December 5, 2023

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From Hublot to TAG, luxury brands aren’t giving up on smartwatches

It has been five years since the big Swiss watch brands first responded to the emergence of the Apple Watch. What was once seen as a slightly anaemic offering has been significantly improved since: TAG Heuer and Montblanc have released updated versions of their Connected and Summit watches, and Tissot has turned its long-standing T-Touch platform into a genuine smartwatch.

The latest to enter the fray is Hublot, with the launch this week of the Big Bang E. With other players including Louis Vuitton and Frederique Constant also well established, it is clear that, despite the Apple Watch outselling the entire Swiss watch industry in 2019, luxury watch brands are still unwilling to let the executives in Cupertino take this market from them without a fight.

Hublot Big Bang E

Hublot’s foray into the luxury smartwatch market builds on its experiences with a limited edition piece created for referees at the 2018 Fifa World Cup.

This new watch, the Big Bang E, is a non-limited addition to the collection that has been produced in collaboration with its LVMH sister brands: that means it has a lot in common with TAG Heuer’s Connected, save for the bespoke apps developed by TAG and the chronograph-style pushers making their debut on the newest Connected.

Seen in this context, Hublot’s main achievement is incorporating the smartwatch hardware and complex, 42-piece case construction, in a model that’s no larger than a regular, mechanical Big Bang, at 42mm wide.

One of the strengths of the Big Bang E is its customisability; Hublot has launched it with a conceptual dial design that changes throughout the day, created by artist Marc Ferrero, and the promise is that over time, more artists and designers will submit their own interpretations on the smartwatch interface.

The watch launches with the choice of titanium or black ceramic cases (both water-resistant to 30m) and the same quick-change strap functionality found on mechanical Big Bang watches. But as with all things Hublot, expect a bevy of stylistic and material choices to emerge in the not too distant future.

Price: £4,800 | Hublot

Tissot T-Touch Connect Solar

Twenty-one years after the launch of its first T-Touch watch, Tissot’s latest smartwatch – due to launch later this year – adds connectivity to the established platform’s solar-powered functions.

That means GPS navigation, notifications, weather forecasts and live score updates for selected sports as well as the usual activity-tracking abilities.

The development of a low-power operating system and efficient display gives it six months of battery life when connected (and ten years if not), while also recharging constantly via the solar cells under the dial. The titanium case, sapphire crystal and real, physical hands still give it the tactile feel of a traditional watch.

Price: £TBC | Tissot

TAG Heuer Connected 2020

Some eyebrows were raised when TAG Heuer and erstwhile CEO Jean-Claude Biver bounded into the smartwatch market with such gusto, but learning directly from big tech (including launch partner Intel) it has iterated fast. We are now on the third version of the TAG Heuer Connected – and in the meantime, it has become the most successful of the luxury smartwatch contenders.

The most obvious physical change is the introduction of two pushers either side of the crown. On the inside, it still runs Google’s Wear OS, though TAG Heuer has also developed a Sports app that syncs with Apple Health and Strava. There’s even a version aimed directly at golfers, complete with course-tracking software.

Price: £1,495 | Goldsmiths

Montblanc Summit 2+

The big change with Montblanc’s Summit 2+ is the addition of a mobile connection that untethers it from your phone – an important step still not taken by TAG Heuer’s rival Connected.

To make sure the Summit remains versatile, Montblanc has upped the battery size to 440mAh (which, in turn, is why the case is slightly bigger, at 43.5mm compared with 42mm).

The other major improvement to the Summit 2+ is a suite of tools aimed at bolstering its outdoor credentials: a speedometer, barometer, altimeter, compass and GPS.

Price: £1,040 | Montblanc

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