​Olio Model One: Great looking smartwatch will struggle in the fashion tech onslaught

A good looking smartwatch that's still hard to recommend

Outed for the first time last year, the Olio Model One smartwatch treads a difficult path. In an interview with the founder Steve Jacobs last year, he admitted to Wareable the allure of watch buying was down to "style, quality and brand", something that he reiterated during our chat at Baselworld 2016.

So by his own admission, Olio has a big job on its hands. The company has zero brand, smartwatches are incredibly hard to make truly stylish and quality comes at a price. And the price is steep. The Olio Model One comes in at $600 for steel, $1,200 for 24k gold and 18k rose gold.

First impressions of the Olio Model One reveal that the gold versions look a damned sight nicer than the steel. The dull grey metal does little for the aesthetic, and we found it hard to muster any positive feels at all, especially considering the $600 price tag. Taste is personal, but we'd take a Gear S2 or Moto 360 2015 any day. The gold and rose gold, however, certainly play the part of a desirable piece of wristwear.

Essential reading: Best Swiss made smartwatches

When you pick up the Model One, the quality build is immediately evident. The watch is manufactured in small batches, using a stainless steel base and a PVD coating using real precious metals. Jacobs told us that Olio Devices shaves micron thickness strips of atoms from the watch's body to perfectly balance it, so it doesn't slide around on your wrist, which helps for a better fit.

And it fits like a glove. Substantial yet wearable, the quality leather straps felt right at home on our wrist – and while a lot of women will balk at the 47mm build – it felt fine on our male one. Thickness wise it's impressive too, and there's not a lot of difference between the Model One and an Apple Watch.

It's impressive attention to detail, but unfortunately, not every challenge has been overcome with meticulous engineering.

There is a lot of bezel on the Model One, and the dreaded flat tyre found on most round-faced smartwatches – the dead spot which hides the tech that drives the display – makes an appearance here.

Unlike the Moto 360, Olio has made a feature of the flat tyre and added an attractive overlay with some slick detail, but it sure would look better without. What's more, there's a fairly thick bezel which is styled out with concentric rings made of the watch body's base metal. Again, in the gold and rose gold models it looks okay, but the reduced screen real estate is far from ideal.

The screen itself is clear, without being especially bright or punchy, and we did experience quite a slow reveal as the watch face illuminated with a flick of the wrist. This was super annoying even within a short demo, although we were assured this was being changed.

Onto software, the Olio is extremely similar to the Vector watch, where there's less emphasis on apps in the traditional sense, and more on pushing useful information. The home screen shows the time, and there are more screens for weather and calendar notifications, which you can swipe through using the touchscreen. Weirdly similar to Vector, Olio Model One will build visualisations of your day based on frequency of your notifications.

Built in "apps" will also show data like calls, messages, reminders, traffic and social updates as well as chosen stocks and shares. While simplicity is key, the Olio is for people who just want basic information on the wrist, and even fitness tracking data doesn't make the cut, which is a surprising omission.

There's no doubt that Olio has made a fine looking smartwatch, and those looking to go big on style and avoid the same old familiar names should check out the Model One.

However, the emergence of brands like Fossil, Michael Kors and Tag Heuer into the space since Olio launched its watch could be bad news for the fledgling company. We're hard pressed to explain why you should spend $1,200 on an Olio Model One over a Tag Heuer Connected.

Olio's mission was to add style and individuality into the smartwatch market, and it's achieved that in some respects. But now it has to contend with big name fashion brands doing the same thing – and that's a tough fight to win.

We'll be reviewing the Olio Model One as soon as it becomes available.

What do you think?

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  • Mireya·

    I have the black one and I love it. I'm a fan of small businesses. Forget the big brands, Olio's customer service taught me it's worth paying for the personal attention. 

    • Guitar187·

      The review above is complete BS.. The Olio team and their fake reviews are absurd.  This watch is a giant paperweight .  Do your homework. There are plenty of real reviews (reviews that Olio have not been able to delete) across the internet from people that actually purchased the product.

      I can tell you with great certainty this company focuses more on fake reviews and hiding their flaws than building a great product

      • bzzone·

        I also purchased one of the first ones, Steel, and it has been nothing but problematic from day one. I've asked for a refund and they said that it was past the policy time. The issue I have is they had it most of the first couple of months "fixing" it but sent me a "new" one...and this one is been problematic. Ugh...

  • Julia1·

    I also own the black watch with the black leather strap. I've never been the type to chase after big name brands. The strap fits surprisingly well on my very petite wrist and I get compliments daily. As a busy working professional, the Olio is a perfect balance of having my notifications and schedule on hand.

  • Julia1·

    I also own the black watch with the black leather strap. I've never been the type to chase after big name brands. The strap fits surprisingly well on my very petite wrist and I get compliments daily. As a busy working professional, the Olio is a perfect balance of having my notifications and schedule on hand.

  • Vega·

    I've had the Black Steel Link for 7 months. I personally want to be present with the world around me. This device doesn't distract me with apps. Instead, it sends me the messages I've allowed in my inboxes, texts from VIPs, weather, and I've even caught calls from my kids on a nights out with my wife. Yea, I wish I could add more data to my device, but that's software, right? The watch itself is very well built. It's survived my active outdoor lifestyle in below freezing temps on big powder days. I think the author may have missed the point that these are heirloom devices that come with a lifetime of service. When I got mine, the price tag was meant to include a future improvements to software and hardware. That's a big plus for me and a lot of people. Heirloom digital timepieces?? I'll take that over a vibrator with led lights and a brand name in Swiss watchmaking any day. I imagine bigger things are in store for Olio. Yet, I can't imagine going back to checking my phone for every little app update either. So, prepare fora fiercely loyal base of customers that "get it" and who knows what else from Olio in the future... They're a dedicated bunch and the customer service has been outstanding. Hands down. 

  • Tara·

    I own two of the model ones, one steel and one black. I own an heirloom cartier watch which I have NEVER worn ever since I got my Olio. It's come a long way with the software and being a fan of new talent; I am confident that it's going to go places! My favourite part of the watch is the schedule face which shows me my meetings throughout the day. It's thoughtfully crafted and you can tell that this product is made with love! 

  • MarieMorgan·

    I've had the steel watch with the brown leather band since the beginning, hands up for the batch one customer! I remember discovering the timepiece online, it was exactly what I was looking for. I love being a part of new technology but I must say, I was hesitant to hop on the smart watch train because other brands make them out to be cereal box toys. The Olio is a classy watch with added functionality that is totally conducive to my modern lifestyle. The software has been improving consistently and although there were some bumps in the road at the beginning, support has been super helpful and responsive.  I am an Olio supporter for life and I cannot wait to see what comes next!

  • Chris_Kelly·

    The watch is beautiful and elegant. It's a great weight on my wrist and just feels natural. The perfect style to wear on a night out, or to a business meeting. All in all a good experience. 

  • Lance·

    Mediocre technology and functionality, at best... as for the 5 women writing comments, I can't help but think they are fictitious accounts. Never seen 100% of comments (on any comment board) come from women, especially for a geek item like a smartwatch. Very strange, indeed.

  • Jony·

    This article should be titled "How to burn a quick $14 Million". The Olio watches are neither product design marvels nor technological masterpieces. All the media hype in the world can't hide the flat tire and small screen, impotent processor, and basic bluetooth sync functionality. How this is supposed to compete with the Apple watch is beyond me. It also takes some audacity to label it 'Luxury' as the 2 year Olio Devices brand has no luxury pedigree whatsoever, thus would never appeal to high-end luxury consumers. I also have to question the 5 comments above, all from females purporting to have the watches. Very strange.

    • Vega·

      Is it Yony with J as Y (Polish translation), or Johnny like the English J?  Anyhow, I'm a man that named Vega on the Internets. Though, I do appreciate the feminine in my life. You ought to reconsider your pessimism... I've beat this watch up and it's withstood its fair share of overtly masculine misbehaviors. 

  • MatthewRobert·

    I got the black watch as a holiday gift from my girlfriend, I am not really a watch kind of guy so having a smart watch was quite a leap for me to take. I have developed a good relationship with my Olio, it gets me through the day with information I need, nothing more, nothing less. I love having my schedule so easily accessible and I really like being able to glance over emails and texts before taking my phone out. All in all I am liking the simplicity in the design and function of the timepiece.

  • Dane·

    I currently own an Olio Black with a black leather band.  I am also waiting on an Olio Steel with the caramel band.  I do like the Olio watch, owning many watches currently...including 3 Apple Watches.

    Really don't understand some of the comments by the article's writer, given he admits he hasn't tested a watch.  I have, for 6 months.  While there have been some problems, most have been fixed via software updates.  The Olio team I have found to be attentive to issues, comments, and suggestions.  My watch has been made to perform easily to my satisfaction as I write this....and future buyers will benefit from the early adopter's experiences.

    I find the watch's size, weight, and materials to be first rate.  The watch feels solid, of excellent quality of materials.  I have recommended the watch to others, and will continue to do so.

  • portugee77·

    I have been reading a lot of reviews and it sounds like this watch had some bumps starting off, but it also sounds like Olio has come out with a few critical  updates that have fixed a lot of the bugs.  All the negative reviews were really from what I can tell in December 2015 and we are now in May 2016, so I'm not sure what to think.  For those that have one would you say a lot of the wrinkles have been ironed out?

    Thank You in advance

    • Jack12·

      I have had a black model one from the beginning and just received a gold model.  At first, the software was bad to the point of being unususable.  They quickly came out with software updates (I was patient--I like startups), and I have to say that my watch now is close to perfect.  I do expect more features to come on line to continue to push functionality.  I also have an Apple watch, and while I love the features, I think this is a more wearable watch and a more attractive watch, for about the same price (steel to steel).  Battery life is now more than a day.

      • Guitar187·

        Not true.. This watch sucks from a software perspective.   "Perfect"?  It doesn't even come close to delivering  the basic functionality advertised

    • Njandasen·

      from everything I have been hearing I would have to say no they have not and Olios customer service is not anywhere near as described in some of these comments 

      It is probsbly the worst customer service I've ever encountered 

    • Njandasen·

      no they have not and most of these glowing reviews are complete B.S their customer service is beyond horrendous and the watch is still plagued with issues just     Imagine the inconvenience of a watch that can't make it through a work day 

  • RMcCall·

    I have been an Olio user since late 2015.  Yes, they did have some bumps in the beginning.  I am very pleased with their progress, however.  The latest version of firmware, together with the latest iPhone app, pair very well together.  The connection is much more reliable.  The battery life is significantly better, though I can still run out of power during a 12 hour day, if I'm not careful.  I have to either reduce sensitivity to Gesture, or turn it off altogether, so that the phone only wakes up if I tap the screen.  I can also make it last, if I remember to pack the charging disk in my pocket when I leave for the office in the morning, which lets me give the watch battery a boost midway through the day.  

    All told, I am very pleased with what the company has released to the public, and am excited about what I hear is coming in the very near future!  

    I had considered getting an Apple Watch, but from what I hear from friends that have them, Apple doesn't have all the answers, either.  I may reconsider if they come out with a significant improvement with version 2, but for now, and quite pleased with my Olio.  I just wish I had my Second Batch Gold watch in my hands!!  Soon, I hope!

  • DarkKnight·

    I've had my Olio for several months now. Yes, it did have quite a rocky start, but I've bit my tongue and ignored my early frustration, understanding that this company was the new kid on the block, fighting juggernauts like Google and Apple... mind you with a MUCH better looking device. Anyone that tells you those other watches look as good as this, they're lying. Just go to the stores that carry Olio (like Nordstrom) and look for yourself. I have a black one with black link, and it's simply gorgeous. It feels like a real, elegant, higher-end watch... not a toy. The typical Android Wear watches and Apples look downright cheap in comparison.

    Having said that, hardware is not the issue...I almost hesitated to buy mine when I saw reviews like the ones from December and January. But I took a chance, and was very patient... and it's paying off. The watch (and phone app) have come a LONG way. Time, notifications, weather... everything is much more reliable. Battery life keeps getting better. I'm an Android user and appreciate the "streamlined-ness" (if that's a word) of the watch features and app. I don't need a watch that tries to squeeze my phone's features into a 2-inch circle (or square).

    My wife recently purchased one of the "higher-end" Android Wear watches, and I know several in my extended family and friends circle that have had an Apple Watch for a while... my wife looked at how easy it was to setup my Olio and almost returned her Huawei (it was frustratingly complicated and unreliable, and features randomly stop working). She kept it only because it's a bit more feminine of a watch and most features work fine. As for the Apple Watch folks in my circles... they're almost bald (figuratively speaking)... so overly complicated and redundant that they're constantly complaining about it. Why haven't they returned them? Well, you know, they're fan... oh no, let's not go there!

    • Guitar187·

      A few haven't returned them because the company fleeced them with false promises of "fixes coming soon".   Most still aren't available, but they expired many return periods.   Most people did send them back.   Buyer beware here!  There are a ton of fake reviews on this site from an unethical company.

    • Njandasen·

      Please batman give me a break every negative thing you just said about the Huawei and the Apple Watch is what I experienced with that piece of junk olio is pushing and not for nothing but I know several Apple Watch owners and including myself and the only thing that some of them wish is that apple gave a round option the wearers experience is actually the best in the market followed by android wear they give you everything you need without it being a distraction and it works consistently without interuption unlike the olio. And Huawei has a good second on the connectivity track record so do all these potential customers a huge favor and stop pandering Steve Jacobs failed projects and let them get real smartwatch that they won't have to charge everyday at lunch. Oh ps when I said batman I was referring to you Darkknight

  • loveyoutomatoes·

    I love my Olio watch! It's the most stylish and professional looking smartwatch on the market, and is super comfortable. It's great getting my notifications on my wrist. I get tons of compliments on it every day.

  • SRanser·

    I also had my Olio for a couple of months now, and am very pleased with it. I wanted a good looking watch in the first place, and that's what I got. Battery life is much better. I turn gestures off, and simply tap the screen if I want to use my Olio. I get more than a full day on one charge. I am looking forward to more features etc, but for now I am very happy and I hope they survive. 

  • Greg·

    Disregard all the negative comments on here. The watch has been updated a multitude of times since its original release. Just bought a steel model with a steel band and am extremely happy with my decision. I'm running iOS and I've had a seamless experience thus far. The battery lasts me all day and I haven't had any issues with bluetooth connectivity. The build and look of the watch is absolutely superior to any smart watch currently on the market. My only complaint is some of the functionality hasn't been released yet (i.e. siri and gps), but overall I would highly recommend this watch if anyone is thinking about buying. I also have a pebble steel and a pebble time, and let's just say they're now both collecting dust!

    • Njandasen·

      actually disregard all the positive comments the watch still doesn't work properly and doesn't have most of the features they advertised for months are still unavailable and the customer service is horrible I have talked to some people who bought at the beginning of summer and they have the same complaints as the people did in December 

      • Greg·

        Njandasen, do you just comb the web all day looking for positive Olio comments to beat down? For those that want an honest review, ignore this troll's comments

        My experience with my model one has been great thus far. Their customer service team is extremely responsive and they've made fantastic strides in further improving functionality just within my one month of having the watch. The UI they've developed and how it compliments your phone (rather than trying to replace it) works extremely well and is intuitive to use. For those that are looking for a smart watch that doesn't stick out like a sore thumb - this is the only option. Yea, there's some nice looking Androidwear watches, but that OS is atrocious - terrible to navigate through.

  • Psiglin·

    I have the steel one and in the beta team and I can say it's not close to perfect but they are making progress with each release. I am getting 15 hours out of the watch with gestures on and probably twice that with it off. Auto brightness does not work right and I have yet to see gestures work correctly. Notifications work and pairing the watch is much easier than when I first got the watch. When I first got the watch I would give them 1 of 5 stars only because it looks nice.  Now I would give them 3.5 stars and if they keep improving I would actually consider buying a rose gold or black one. I really think they released a year early and if they would have waited there would be much more positive feedback. I own two android wear watches, Samsung gear s, pebble, garmin fenix 3, and this olio. If I am not out running I really gravitate to the olio.