Montblanc has recently introduced the Summit Smartwatch, a handsome 46mm sport- and travel-inspired wearable with the trompe l’œil look of a traditional mechanical Swiss watch and the functionality to interact with your body, your other devices, and the world around you.
It uses the Android Wear 2.0 operating system, and aims to bridge the gap between segments: the traditional Swiss chronograph or automatic watch—priced at or above $2,000—and the digital wearables arena, which includes the Apple Watch and models from Samsung, Asus, Huawei, etc., with prices starting in the low hundreds.
While wearables in various forms have existed for several years, only recently has software advanced to the point where traditional watchmakers can co-opt an existing and recognized operating system that matches the reliability and precision that their consumers expect. Montblanc used Google’s OS to create the Summit, putting its own spin on the look and feel, which speaks to the brand’s ethos of sturdy-but-polished, travel-ready pens, watches, business bags, small accessories, and jewelry.
For around $950 (depending on options), you get some exclusive features unique to the Summit, like:
- a curved touchscreen sapphire crown (others are flat)
- interchangeable watch faces that mimic the look of other Montblanc watch designs, like the TimeWalker and 1858 collections
- a choice of case material (polished steel, all-black PVD-coated steel, or half and half) and strap (leather, rubber, alligator)
I particularly liked the poppy-red rubber strap of the model I tested, which appears to be canvas from far away but is actually finely-textured rubber, perfect for water resistance. This strap also comes in black, olive, and navy. Other strap options include calfskin in black, brown, blue, or gray, and an alligator in dark brown.
Technology-wise, the Android Wear 2.0 OS is highly respected and used across many brands. It operates seamlessly with Apple and non-Apple devices alike and easily navigates the Google Play store, where there are hundreds of available apps for download. The Summit includes 4GB of storage; handy, on-the-go apps like Uber, Runtastic, and Google Assistant come pre-installed.
After testing Android Wear for a few days, I decided that it improved my life only incrementally. I’m also not a regular watch wearer or married to my devices.
Nevertheless, it was handy to get notifications on my wrist, easily glanced at in conversation or while driving, and I liked my ability to control music, read texts, and track my heart rate, steps, etc. I never even made it to the Google Play store to download more apps.
What Montblanc offers in the Summit is all of that wearable functionality within a sexy, sophisticated package that doesn’t clash with a suit—or a paddle board. It blends in and looks upmarket, which hasn’t been true of wearables thus far. Equipped with a rubber strap, it has the versatility to go anywhere.
The high-end watch industry has long relied on the magic of its intricate mechanical handiwork and the “Swiss made” reputation to keep clients coming back, and to attract new ones. Most of the market growth of the past has been fueled by expanding to newly industrialized nations and introducing both halo products that legitimize a brand’s luxury or technical prowess, and more affordable models aimed at aspirational consumers.
Today, as advancement has come to be defined across sectors and industries by digital rather than analog technology, the Swiss watch industry finds itself at a crossroads: continue to focus on the legacy ways of connecting with clients, or evolve with consumers who now value convenience and connectedness as much as they do aesthetics, technical mastery, and the aura of exclusivity.
Montblanc is the first Swiss watchmaker to enter the sector, recently followed by Tag Heuer and Louis Vuitton, both of which offer models that are more expensive. And while I am partial to the smaller size (38mm) and gorgeous Barenia leather strap of the Apple / Hermès Watch (ignoring a technological apples-to-oranges comparison), I could certainly see myself springing for the Summit. It is attractive, highly practical, and includes the luxurious Montblanc experience, something you won’t get at Amazon, from Huawei, or any other mainstream retailer.
Many thanks to Ayden Donovan at Montblanc International Plaza for sitting down with me to discuss the Summit Smartwatch, and Margaret Sztor (Store Manager) for her hospitality. Visit either of them in-store to have a look.