When one is in the market for a luxury timepiece, one might pay their local Omega or Rolex boutique a visit. Or if we are talking really high-end stuff, then one might make an enquiry with the likes of Patek Phillipe, Greubel Forsey and Richard Mille.
Depending on how ‘luxurious’ you want to go, when you step into the world of luxury watches spending £100k is nothing. Smartwatches meanwhile are comparatively cheap and while they might not have automatic movements laced with precious metals or complications, they do offer greater functionality and, in cases, comparable build quality.
I am not taking about the likes of the Apple Watch or HUAWEI Watch here – I am talking about smartwatches from respected Swiss watchmakers, of which there are quite a few to choose from. So in this article, we will discuss luxury smartwatches and what the best ones are right now, as well as the watches that are concepts and those that are coming soon, to help you choose a smartwatch that’ll compliment your watch collection.
Bulgari Diagono Magnesium
As a watch brand, Bulgari (or Bvlgari as the company name is spelled on its watches) divides opinion. Serious watch fans associate the name more with jewellery than watches, while others appreciate the unique design language of their pieces. Whichever side you are on, the company’s first smartwatch, the Diagono Magnesium, is worth looking into (although it is important to point out that this is simply a concept for now.
Purists will like this smartwatch, because it has a self-winding mechanical movement (ETA), a sapphire crystal, ceramic bezel and a PVD-coated stainless steel back. The case itself is made from magnesium, but that isn’t the most impressive material used here; the Diagono uses a polymer called PEEK (PolyEtherEtherKetone) which forms the side brackets of the watch. Which is to say, this watch is made from cutting-edge materials.
The ‘smart’ part of this watches comes from an NFC chip which can be used to make payments, open doors and carry electronic documents. The Diagono links up with a tablet or smartphone with an app called Bulgari Vault. For now, the Diagono is a concept, however it is expected to be released at some point in the next year.
Unveiled last year, the Alpina Horological is an analogue smartwatch with a Bluetooth chip that hooks up to your smartphone. Utilising the Manufacture Modules Technologies platform, which is a Swiss Joint Venture SARL and Fullpower’s MotionX, it has all the fitness tracking capabilities of a fitness band but the style and quality of a Swiss watch.
Compatible with both Android phones and iPhone, the Alpina Horological has a battery life of two years and offers activity tracking, sleep monitoring and sleep cycle alarms. The watch itself is made from stainless steel and has a regular MMT-285 quartz movement. The dial is available in black or ‘silvered sunray’ and it is protected by a sapphire crystal. Both of those versions can be had on a stainless steel bracelet or a genuine leather strap, and there’s a 39mm version for ladies and a 44mm version for men (although, they are actually unisex).
The Alpina has two analogue dials; one that tells the time, and one that gives you a visual indication as to your physical activity. It’s a nice looking watch - but it’ll cost you. Most online stores have it for sale at £850-£950. So, you’ll have to really dig it to get one.
Frederique Constant Horologica
The Frederique Constant Horological is, for all intents and purposes, simply a reskinned version of the Alpina Horological. It has the exact same technology, the exact same two year battery life courtesy of the same MMT-285 quartz movement, and a very similar convex sapphire crystal protecting the two analogue dials.
Where the Frederique Constant differs to the Alpina is in dial design and size. The dial on the Frederique Constant Horological has roman numerals and a dressier feel overall. The case is 42mm so the men’s version is smaller than the Alpina men’s version. The Constant is available in two case finishes; stainless steel and rose gold-plated stainless steel, and with a few different straps, including a metal bracelet and two genuine leather bands.
Other than that, there’s little to say about the Frederique Constant Horological, other than it costs about the same as the Alpina too.
Mondaine Helvetica 1
Mondaine are best-known for their iconic Swiss railway watches but their Helvetica line, which is inspired by the Helvetica font, is arguably as special. Mondaine have released a few different versions of the Helvetica but it’s the Helvetica 1 you want for smartwatch features.
The Mondaine Helvetica 1 is a 44mm analogue smartwatch powered by MotionX. It has arguably the nicest design of all the smartwatches on our list with a sleek stainless steel case that’s also available in gold and black courtesy of ion plating. The Helvetica 1 boasts a 2-year battery life and has two dials; one to tell the time and one to give you a visual indication as to your daily fitness progress (it will tell you how close you are to meeting your step count).
Protecting those two dials is a sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating and you can get the Helvetica on leather or rubber. It takes any 20mm strap, though, and we reckon it’d look great on a high quality shark mesh strap or a Nato or Zulu strap. The Helvetica is a bargain too compared to the Alpina and Frederique Constant with it coming in at £540-£650 online.
The Vector Luna is the only smartwatch on our list with a screen, however it isn’t a touchscreen which is a bit of a shame. Navigating the Vector Luna is easy though thanks to three well-placed buttons, which you use to scroll through the various preinstalled watch faces and additional features such as a stop watch, a calendar and basic alarms.
Like all smartwatches available today, the Luna will track your physical activity. It’ll track your steps and calculate your calorie burn and give you this information through an app on your smartphone. The watch also hooks up to your iPhone or Android phone and can display push notifications, such as missed call information, text messages and emails.
The screen is a little hit-and-miss though. On the one hand, it uses very little power so the Luna’s battery life is rated at a month between charges, but on the other hand the screen is dark, simple and, to be honest, depressing. Sat alongside the very best smartwatches available right now, such as the HUAWEI Watch, the Vector Luna looks like it came from a different era. Thankfully, the device is at least well-made and looks stylish enough.
Should you buy one? Well, it can be had for around £200 right now, but in our opinion you would be better served by one of the options above – even if they do cost twice as much.
Samsung Gear S2 Rose Gold
A new addition to the Samsung Gear S2 range for January 2016, the rose gold Gear S2 is a really nice piece of kit. This particular model has an 18-carat rose gold plated stainless steel case and it sits on a white leather band, however there are other leather bands available.
The regular Gear S2 is actually a really good smartwatch and the rose gold version is identical as far as technology is concerned. You get a really nice 1.2-inch circular AMOLED display with 360 x 360 resolution and the 250mAh battery is good for a day’s use. It runs on a dual-core processor so the Android Wear experience is really slick. What we mean by that, is that apps open and close quickly and swiping through menus presents no lag whatsoever.
Samsung has also designed a few unique watch faces for the rose gold edition to match the colour of the case. If you have a significant other, you’ll be intrigued to learn that there’s also a platinum model available aimed squarely at men. A great gift idea, no?
HUAWEI Watch Elegant and HUAWEI Watch Jewel
The HUAWEI Watch is without doubt one of the best smartwatches in the world right now, and the Elegant and Jewel models released in January 2016 are real stunners.
The Elegant model has a Clous De Paris pattern (hundreds of hollowed lines) on the bezel and a gold case sitting on a pearl white leather strap. The Jewel model has a bezel encrusted with Swarovski Zirconia and a gold case on a sapphire blue leather strap. Both models really catch the eye, but for us the Jewel model is the nicer of the two. The original HUAWEI Watch’s excellent build quality shines through with these models too; the cases are finished perfectly and the glass protecting the display is actually a sapphire crystal.
In terms of technology, both watches have a 1.4-inch round AMOLED display with a 400 x 400 resolution and run Android Wear. There’s a 300mAh battery crammed into the case and users report a good two days battery life with normal use.
Breitling Exospace B55 Connected
If you have a lot of money to spend on a smartwatch, then the new Breitling Exospace B55 Connected should be a top contender for your money. This is a Swiss-made smartwatch with the build quality and craftsmanship of Breitling’s chronograph timepieces. It’s a cut above all other smartwatches on the market and the perfect companion for pilots.
The B55 Connected has an all-titanium case and an analogue dial protected by glare-free sapphire crystal. The movement is SuperQuartz and battery life is rated at two months. The face of the watch has two separate LCD displays which in addition to an analogue dial and these offer up information such as emails, phone calls and events, and the watch also boasts a fly back function and electronic tachymeter. None of those screens are touch sensitive though – all features are controlled by your smartphone using a dedicated app. While this may sound limiting, it means that Breitling have been able to incorporate features into this watch that would otherwise be impossible with a regular chronograph.
Michael Kors Access Collection
Michael Kors announced their first smartwatch line, Michael Kors Access, last month, but it is only now that more details are starting to emerge.
What we know so far is that the smartwatch line will be powered by Android Wear exclusively and there will be a version for “him” and for “her”. The men’s version appears to be black or dark stainless steel in press videos while the ladies version is gold. Michael Kors has put a huge emphasis on the design of these smartwatches stating that the devices are geared towards the “fashion-focused consumer” with “glamorous style”.
The smartwatches will be compatible with both iPhone and Android-powered smartphones and they will launch with exclusive Michael Kors watch faces preinstalled. The bands themselves are interchangeable and the announced US price is $395 USD. The watches will be available in Michael Kors stores before becoming available in other retail outlets. There’s no tech specs available just yet, but we will update this article when they are announced.
TAG Heuer Connected
The Tag Heuer Connected is one of the best-made and most luxurious smartwatches on the planet, not to mention one of the most in demand. It’s only available on a black bezel with brushed stainless steel lugs and a stainless steel chrome case, but there’s seven colours to choose from when it comes to rubber straps, and on all of them, it looks great.
The Connected is compatible with devices running Android 4.3+ or iOS 8.2+. This was the first smartwatch to use an Intel Atom processor and this runs the latest version of Android Wear smoothly. In fact it offers one of the fastest software experiences overall and we reckon it’ll be futureproof for a few years at least. The display is a 1.5-inch LTPS LCD unit protected by sapphire crystal. The Connected is 12.8mm deep on the wrist and it weighs 52g so it’s around the same size and weight as one of TAG’s automatic timepieces.
It connects to your phone by Bluetooth LE or Wi-Fi and you’ll get “around a day’s” use from the 410mAh battery according to TAG themselves.