Don’t get us wrong — nothing will ever beat a traditional watch. From chronometers to chronographs, our first loves will always be these meticulously crafted, Swiss-made masterpieces. But, over the past few years, a new type of timepiece has ticked onto the scene; one with more functions and features than you can shake a microchip at.
The smartwatch is a thoroughly modern innovation. And, while it may never reach the sartorial heights of a dress watch, or look as good tucked under the cuff of a neatly-tailored shirt, it nevertheless has a place in the modern man’s wardrobe. From tracking your vital signs during exercise to keeping you in contact with friends, family and colleagues, your smartwatch may look like a watch — but it does a hell of a lot more than tell the time. Here are the best to buckle up.
For great value: Skagen Falster 3 Smartwatch
Across its three generations, Skagen’s Falster Smartwatch has kept its crown as the most stripped-back, calmly cool gadget on the market. This latest model boasts an interactive, swim-proof touchscreen and a range of Google-powered smart features including heart-rate tracking, smartphone notifications, Google Pay and GPS.
At £279, it’s also at the lower end of the smartwatch price spectrum. But that doesn’t mean that you’ll be worse off strapping the Skagen around your wrist. In fact, the battery-efficient dial design and handy magnetic charger give it an enviable 24 hours of power on a single charge — and the interchangeable collection of straps gives it a versatile edge.
For the classic look: Montblanc Summit 2 Brown Leather
There are few heritage watchmakers to have digitally dabbled in the world of smartwatches. But Montblanc, the luxury German brand, is one of them. In addition to the company’s celebrated collection of automatic watches and chronographs, the Summit range offers a slick timepiece for the more technologically-minded.
This, the Summit 2, is our choice. With a brown leather strap and warmly hued stainless steel case, it has all the trappings of a traditional watch. But look closer and you’ll see that the classic dial is actually an AMOLED screen. Behind it, sensors including an altimeter, accelerometer, gyroscope, heart monitor and microphone offer all sorts of high-tech functions. This is a sophisticated piece of kit — hidden behind the straps, pushers and crowns of convention.
For serious athletes and exercisers: Zepp E
This is an interesting one. Ten years ago, tech-meets-wellness gurus Zepp launched a unique wearable sensor device to monitor and analyse exercise data — and had athletes across the world abuzz with excitement. A decade down the line, and the brand has launched a new smartwatch; the Zepp E. And, this time around, they’ve harnessed the power of AI.
Boasting a 3D curved bezel-less design, always-on display, 11 sports modes, multiple health metrics and 5 ATM water resistance, it would be an impressive piece of kit even without the AI. But the Personal Activity Intelligence health assessment platform takes things one step further — taking incomprehensible information about your heart rate and activity lessons and turning it into one easy-to-understand metric.
For an understated design: Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 4G
Here’s another approach. Where Montblanc is a watch brand muscling in on the smartphone game, Samsung is a smartphone expert chancing its hand in the watch market. And the Galaxy Watch Active2 is a great effort. Ironing out the kinks of earlier attempts, this latest iteration of the South Korean company’s smartwatch offers exactly what you want from portable tech; freedom.
That’s right. With 4G built-in, Samsung’s smartwatch affords the wearer true independence from their smartphone — allowing you to wander freely while staying connected. You can still take calls, receive messages and get notifications using the same phone number and data plan as your phone. Our chosen model is also surprisingly understated; monochromatic if not for subtle touches of red.
For fine watchmaking: TAG Heuer Connected Modular
Where the lines of luxury and quality watchmaking intersect, you’ll find TAG Heuer’s Connected Modular smartwatch. True, at £1,495 it may be the most expensive option on this list, but it’s got the tech to back up that price tag. It has GPS, an NFC sensor for contactless payment and is compatible with both Android and iOS.
Our main reservation with this one is that it doesn’t have a heart rate monitor — and smartwatches’ useful exercise applications are surely one of the main reasons a watch wearer would be tempted away from a traditional timepiece. But, when the Connected Modular is also offered in titanium and opulent rose gold, who are we to complain?
For adventures: Alpina AlpinerX
If you’ve not heard of Alpina, you’re missing out. The confusingly named Alpina Alpiner (no, we don’t know why they did it either…) is a very good smartwatch — and competitively priced at £795. It takes a different approach to the smartwatch set-up; augmenting a traditional calibre rather than doing away with the dial altogether. As such, it’s a great stepping stone for those looking to ease into the digital timepiece trend.
The navy blue dial keeps things chic, and the smaller digital screen nods to the features and functions hidden inside that fibre glass case. There’s GPS, a barometer, an activity tracker, thermometer, UV sensor and all the same call and messaging notifications you want from a smartwatch. It’s the perfect companion for adventurers.
For an all-rounder: Apple Watch Series 5
Ah, the king of the connected watch castle. The top timepiece. The big Apple. We’ve saved the best for last because, let’s be honest, no-one does it like Apple. The years of refinement and redevelopment that have gone into the tech giant’s primary piece of wearable tech make it the unsurpassed best option. And, at £699, it’s extraordinarily good value.
From a compass to a calculator, the Series 5 covers all the basics — and does so much more on top of that. It can track your cycling, be used as a flashlight, connect to your car, play your podcasts, show store loyalty cards, send people money, be used as a camera viewfinder, share your location, track your heart rate, check your Instagram feed and even order a pizza. What more is there?
Looking to upgrade more of your tech? Here are the best lightweight laptops for young professionals…
Join the Gentleman’s Journal Clubhouse here.