Watches from the world of haute horlogerie (AKA those expensive luxury ones) sit well with a lot of things: a dinner suit, a supercar, a Russian supermodel wife. However, they’ve not always made for happy bedfellows with technology.
“Smartwatches aren’t by definition a luxury product, a problem the traditional industry has been battling to overcome,” says watch writer and editor of The Jackal Robin Swithinbank. “Several brands have come close to a solution in recent years though, with interesting efforts from Montblanc in particular.”
Efforts that, while gradual, have spurred on other manufactures to follow suit. So, in a bid to finally put the conflict to bed, we’ve collated the dreamiest tech-luxe tickers.
Frederique Constant’s first digital foray is arguably the OG of horology-cum-tech. Released in 2015, the piece is better suited to those that want smart features with a semblance of Swiss craftsmanship.
“The Horological Smartwatch is different in that it offers smartwatch capabilities in the shell of a traditional watch,” says Erica Redgrave, a buyer at The Watch Gallery. “The analogue dial looks no different to any other Swiss watch, yet can still record sleep, movement and fitness activity via a smartphone.”
Craftsmanship isn’t just limited to black tie pieces. Geneva-based Alpina’s sporty model has been given just as much attention from Switzerland.
“Alpina has struck a fine balance between technology and tradition,” says Terry Markham, head of buying at WatchShop. “Activity tracking features are registered via an app without the need for a separate fitness strap, yet there’s still the quality and craftsmanship one would expect from a prestige Swiss manufacturer.”
Many believe smartwatches boast the lifespan of a mayfly. But with its automatic movement, magnesium case and ceramic bezel, Bulgari’s Diagono Magnesium has what it takes to be a Dorian Gray.
“What’s interesting about Bulgari’s approach is that unlike other smartwatches, the Diagono has an analogue dial with physically moving hands on a 12-hour count,” says Peter Bodenbenner, editor-in-chief at German watch etailer Montredo. “It’s a fully mechanical, built-to-last watch with NFC technology that can make everyday transactions, set alarms and store boarding pass information.”
Following an e-strap that received a somewhat lukewarm reception, Montblanc upped the ante with its Summit smartwatch: a fully tech-optimised timepiece that places digital at its heart (as opposed to just on the strap).
“The Summit smartwatch is Montblanc’s first venture with Google, featuring pre-installed apps such as Runtastic, Google Play, Google Assistant and Uber,” says Mr Porter accessories buyer, Simon Spiteri. Better yet, the price tag is but a scratch of Montblanc’s mainline.
The term ‘Swiss-made’ usually only applies to the final construction. However, Breitling took things one step further with the Exospace B55, ensuring every single aspect was firmly au Suisse.
“Unlike most smartwatches, the Breitling Exospace is completely Swiss-made, and that includes the app developed as part of the piece’s software,” says Lisa Broun, senior buyer at Goldsmiths. “It doesn’t overcomplicate smart functions either, placing WhatsApp and fitness notifications alongside a range of traditional functions that are Breitling through and through.”
While it may not be as ubiquitous as the megabrand’s other products, the Apple Watch is still believed to be the most successful smartwatch launched to date. Thanks to a collaboration with Hermès, it’s also one of the most handsome.
“The cooperative effort with Hermès cemented the Apple Watch’s place amongst luxury shoppers, a demographic not normally associated with early tech adopters,” says Mikey Campbell, senior editor at news and rumour site Apple Insider1. “This addressed the needs of more than one type of buyer, with the exclusive dial and strap more reminiscent of high-fashion pieces.”