) and the company has worked with both Intel and Google to make sure that the smart features are cutting edge.
But to our mind the cleverest bit by far is that the watch’s entire mechanism can be swapped over at will between a smartwatch screen and a traditional mechanical movement. You can wear the digital screen while at the office or out for a run, and turn it into a ‘real’ Swiss watch for the evening.
Breitling Exospace B55
Somewhere between smartwatch and real watch, this piece was apparently designed specifically with professional pilots in mind. Features include a flyback function and electronic tachymeter, for example.
The watch has a traditional face and is entirely controllable by the buttons on the side – though the B55 and all its smart functions can also be used with the associated app. It’s a bold and chunky timepiece whose timing is controlled by ‘SuperQuartz’ – a system which takes account of temperature variations which can marginally alter the vibration of the quartz crystals.
The French watchmaker came up with an interesting take on smartwatches last year when they built a Fitbit-style smartwatch readout into the strap. This second pass is a little more conventional: they’ve installed a high-quality screen in hopes that it’s good enough to convince people that the carefully designed digital watch faces are the real thing
Whether it convinces you or not is up to you: the thin, light titanium case feels decidedly different to a traditional Montblanc watch. Smart features include a microphone for voice control, a barometer and Android watch software.
Mondaine Helvetica Smart 1
For a completely different look and feel to other smartwatches on this page, Mondaine’s smartwatch has a beautiful clean design that was inspired by the clean Swiss font of the same name.
The end result is a watch that’s almost reminiscent of the original 1980s Swatch – behind the traditional face is a series of motion and sleep-tracking gizmos, all of which can be monitored via the associated phone app.