In the recent years, luxury watch makers have sat up and took some keen interest in smart watches. This is not surprising, considering that a record of 21.1 million smartwatches were shipped out in 2016 – according to an article by South China Morning Post.
Although the majority of the smartwatches that were exported are priced less than S$500, but luxury watchmakers are eyeing a share of the cake as well. After all, the market for luxury smart watches are not adequately addressed just yet, with only a handful of luxury brands producing smart watches at the moment.
So, you might wonder – who are these watch manufacturers? And how do they stack up against the benchmark, which in this case, is the Apple Watch? Let’s find out!
We begin the article with the ubiquitous Apple Watch Series 2, which we will be using as the benchmark for today’s article.
When the first Apple Watch was launched in 2015, many see the move as a risky manoeuvre. After all, watches are considered an entirely new segment for the California-based technology company. Nonetheless, it proved many doubters wrong – especially since the brand has a huge fan base, and watch is rather well-designed with a smooth rectangular case.
The Apple Watch is now in generation 2, and comes packed with a chockfull of functions. It includes a built-in GPS, fitness tracker, calendar, and notifications (from your iPhone), amongst the many applications that are available. The design of the watch is also customisable, with a large array of strap options that are available.
Priced from S$548 onwards, we reckon that the Apple Watch is very decently priced for a device that is capable of so many functions. Our only qualm is its short battery life, which is around 18 hours. Apple also does a special series with luxury maker Hermès – the Apple Watch Hermès Stainless Steel Case with Étoupe Swift Leather Double Tour which retails for S$2,028. And if that’s not enough, the Series 1 Apple Watch had a limited run in solid gold now discontinued starting at US$10,000.
Montblanc Summit Smartwatch
The Montblanc Summit Smartwatch is not the first device from the brand to enter the bandwagon. Back in 2015, Montblanc launched the TimeWalker Urban Speed e-Strap – which is a strap that allows user to give their watches the “smartwatch” functions that they have been deprived.
Fast forward two years later, Montblanc decided to push it up a notch, with the Summit Smartwatch. The 46mm timepiece was inspired by the 1858 collection, but with some tweaks. For instance, to match its status as a smartwatch, Montblanc has fitted the timepiece with either a steel or titanium case – giving it a more contemporary look.
The Summit Smartwatch is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 2100 and Android’s Wear 2.0 – and it is compatible with both Android and iOS devices. In addition, it can also operate on its own independently, with applications such as Google Maps and Assistant that comes in handy as well. It is available in 4 variants, and prices begin at S$1,390.
TAG Heuer Connected
When it comes to luxury smart watches, TAG Heuer is probably the pioneer in this sector – before many other brands came along to come up with their own iteration for this genre of watches.
Launched in 2015, the Connected is now in its second generation with the Modular 45. It has undergone an upgrade from its predecessor, in terms of case design and internal hardware. First, nearly all the external components of the watches are customisable – resulting in a total of 56 different variants of the watch itself. Next, it is also built-in with a newer OS, in the form of Android Wear 2.0. It provides more autonomy, and can operate more independently without the need of a smartphone. It has a slightly longer battery life as well – of around 25 hours.
As mentioned, the 45mm timepiece is highly customisable. It has different options for different components, and hence making it rather fun and interesting as compared to its counterparts. Prices for it starts at S$2,400.
Bvlgari Diagono Magnesium
The beauty about technology is that it can be applied to different verticals, achieving differing results and functionalities altogether. Bvlgari understood that, and took a different perspective to smartwatches – by utilising it as a security device.
Partnering with Wisekey, a security expert, Bvlgari had produced the Diagono Magnesium. It is a timepiece that is fitted with a cryptographic chip and an invisible antenna that uses NFC (Near Field Communication). This allows the watch to “communicate” with the device, and the authentication of both certificate would then allow the device (in this case, a phone) to be unlocked.
Another remarkable feature about the Diagono Magnesium is its construction. The 41mm watch, which features its signature design, is fitted with a magnesium alloy. It is further protected with PEEK (PolyEtherEtherKetone), which further enhance the robustness of the magnesium alloy. Overall, this is definitely a tad different from the usual smartwatches, and at US$4,600 (approximately S$6,266), it might be something that is worth considering.
Louis Vuitton Tambour Horizon
One of the more interesting brands that had entered the foray of making smartwatches is Louis Vuitton, with its new Tambour Horizon.
As the name suggests, the watch is derived from the popular Tambour collection, featuring its characteristic drum case and protruding lugs. The 42mm watch is available in three variants, mainly the Graphite (stainless steel with polished case), Monogram (stainless steel with brushed case), and Black (stainless steel with PVD case).
The Tambour Horizon is fitted with a Qualcomm chip, and utilises the Android Wear 2.0 software. LV had specially included a few skins from their current collection, which allows users to display their favourite LV watch dial on the smart watch. It also features the City Guides, which is available on the watch itself. Interestingly, the watch is able to detect the city which the user is in, and it will suggest – with the help of filters – locations where the person might want to visit. In addition, there is also a “My Flight” application, which allows user to keep track of flight times as well.
The Tambour Horizon is priced at S$3,700.
H. Moser & Cie. Swiss Alp Watch
Finally, we have H. Moser & Cie.’s answer to Apple Watch: the Swiss Alp Watch.
Earlier in 2015, H. Moser & Cie. announced that they will be unveiling a smart watch in March 2015 – after three years of development. It turned out that the “smart watch” in question was Moser’s Perpetual One, which was admittedly an incredibly “smart” watch in terms of its function and the technicalities behind it.
In the following year, H. Moser & Cie. caused quite a stir again – with the new Swiss Alp Watch. The Swiss Alp Watch is a fully mechanical Swiss Made timepiece, but features a design that bears resemblance to the Apple Watch. Our favourite version is S – which is fitted with the signature midnight blue fume dial, and paired with a white gold case.
Powered by the in-house HMC324 movement, the manual-winding Swiss Alp Watch has an impressive power reserve of 4 days. In addition, it features an interchangeable Moser escapement, with the original Straumann Hairspring and stabilised Breguet overcoil. The finishing is done brilliantly as well.
The Swiss Alp Watch S does not come cheap though – it retails at S$38,640. However, it is definitely a well-made timepiece. And one that certainly makes a strong and bold statement.
So, how do the smart watches stack up against the Apple Watch?
Frankly speaking, in terms of functionality, there is not much difference between these smart watches. These watches, after all, operate under Apple’s or Android’s Operating System. Hence, they do not really differ as much in this aspect, although there might be one or two watches that comes with additional features, such as LV’s City Guide and Flight Reminder application. Bvlgari’s take on smart watches, with the Diagono Magnesium, is pretty interesting as well.
However, the real difference lies in the construction and design of the watches. We would say that luxury smart watches are definitely more well-designed, and the quality is certainly much more solid. But is it worth the premium? We shall leave it for you to decide.