What watch nerds really think about smartwatches

Has the new wave of luxury smartwatches impressed watch purists?
Wareable is reader-powered. If you click through using links on the site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Just as the cronut appeals to fans of both croissants and donuts, so the smartwatch could one day have crossover appeal to fans of tech and watches. But like the trendy pastry, smartwatch makers have to get the balance right.

You'd be hard pressed to find a tech company that hasn't made a smartwatch. It was never a tough sell - use the components, design and expertise that worked so well for smartphones and create a new product category to shift more gear to gadget fiends looking for the next big thing.

Well, three years after the first Pebble shipped and two years since Android Wear's launch, smartwatches made by tech companies - apart from Apple - haven't sold very much. There wasn't enough for the watch geeks.

Read this: What to expect in smartwatches in 2016

We've seen a shift towards big tech working with fashion and sports brands as well as luxury watchmakers trying to build something that will actually sell. We know what watch enthusiasts thought of the Pebble Classics and Samsung Galaxy Gears but since Tag, Mondaine, Movado and Frederique Constant have entered the fray, has the watch nerd verdict changed?

We asked three experts which smartwatches they've used, what the Swiss watch secret is and what smartwatches can do to evolve into useful, desirable technology.

Ariel Adams

Founder and editor, aBlogtoWatch

"While our main forte are traditional watches, we see the smartwatch industry as being a natural evolution and compliment to the traditional watch industry. Not all of my editorial team shares this philosophy and there is still a large amount of negative sentiment toward smartwatches held by those are who interested in traditional (mostly mechanical) watches.

"The issue here is distinguishing between an appliance with no soul that you wear, and an item that is stylish and fashionable that allows the world to know something about who the wearer is. Both traditional and smartwatches have the potential to have soul, or utterly lack it.

Luxury smartwatches should be a test bed for new technology

"I am the most tempted by the notion that the smartwatch can predict what I am doing and offer me information relevant to that. Google is doing this best right now even though it is still in its infancy. I am also very keen on the simple but important concept of electronic, animated watch dials. I think the artistic, emotional, and personalized nature of being able to regularly and easily change watch dials is extremely important and has not been discussed enough. Like others I am regretful that technology has not caught up to our imaginations when it comes to battery power and processing speed.

What watch nerds really think about smartwatches

"I actually shared an idea with execs at Google and Intel for a novel and logical use for these 'luxury smartwatches,' and that is as a test bed for new technology that would simply not be cost effective in more mainstream devices.

"Want to charge plus for a smartwatch? No problem, just fill it with tech that isn't available elsewhere (at least for now) because it would cost too much. We've seen this in premium electronics in computers, TVs, audio equipment, and other items for years when it comes to the very high-end. This is exactly what I think should be the focus on luxury smartwatches - style and superior tech for the early adopters who want the best no matter the price."

aBlogtoWatch describes itself as "the cumulative voice of the watch enthusiast and your much learned friend when it comes to anything timepiece."

Chris Hall

Editor, SalonQP

"A smartwatch does not offer the feeling of luxury, the build quality and hand-crafted attention to detail that you get from a good watch. If the question is "what would make a lover of mechanical watches think twice about buying a smartwatch?" then the answer is: make it nice, and make the fact that it's smart almost incidental.

Nobody is going for double wristing

"Take the Tesla Model S as a comparison. It's a luxurious, fast, well-equipped, good-looking executive saloon car - a natural competitor for a BMW/Merc/Audi/Jag. The fact that it's electric, and therefore represents a revolutionary step forward in an established industry, isn't actually the whole point. People expect an electric car to be a bit crap, a bit plasticky, unreliable: it delivers the same level of quality as its traditional rivals. Same deal with smartwatches; if someone made a smartwatch with the build quality, lifespan and design of a Rolex, people would buy it.

"Purists are not necessarily the audience that, say, Tag Heuer has set out to convince with its first smartwatch. What Tag, and brands in the same sector, are aiming at is convincing young, wealthy early adopters that it's worth spending more than twice the price of an Apple Watch on a smartwatch.

What watch nerds really think about smartwatches

"I've worn the Apple Watch for a while. I most liked specific features like navigation and music control plus the fundamentally traditional interface and aesthetics. I don't like the look, the intrusiveness of it and the fact that it prevented me from wearing a "proper" watch - nobody is going for double wristing!"

"In terms of value, Swiss watches are still far ahead of smartwatch sales - but taken in isolation these figures don't mean much. Will smartwatches take business away from mechanical Swiss watches, which start at about and rise into the tens of thousands? Not very much. Will they take business away from - Swiss or Japanese quartz watches? Probably yes."

SalonQP is the UK's leading luxury watch website.

Simon Osborne-Walker

Content manager, TrustedReviews

"Hey, a watch is a watch if it can tell the time. Watchmakers have been adding extra complications to watches for hundreds of years, trying to make them do more than just indicate hours and minutes. Mechanical, digital, smart… they're all watches.

I could sell my Rolex now for more than I paid for it

"Smartwatch sales will outsell Swiss watches only when everything a smartwatch can do is integrated into some kind of implant or device more fit for purpose. If smartwatches don't evolve to do something far more useful pretty soon, their sales may just fall away and we'll be talking about the comeback of the mechanical Swiss watch (again) in 2018 or so. Just because a smartwatch is dressed up and branded doesn't mean it offers anything more. The only activity tracking I do is via Strava, for which my phone is just fine. Gimme a call when your smartwatch can warn you that you've got cancer or do something else useful.

"Thinking with my heart, smartwatches have no soul, and no matter how many different straps are offered, an Apple Watch wearer is just another Apple Watch wearer. Thinking with my head, smartwatches don't hold their value. I could sell my Rolex now for more than I paid for it – you'd be lucky to get half your money back on a smartwatch after just a year, and probably loads less if the software's no longer supported. I'll stick to cogs, springs and character for now, thanks."

Osborne-Walker is a watch enthusiast who currently works at Time Inc.'s technology website TrustedReviews.

Are you a watch nerd/enthusiast/expert? Have you tried any of the new wave of more stylish, more thoughtful smartwatches? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

How we test


Sophie was Wareable's associate editor. She joined the team from Stuff magazine where she was an in-house reviewer. For three and a half years, she tested every smartphone, tablet, and robot vacuum that mattered. 

A fan of thoughtful design, innovative apps, and that Spike Jonze film, she is currently wondering how many fitness tracker reviews it will take to get her fit. Current bet: 19.

Sophie has also written for a host of sites, including Metro, the Evening Standard, the Times, the Telegraph, Little White Lies, the Press Association and the Debrief.

She now works for Wired.

Related stories