In the 1970s, affordable, accurate, battery-powered quartz watches from Japan threatened to make iconic handcrafted Swiss timepieces obsolete. The Swiss survived that scare, but a new threat has recently surfaced, not from Japan, but from Cupertino. The rise of the Apple Watch and similar smart brethren from Samsung and others present formidable competition for wrist real estate. This time around, some in the luxury watch industry have decided that if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Here are four examples of connected smartwatches from Swiss brands better known for their high-end offerings.
TAG Heuer Connected Modular 45 ($1,700)
Taking the first and most ambitious approach to smartwatches of any luxury Swiss brand, TAG Heuer partnered with Google to develop the Connected Modular 45. The external fit and finish carry enough of the company’s classic design cues to satisfy an analog fan, while inside, the Android operating system provides email, message, and phone notifications, as well as voice commands. The watch looks traditional, but the anachronistic analog chronograph can be activated by tapping on the touchscreen to start, stop, and reset. The biggest party trick is the watch’s modular nature: Snap out the smartwatch module and pop in a mechanical version (sold separately) to transform it into a traditional timepiece.
Breitling Exospace B55 ($7,170)
Instead of activity trackers, the Breitling Exospace B55 features flight-time logs, world time zones, multiple alarms, and countdown timers. These functions can be set by spinning the watch crown or using the well-designed smartphone app. The analog-digital dial layout is classic Breitling and works well in this application, even backlighting the display when you tilt your wrist. Calendar, message, and email notifications beep and vibrate, while the titanium case gives this watch a more purpose-built look than virtually every smartwatch out there.
Alpina Seastrong Horological Smartwatch ($595)
Alpina takes a simpler approach to its smartwatches, incorporating activity and sleep-tracking technology in a classic-looking analog dive watch style. The black steel sculpted case, rubber strap, and colorful dive timing bezel are summer ready, as is the 100-meter water resistance. The two-year battery life is grab-and-go friendly and outlasts pretty much every other smartwatch. The watch doesn’t do a lot on its own without the associated phone app, which is used to set alarms, view collected activity data, and set notifications. But if you’re looking for a smartwatch that is more Cousteau than Jobs, the Alpina is a good budget-friendly choice.
Montblanc Summit ($930)
Like the TAG Heuer, Montblanc makes use of Google’s Android Wear operating system for extensive notification and tracking functionality, Bluetooth music control, and voice commands. The watch design features an elegantly sculpted steel case that, from a distance, could be mistaken for a classic 1940s chronograph despite its ample 45-millimeter size. The green rubber strap gives it a bit of a military vibe, but the Summit is merely splash-proof, so it’s not the best choice for rugged use.
Chronos Smart Disc ($60)
For those who don’t want to replace their luxury mechanical watch, Chronos makes an affordable and innovative solution. The Smart Disc transforms any watch into a smartwatch simply by sticking to the case back and communicating with a phone app for notifications and tracking. It tolerates moisture, doesn’t intrude on your watch’s aesthetics, and is cheaper than most straps on high-end watches.