The Luxe Smartwatch Hybrids That Don’t Sacrifice Style
Luxury watchmakers have moved into the billion-dollar wearables market, blending smartphone technology with classic design. We look at six mechanical smartwatches redefining the space, one bezel at a time.
A smartwatch isn’t the first thing a sartorialist considers when accessorising. Apple Watches and Samsung Gears may impress on the tech front, but their forte hasn’t exactly been elegant design. So what’s a tech-loving horology enthusiast to do?
Luxury watchmakers have responded to a market gap – those who want refined mechanics and heritage style with smart features, not a smartphone strapped to their wrist – with hybrid and smartwatch options oozing savoir-faire. Here are six for your list.
Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45
In a powerhouse triumvirate, TAG Heuer partnered with Google and Intel to launch their Connected smartwatch in 2015, and demand was unprecedented. This year, they launched its second iteration, the highly customisable Connected Modular 45.
The unisex Connected Modular 45 adds Android Pay, GPS and swim-level water resistance to the previous model, but the biggest difference is the modular design – everything from the watch face to the buckle and lugs can be customised. You can even have diamond frosting.
In fact, it can be three watches in one, for an additional cost: an Android smartwatch; a mechanical Calibre 5 automatic; or the sophisticated Carrera Heuer-02T tourbillon chronograph. If the smartwatch technology becomes obsolete, no worries; just keep in the traditional analog body.
The titanium encased watch runs AndroidWear 2.0 through Intel’s Atom processor, with sapphire-glass AMOLED touchscreen display.
While many of the tech features are now standard on smartwatches, The Connected Modular 45 has one major distinction: it is the only Android Wear watch certified as “Swiss Made”.
Bulgari Diagono Magnesium Concept
The Bulgari Diagono Magnesium Concept is the exciting result of a partnership with Swiss cybersecurity firm WISeKey; a beautiful watch featuring an automatic movement, magnesium case and ceramic bezel that can act as your encrypted digital wallet.
This watch is made from cutting-edge, futuristic materials. Beyond impossibly light yet strong magnesium, the watch uses a polymer called PEEK – which is what they use to make space stations – on the side brackets of the watch.
Like the Connected Modular 45, an NFC chip means the Diagono Magnesium Concept can be used to make payments, open doors, set alarm systems and carry electronic documents.
By contrast, however, it can store and access your personal information like passwords, bank accounts, and credit cards, through the Bulgari Vault smartphone app. And this data is held in WISeKey’s underground data storage center – in the Swiss Alps.
The imminent release of this timepiece could set the industry on a new path. If you want to feel like you’re in a Batman x The Matrix mash up, watch the video here.
Montblanc Summit Smartwatch
Montblanc was the first brand in the Richemont family of luxury companies to release a smartwatch; Summit. The design pays homage to its vintage-inspired 1858 line, with many modern components.
While there’s no physical dial or hands, the nod to traditional watchmaking is in the Summit’s curved sapphire crystal face. Technically speaking, there is a Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor inside, an AMOLED display outside, and the system is Android Wear 2.0.
The features are basic to luxury smartwatches: heart rate monitor, navigation, office assistant, microphone for voice commands, activity trackers, notifications, Google Assistant, language translator and a hands-free boarding program.
Two things missing: a speaker and NFC chip, so no phone calls or Android Pay with Summit.
This customisable watch has an extra, cool feature: Montblanc’s exclusive Worldtimer app technology that lets you manage multiple timezones. They also plan for the watch to be part of a larger digital ecosystem, like integration with Montblanc’s Augmented Paper.
Alpina Seastrong Horological Smartwatch
Swiss company Union Horlogère partnered with Fullpower Technologies to roll out smart tech to Alpina and Frederique Constant. While the 2015 Alpina Horological was Alpina’s smart debut, the latest addition brings smartwatch technology to its diver series.
Alpina has created a more budget-friendly luxury offering for active professionals, wrapping up existing tech into a classic watch body for the Alpina Seastrong Horological smartwatch. It’s a modern diver’s watch based on their Seastrong Diver 300 Automatic collection (and you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference).
It has all the regular smart technology: always-on time, activity tracking, sleep monitoring, sleep cycle alarms, alerts, cloud backup and restore, mobile notifications, but it also has dynamic coaching. Plus this piece – including steel sculpted case and colourful dive-timing bezel – is water resistant to 100 metres.
Frederique Constant Notify Horological Smartwatch
Like the Alpina, Frederique Constant’s Notify Horological Smartwatch opts for a discreet interpretation of smart tech. It’s controlled entirely by the crown button via smartphone app.
In a collection for both men and women, their latest execution boasts a stylish redesign that streamlines the look and functionality of its predecessor into a watch you could easily wear daily.
Data can be accessed via a click of the crown. For the activity tracker, the hour hand lines up with the activity markers on the dial (signalled via four emojis around its perimeter) and the minute hand moves along the scale to indicate your progress. There’s also notifications, cloud storage, dynamic coaching, world timer and sleep monitoring.
Aside from the emojis and crown button, it’s pretty difficult to tell this is a smartwatch. And while that can be its most endearing feature, know that the Horological Smartwatch needs to be paired via bluetooth to a smartphone, otherwise none of the smart functions work to their full capacity.
Louis Vuitton Tambour Horizon Smartwatch
One of the world’s most important luxury brands has entered the smart scene this year with the all-new Tambour Horizon Smartwatch.
The Louis Vuitton Tambour Horizon is a very impressive 12.55mm thick (for reference, TAG Heuer’s Connected Modular 45 is 45mm wide, and Montblanc’s Summit is a 46mm wide).
Your case can be either brushed or satin finished stainless steel with polished “horns” and crown, or a black PVD-finished stainless steel. For both versions, the front is covered by a sapphire crystal with a fixed 24-hour flange ring underneath, and an AMOLED touch screen.
This watch is uses Google and Qualcomm Technology, with a case made in Switzerland. It runs on Android Wear 2.0, and so does what most smartwatches do from email and text alerts to activity tracking. The difference, however, is that the Tambour Horizon doesn’t contain a heart rate monitor.
Where it excels is in targeting Louis Vuitton’s customer base of travellers. The LV Pass app will keep you updated on the progress of a flight, let you know of delays, wait times, and once you land, there’ll be a City Guides with all the relevant information you need.
Published 08 October, 2017