Not everything Silicon Valley throws as us is lapped up eagerly by consumers. Take the smartwatch, for example – didn’t quite capture anyone’s imagination. Tech companies have infused their best gadgetry with fashion and sports labels in recent years to attempt to offer a more style-conscious smartwatch (see the Apple Watch Nike+ and the Tag Heuer Connected). These, however, are let down by a simple fact: having a blank screen on your wrist remains a hard style-sell. An loud smartwatch still raises eyebrows as to why you’re wearing one.
Enter the hybrid smartwatch, its discrete cousin.
These devices offer a traditional watch face with hands moving around a dial, with some smartwatch features hidden away. They’ll either track your fitness and activity, or send push notifications to your wrist, or both via Bluetooth connection to your mobile phone, but with a fashionably light touch.
Alpina Seastrong Horological smartwatch: £575, Jura
The Alpina is a wonderful mix of everything you want a horological smartwatch to do. Firstly, it looks bold but beautiful – with a striking yet simplistic face, it’s chunky on the wrist but not cumbersome.
The watch runs on a battery, which lasts longer than most hybrid smartwatches (around four years with no charging necessary) and features an MMT-282-1 movement. The watch syncs with your device manually through a push of the crown (a slight drawback, but it means you’ll check your stats frequently) and sets the time from whatever it is on your phone through the connected app MMT-365. This app allows you to set-up other time zones and notification preferences, and also track your fitness with a SwissConnect Gym app (although if you wish you can also track your active minutes and steps through the MMT-365 app).
Nokia Steel: £120, John Lewis
The Nokia Steel (formerly Withings Steel) offers activity and sleep tracking and alarms in a surprisingly punchy little package for just under £120 – the cheaper end of the hybrid scale.
This quartz movement watch tracks activity through the Health Mate app, which is very detailed and easy to use. You can log nutrition through the connected MyFitnessPal app. You can also log different types of activity, such as swimming (it’s water-resistant up to 50m).
The Nokia looks very sleek and smart on any wrist, and the black rubber sports strap it comes with is ideal for exercise, if not quite spectacular for more formal occasions. (But worry not, a range of available straps at £45 a piece.)
Mondaine Helvetica 1: £650, John Lewis
The Mondaine Helvetica 1 smartwatch offers activity tracking on a watch that feels luxury, what with the soft, comfortable leather strap and the anti-reflective sapphire crystal glass dial. It feels no heavier or bulkier than a regular “dumb” watch, which is a plus.
The quartz mechanism watch comes in a range of colours and styles but what it does not offer is an expansive range of functionality. Unlike competitors, no effort is made to provide notification services via vibrations, moving hands or a chyron on the watch face, this opts out of giving you any notifications whatsoever. Given our phone is always in our pocket, we didn’t miss them, however we know they are important to some and can be found on similarly priced competitors.
Fossil Q Accomplice: £115, Zalando
The Fossil offering packs a lot of tech into a sleek, stylish watch at a reasonable price.
Notifications arrive to your wrist with a gentle buzz and your physical activity is tracked in steps, distance and estimated calories – but not in active minutes and heart rate as some competing devices offer.
The Q app interface is simple to use and syncs data automatically. It also offers a range of different features from your wrist – you can use the watch as a remote shutter for your camera to take selfies from distance. You can call your lost phone with the touch of a button. You can control your music or other connected devices. You can set lifestyle targets, such as trying a certain amounts of new recipes per week, and allocate a button to adding one achievement to your tally.
Frédérique Constant Notify: £650, John Lewis
We sampled a version of the Notify range for women, which was beautifully crafted (it’s also available for men).
The stainless steel strap (gym-goers may opt for the leather or rubber versions available) of this watch holds a decidedly elegant watchface in place, which is shielded by scratchproof sapphire crystal glass, waterproof to 3 atmospheres.
The watch offers activity and sleep tracking, sleep alarms, and notifications. The notification system works exactly the same as Alpina’s – a gentle buzz as the hands point to the correct symbol, operating through the MMT-365 app, which boasts all the same fitness insights, dynamic coaching and personal messaging system (should your contacts also boast a MMT-365 connected watch). While the fitness tracking software will log active minutes, there is no heart-rate sensor (an admittedly non-existent feature in most).