The latest luxury Android Wear smartwatch which feels like a missed opportunity
The Montblanc Summit feels like a huge missed opportunity.
In the same week that Tag Heuer’s second Android Wear device went live, with the Swiss giant once again going for a bulky man’s man model(s), it meant that there is still a gap in the market for a svelte, high-end luxury smartwatch.
Montblanc, with its roots in traditional style and craftsmanship – whether that’s in writing instruments, timepieces, leather goods, accessories, fragrances or eyewear – was surely primed to take advantage.
Unfortunately, Montblanc looks to have settled on an identikit Wear smartwatch – it’s an LG Watch Urbane is more expensive clothes – that neither shuns hardware components in order to make it slicker, nor embraces enough to make it a compelling package.
By ignoring GPS and NFC the Montblanc isn’t complete enough a package to compete with the, albeit slightly more expensive Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45.
But at the same time, by packing in a heart rate monitor (why, why, why?), it’s still got sufficient bulk for that all too familiar first impression when slipping on a smartwatch…”It’s massive”.
I must have heard that expression at least ten times at the official unveiling event, from an array of assembled lifestyle and tech press.
The heart rate monitor just isn’t needed. Without GPS it’s never going to replace your running watch (even with the bizarre inclusion of the premium Runstastic membership) and, even with one of the sportier straps clipped on, it’s never going to be your gym buddy.
It’s almost as if Montblanc threw a dart at the Android Wear features board and landed on ‘heart rate’. It’s a shame it didn’t hit ‘NFC’ because, although not widely available in the European countries Montblanc calls home, Android Pay is a sadly missed ingredient on what is essentially meant to be an everyday stylish watch.
Like Tag, Montblanc has also failed to take advantage of the rotating physical gesture controls Android Wear 2.0 allows for and that’s another big shame, especially given that the Summit rocks a swanky, very-on-brand, crown.
Let’s focus on what Montblanc did get right though and it is, without any doubt, a finely crafted timepiece, with the premium materials evident as soon as you pick it up. That slightly curved sapphire glass face is fantastic and the case – whether that be on of the stainless steel or titanium silver finishes, the black steel finish, or – my favourite – the bi-colour steel with numbers on the bezel – just feels expensive.
The 400 x 400 AMOLED screen is a success but it’s no different from what you’d get on the much, much cheaper Asus Zenwatch 3. That’s hardly Montblanc’s fault though – display technology (especially fully circular display technology without a flat tyre) can only offer so much and, with a 1.39-inch screen, this is as good as it gets right now.
What Montblanc has done well, following the lead Tag Heuer set with the original Connected, is to focus on the digital watch faces. The contemporary pixel-painted versions of the classic 1885 Montblanc collection are gorgeous, with every hand, dial, sub-dial, ring and marker brilliantly reconstructed.
It also costs less than the Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45 – so it’s got that going for it. But it’s not exactly cheap – with models starting from $890. My inkling is that, if you’re going to splash big money on an Android Wear smartwatch – and by big money I mean anything north of the regular $200 – $350 that we usually see – you’re gonna go Tag with its NFC and GPS. In a busy week where I’ve had hands-on with both, it’s the Swiss effort that convinces me it knows what it’s all about.
After my brief time with the Montblanc Summit, however, I was left more confused than anything. Where exactly does this Android Wear smartwatch fit in?