Luxury Smartwatches or Apple Watch?

TAG Heuer Connected lime green band

Seriously? Compared to the all-singing, all-dancing, all-conquering Apple Watch, luxury smartwatches are slow, kludgy, completely outclassed for apps and ridiculously expensive. Pretentious? That too. Just as cocaine is God’s way of telling you you’re making too much money, a luxury smartwatch is a clear indication that you’re clueless, a snob or a clueless snob. That’s not how gearpatrol.com sees it, where the improbably named Zen Love makes a case for the luxury smartwatch . . .

Luxury smartwatch vs. Apple Watch

The TAG Heuer Carrera’s angular case in no small part helped spur the brand’s success in the 1960s and continues to enjoy an iconic status among watch collectors to this day. That’s all there, in modern form, in TAG’s Connected watch.

Note its confident lines, multiple surfaces and facets, contrasting brushed and polished finishes, grooved pushers and their solid operation: the TAG Heuer Connected is comfortable to use and beats the Apple Watch for case details.

TAG Heuer Connected

That’s it. Zen Love’s argument for TAG’s luxury smartwatch rests on a single foundation: it’s got a better looking case than an Apple Watch. Yes, well, setting aside its “confident” case and more watch-like operation, what can the TAG Heuer Connected actually do?

You won’t find the answer on the main product page for TAG’s $2,350 titanium cased lime green rubber band Connected. Or on the page for the “entry level” $1800 model.

Well of course not! TAG’s attempt to convince shareholders that they’re not a dinosaur watching the Chicxulub impactor descend from the horological heavens isn’t about utility. It’s about style! And paying big bucks for luxury smartwatch style is a feature, not a bug, apparently.

Luxury Smartwatch or Apple Watch white diamonds Hiblot

Apple Watches, for all their available materials, finishes, faces, easy-changing straps and generally excellent design, mostly look like, well, Apple Watches. If you’ve seen one, you more or less seen them all.

Something from Montblanc, TAG Heuer, Louis Vuitton or even an $11,000 Hublot smartwatch covered in diamonds might feel more like an “interesting choice” that goes further to express the wearer’s individual taste and personality.

Mr. Love’s use of the word “might” and scare quotes for “interesting” indicates a [commercially suppressed] desire to tell the truth about luxury smartwatches: their owners are over-moneyed fashion victims.

To be fair, shilling the unshillable is no easy task. Writing this about Montblanc’s Summit Lite luxury smartwatch must have been positively painful:

Montblanc Summit 2 luxury smartwatch

Like nearly all smartwatches, the Summit line is focused on fitness features and offers several proprietary apps. They largely make use of heart rate and other sensors to guide you in the likes of cardio training, sleep, stress management and “energy levels.”

Unlike other brands, Montblanc doesn’t offer a smartphone application specifically for interacting with the watch — which is maybe bloatware you don’t need, anyway, as the Wear OS and Google Fit are probably more than sufficient.

So coordinating phone, text and social media alerts with a phone is “bloatware.” Speaking of bloated . . .

The Montblanc Summit 2 costs more than the highest price Apple Watch. And yet Mr. Love lauds the MBSL for being “more affordable” than the Swiss brand’s discontinued predecessor – despite the fact that the 2 achieves its lower price point via “a recycled aluminum case” with “more basic finishing.”

As you’d expect, Mr. Love really struggles to sing the praises of the ne plus ultra of luxury smartwatches: the $3k+ Louis Vuitton Tambour Horizon. A watch that has . . . I mean, doesn’t have . . .

Louis Vuitton Tambour Horizon

The other products featured here — and just about every current smartwatch — are heavily focused on fitness. The Louis Vuitton Tambour Horizon is different in that it only offers 30m of water resistance and doesn’t include a heart rate sensor.

Inevitably, the prestigious name and recognizable look is part of the significant premium Louis Vuitton is charging compared to other smartwatch makers. The brand, however, offers a genuinely interesting and unique experience with its distinctive Tambour case in sandblasted steel and the brand’s famous leather for the straps.

Proprietary faces make the package feel cohesive, including special travel-oriented apps, designs taken from traditional Louis Vuitton watches as well as new ones designed especially for the watch by Louis Vuitton Studios.

Apple Watches save life - on the right only

As Apple Watch marks its 100m user base milestone, as sub-$100 smartwatches are busy all-but-completely replacing entry level traditional watches (turning off the lights for the traditional watch industry’s future), Mr. Love ends his luxury smartwatch pimp-fest with some deeply implausible (if conditional) prognostication:

At this point in the evolution of wearables, however, it doesn’t seem like more features is necessarily the way forward. Rather, it’s all about selectively integrating available functionality in clever ways, and this is exactly the kind of thing that traditional watchmakers are good at.

If Old-World watchmakers can creatively combine a smooth, focused experience with the craftsmanship that gives horology its “soul,” they’ll be in their element again.

Patek Philippe hates you - white gold Calatrava

Luxury smartwatches are not Old World watchmakers’ element. They don’t have the skills, culture or money to compete with Apple, Garmin, FitBit or any of the other successful smartwatch makers. While post-pandemic “revenge shopping” has righted the trad watch ship, it’s a short term recovery. The Old World is dead. Long live the Old World!

3 comments

  1. The Vertu model would make more sense. Bling up the case, offer some hokey service or whatever that was, but leave the guts and software to the experts. Not that Vertu ever got very far, to my knowledge.

    I’d suspect there are two camps of smartwatch wearers: the ones that see the ubiquitous homogeneity of the Apple dominance as democratizing freedom from choice, and those for whom light personalization via strap, case, and screen is just not enough.

    The truth is that smart watches and luxury mechanical watches are apples and oranges. The former is purely functional, the latter steeped in decoration and constructs of the mind. This is like expecting coachbuilders that slept through the carburetor days to make competitive racing machines.

    1. Smart watches are utility wear, but the Apple watch isn’t your CPA’s smart watch: a Casio Databank. The genius of the Apple Watch is that it really can go from the beach to the boardroom with the right strap.

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