Apple sold more watches in the first quarter of this year than the entire Swiss watch industry produced in 2019. And yet the mainstream watch press ignores the smartwatch – lest they alienate their base. So I was surprised to see ablogtowatch.com review the Hublot Big Bang e smartwatch. It went a little something like this . . .
As a smartwatch enthusiast what I like most about the Hublot Big Bang e is the overall design and wearing experience. Smartwatches have come a long way in just a few years, notably when it comes to always-on screen brightness and technology.
A few years ago, it was the norm for smartwatches to have black, blank screens, but today, with more modern technology, no smartwatch needs to have a blank face while it is being worn on the wrist.
The result is a more traditional wristwatch wearing experience that includes the expressive nature of a case and strap design — including that of the watch face itself. This is a big deal, in my opinion.
Ariel Adams is a smartwatch enthusiast? Next you’re going to tell me Ben Clymer loves bus travel. Notice that ABTW’s founder lauds smartwatches for becoming more like traditional watches. He’s saying hey, it’s OK! A smartwatch is a watch too!
Well he would say that wouldn’t he? Mr. Adams crying murder most foul at a Hublot smartwatch would be taking a chainsaw to the hand that feeds. So he tries to put rhetorical lipstick on the metaphorical pig, bless his heart.
In many respects, Hublot Big Bang e wearers very much fit in the same club as traditional Big Bang watch wearers. So, while the Hublot Big Bang e is pricey for a smartwatch, it is a relative bargain for an Hublot.
Claiming that a $5200 smartwatch powered by the same Wear OS software as a $99 Fossil is a bargain because it’s a Hublot is, on the face of it, absurd. Seen in the context of a watch industry in deep denial, it makes perfect sense. See? All is not lost! Hublot can make a smartwatch!
But not even a bought and paid for apologist can turn a blind eye to a simple fact: the Hublot Big Bang e was obsolete before it was released. As usual, Mr. Adams couches his criticism in unsolicited product development advice.
As a smartwatch the Big Bang e is fine, but nothing world-class. The most glaring omission for me is the lack of a heart rate monitor — which I think should be considered more and more standard. Smartwatches are increasingly being defined by their on-board sensors, as opposed to the notifications they can show you.
The watch still has an accelerometer built into it (and other basic movement sensors), but it lacks popular sensors available in mainstream smartwatches from Apple and Garmin such as GPS, a heart rate monitor, and other environmental or body-metric sensors . . .
For Hublot to gain any serious market share and keep people on board for watch after watch, it needs to make sure that for such premium prices, its products offer at least as many features as products costing merely a few hundred dollars.
That, my friend, Hublot cannot do.
Smartwatches are regularly updated and routinely discarded. A $5k smartwatch without proper hardware or ongoing software support is a completely irrational proposition.
Swiss watchmakers have neither the culture nor the expertise nor the resources to develop either, to keep pace with Apple, Garmin or anyone else in the smartwatch field. Not to put too fine a point on it, the Swiss are as suited to the smartwatch business as a sub shop is to the business of making submarines.
No wonder Mr. Adams sounds like an ancient member of the English aristocracy offering a plan to restore the British Empire, after way too many sherries.
It is safe for me to say that the smartwatch category is not really a threat to an authentic mechanical luxury watch market. Smartwatches can only wish they offered the emotional satisfaction of an actual watch mechanism and dial.
Smartwatches do, however, represent the next frontier in the mainstream consumer’s experience with things on their wrist. If traditional watchmakers don’t buy into that experience, they will probably risk losing countless possible consumers. Hublot is doing what is wise.
In Allegiant, one of Veronica Roth’s plucky characters declares “desperation can make a person do surprising things.” As the ridiculous Hublot Big Bang e and Mr. Adams’ deluded review prove, surprising doesn’t mean rational, successful or, indeed, wise.