“If the roast beef is right, they’ll be back,” said Thornton Mellon and that has been the motto of Swiss watchmakers since the beginning of the burgeoning smartwatch revolution. It’s the expectation (potentially flawed) that old customers will stick with the brands through thick and/or thin and new, fashion-forward customers – customers who might not be enamored with elegantly filigreed counterweights – will spring for a fancier smartwatch to wear on special occasions and will be led to buy mechanical pieces as their options vest or trust funds are made available.
Frédérique Constant’s roast beef is consistently right. The brand, which has long focused on beautiful mechanicals, is now offering the Horological Smartwatch, a truly unique timepiece that mixes the old world with the new in a package that is actually quite compelling.
I initially was very wary of the watch. It looked kludgy at best and I wasn’t completely sure their partner, MMT, would be able to create something useful and still maintain “Swiss” quality. As far as I can tell they’ve achieved both in this $995.00 smartwatch.
First, remember the goal here. FC and MMT wanted to offer a very limited set of features. The main hands display the time automatically after syncing with your phone. The sub-dial at 6 o’clock shows the date via a blued hand and the level of activity via the gilded, longer hand. It can also sense your sleep patterns. There are no notifications in this model and battery lasts 25 months. This version came on a leather strap but there are, obviously, fancier models for your perusal.
The watch is, at its core, a really nice Fitbit. And that’s OK. Perhaps your icy father doesn’t allow plastic jewelry in the Hamptons house or perhaps your personal aesthetic does not allow anything that looks like it was made in the last 50 years to touch your skin. Or perhaps you just like the way it looks. Ultimately, picking this watch above all others – Fitbits, Fuel Bands, Apple Watches, Android Devices – is a personal choice that requires a bit more monetary investment.
In my testing I found the watch to be fun, handsome, and consistently accurate. It’s a really nice piece from an horological perspective and a really solid step counter from a tech perspective. Both features are very well done and I was very impressed.
Would I wear this? I just don’t know. I like the idea, I like the concept, and I like the execution. The roast beef is right. My primary problem is the paucity of features – complications? – that makes the beautiful hands and case and striking face just a bit of overkill. I want to love this watch (and I could love it if the Apple Watch didn’t exist) and I certainly appreciate the effort FC put into building it. The quality is far higher than I’ve seen in any smart watch, Apple’s included.
In the end the smartwatch revolution boils down to personal taste. Watches are some of the most interesting signifiers of our personal identity and sense of self. The Horological Smartwatch is charming, like dapper older gentleman sporting a bright white hipster beard and an ankle-baring suit. You’re at once amused and fascinated, your interest piqued by the clash of old and new that just seems to work. In the end, however, you have to decide if this modernized classic is the one for you.