Smartwatches

Six smartwatches from brands taking on Apple and Samsung

A growing number of luxury brands and mechanical watchmakers are trying to grab a slice of the smartwatch market share. Here are six of the latest debuts

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 September, 2017, 5:01pm
UPDATED : Monday, 25 September, 2017, 10:39am

Although the world’s attention was focused on the recent launch of the iPhone X, Apple’s first US$1,000 smartphone, the tech giant also released its third iteration of its smartwatch, the Watch Series 3.

Since Apple entered the smartwatch market, luxury brands and watchmakers that once scoffed at the idea have slowly been won over by the Cupertino company’s huge success in shifting units and changing consumer behaviour. It took a while, but this year a whole slew of companies that once only made traditional watches have presented their first smartwatches.

Fashion brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, Hugo Boss, Diesel and Guess as well as watchmaker Movado all have smartwatches on the way, but here are five decidedly non-tech brands that offer a distinct alternative to Apple.

Michael Kors Access Grayson and Sofie

Watches have been a billion dollar revenue stream for American fashion giant Michael Kors, but Apple and Samsung’s fashionable smartwatches have threatened this money-spinning business. Michael Kors is fighting back with the Grayson smartwatch for men and the Sofie for women. The Grayson is a large watch at 47mm, with a chunk steel bracelet. It comes in black, gold, midnight blue and grey steel. It has the latest Android Wear 2.0 operating system and an impressive 4GB of storage. It also has standard features such as activity tracking, music streaming, calendar and notifications. Compatible with iPhones and Android handsets, the Grayson and the Sofie have 24 hours of battery life and are water resistant to 10 metres.

US$350 to US$395

Montblanc Summit

Released to much fanfare earlier this year, the Montblanc Summit was a bold move from one of the more established luxury watchmakers, and perhaps a dip in the waters for parent company Richemont, the luxury conglomerate that owns Cartier, Panerai and IWC among others. Beyond the novelty of Montblanc releasing a smartwatch, the Summit is a revelation for its price, with the cheapest model a very tempting US$870.

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The Summit has a few variations of case material and colour, but the design is largely the same and Montblanc has tried hard to differentiate this watch as a “luxury” item with its snowcap logo on the ornate crown (as opposed to the standard smartwatch pusher button) and top quality interchangeable straps. Also, the default digital “faces” of the watch are from the highly regarded 1858 mechanical watch collection. The case diameter is 46mm with a high resolution 400 x 400 AMOLED screen. Featuring a Android Wear 2.0 operating system, the watch is compatible with iOS and Android phones. The Summit comes preloaded with apps including Runtastic, Uber and Foursquare.

Steel case: US$870 to US$960 depending on strap

Titanium case: US$960 to US$1,050, depending on strap

Louis Vuitton Tambour Horizon

Louis Vuitton’s first smartwatch is unlikely to be a huge seller or grab much market share. But then, that was never the point. Given the way the market and the wider trend in wearable tech was going, LV decided it was better to be ahead of the curve than behind it.

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This is one of the pricier luxury smartwatches out there, although it comes with luxurious interchangeable straps and dedicated LV travel apps that are genuinely useful. The case diameter is 42mm, making it one of the smallest smartwatches on the market and the AMOLED screen has a resolution of 390 X 390.

US$2,560 to HK$3,075 depending on face and strap

Emporio Armani Connected

Like Michael Kors, the House of Armani’s various watches have done very well over the years, and in a bid to head off the threat from Apple and Samsung, it has released the Connected. The smartwatch runs Android Wear 2.0 and features all the smartwatch functions, but Emporio Armani have focused on making this a customisable watch. There are 11 straps, that are easily interchangeable and cost US$32 each.

US$500

Fossil Q Explorist

American watch and leather goods brand Fossil has aggressively overhauled its entire business to become a smartwatch player. The jury’s still out whether that was a sound move, but Fossil has brought a huge range of smartwatches to the market. One of its better efforts is the new Q Explorist, that offers smartwatch functionality with nifty changeable straps and coloured cases.

From US$275

Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45 Kingsman Special Edition

The Tag Heuer Connected was predicted to be an utter disaster when it was announced, like the company’s smartphone, a foray into technology that didn’t really make sense. However, fast forward to today and the Connected is Tag Heuer’s bestselling model, and the company is increasing production to meet demand. The Connected Modular 45 is a superb innovation that allows the case to pop out and be replaced with the mechanical version.

Price: US$3,650