Mont Blanc Summit

If you think the Mont Blanc Summit is too expensive, you’re not the type of person the luxury Swiss watchmaker is trying to target with its first smartwatch.

Let us be clear: the Mont Blanc Summit is expensive. In fact, it’s really expensive when you consider that, functionality-wise at least, it does no more than rival Android Wear watches a third of the price.

Smartwatches haven’t exactly set the world alight, but Mont Blanc isn’t the only watchmaker exploring the sector, even though it’s currently still dominated by technology firms.

The hope is that the Mont Blanc name will be enough to encourage those shopping for a smartwatch to up their spend for a brand name synonymous with watch-making rather than consumer electronics. We’re not sure there’s too much of a market for this though.

Mont Blanc Summit price

  • Starts at £765 ($ 890, around AU$ 1,290)
  • A number of cases and straps to choose from

Just how much will this luxury smartwatch set you back? The Mont Blanc Summit price starts at £765 ($ 890, around AU$ 1,290) which in a world of Android Wear watches from the likes of LG, Fossil and Huawei is at least two times the going rate.

Depending on the combination of body and strap though, the price goes up, all the way to £915 ($ 1,020, around AU$ 1,540) for the titanium case with alligator leather strap.

It’s not, however, as expensive as the Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45, which starts at £1,200 ($ 1,550, AU$ 2,300). In comparison some may consider the Summit ‘cheap’, however those people are likely in the minority.

Design and display

  • Stylish, premium design looks good on the wrist
  • Crown looks like it should rotate, but doesn’t
  • Sizable screen makes reading text easier

It terms of design the Mont Blanc Summit is pleasing to the eye. It reminds us of the LG Watch Urbane, with its bold metal chassis providing a premium finish.

If anything though, it's too similar to the Watch Urbane – a smartwatch that's a quarter of the price – and considering the Summit is made by luxury Swiss firm Mont Blanc that's a little disappointing.

It's stylish and looks good on the wrist, but it doesn't quite match the price tag when you compare it to its lower-priced opposition. The IP68 rating means it's sweat-, rain- and splash-proof, but you'll want to avoid leaving it on while you shower or go swimming.

Something that does help it stand out, though, is its distinctive crown, although while it’s a nice addition at the three o'clock position, it too is a little lackluster.

The Mont Blanc Summit runs Android Wear 2.1, Google's newest version of its wearable interface, and it's an OS that favors a rotating element – be that a crown or a bezel – for its navigation.

The issue is that the Summit's crown doesn't rotate – it's just a button. Press it once to enter the app menu/return to the clock face, and long-press to launch Google Assistant. 

Sure it works, but Mont Blanc is a premium watchmaker with a long history, and for it not to utilize a staple smartwatch feature here is surprising.

You do get a variety of customization options (if you're willing to pay extra), with four case materials and seven straps to choose from.

The Summit sits comfortably on the wrist, and the heart rate monitor on its rear doesn't dig into the skin, which reduces any irritation. The 46mm diameter, 12.5mm-thick case will swamp smaller wrists – and there’s no smaller option – but it’s no different in size to standard analogue watches.

It's also not too heavy – it’s actually lighter than traditional timepieces, and you might forget you're even wearing it after a while.

While the heart rate monitor is a nice addition, another negative mark against the Summit is its lack of NFC. That means you won't be able to use Android Pay for contactless payments – arguably one of the most useful features of any smartwatch.

There's also no GPS, which means you can't leave your phone at home if you want to go out for a run and track your movements. Again, considering the price of the Mont Blanc Summit it's surprising it hasn't arrived with a full feature set.

The large 1.39-inch, 400 x 400 display makes everything easier to read, and the extra room means the interface can be manipulated more efficiently. It's larger than the screen on the Huawei Watch 2, for example, which felt cramped.

The display is protected by toughened sapphire glass, which should keep scratches and scuffs at bay. We were generally pretty careful with our review unit, but it did manage to survive a few bumps without any damage.

Battery life

  • One full of day of use with always-on display activated
  • Up to two days from a single charge without always-on display

The Mont Blanc Summit comes with a 300mAh battery, and we found this comfortably gave us a full day of use from a single charge.

That day included having the always-on display activated, which gives you a simplified black and white watch face when the Summit is idle. Even heavy watch users can expect the Summit to last a day before requiring a top up.

Turn off the always-on display and it’s possible to squeeze up to two days out of the battery.

If you like to play games on your smartwatch (although with a screen this size we wouldn’t recommend it), or are constantly checking emails and WhatsApp messages, the battery will take a hit.

The watch comes with a charging cradle, and there are two pogo pins on the rear of the watch that line up with the charger. It’s easy enough to engage and the Summit recharges quickly, with a full charge usually taking around an hour.

You do have to line up the connectors on the watch and dock, so it’s not quite as seamless as charging the Moto 360 or LG Watch Style, for example, but it’s not going to worry you day to day.

What's it like to use?

  • Same on-screen as any other Android Wear watch
  • Delay in motion detection jars when checking the time

There’s 4GB of internal storage, giving you enough space for a variety of apps, and room for some songs if you fancy downloading them to the watch, pairing a set of Bluetooth headphones, and leaving your phone at home as you venture outside for some exercise.

The thing with Android Wear smartwatches is that when you’ve got past the design, everything is pretty much identical.

Sure, the Mont Blanc Summit comes with three custom watch faces made by the firm, but beyond that it’s the exactly same interface and experience you’d get with any other wearable running the software.

That makes the price a little harder to justify, as you’re getting the same on-screen action as you would from a watch a third of the Summit’s price.

The Summit does run the latest version of Google’s wearable platform – Android Wear 2.0, with improved navigation, menu screens and a few new features sprinkled in – which at least keeps it relevant.

However, without the inclusion of NFC and GPS, the Mont Blanc Summit feels like it's missing some core functionality, which is harder to take here when you consider the price tag.

NFC isn’t as common a feature as we’d like in smartwatches; this allows you to pay contactlessly in stores with Android, as you would with your phone or contactless bank card, and it’s a feature well suited to wearables, so it’s a disappointing omission here.

For those who like to keep themselves fit, the lack of GPS is another potential negative, as it means the watch can't independently track  your runs/cycles/walks – you’ll have to take your phone with you if you want location tracking.

There is a heart rate sensor on the underside of the watch though, and it only protrudes very slightly from the body, which means the Summit still sits comfortably on wrist.

Something we did find annoying was the delay in the motion detection when we tried to check the time.

If you haven’t got the always-on display activated the Mont Blanc Summit will detect the movement your wrist makes when you raise it to check the time, and will wake the screen, but it takes a little too long to light up the screen each time.

It’s only a second or less delay, but it’s just long enough to make you feel a bit silly that you’re staring at a dark screen before it springs to life.

There’s only 512MB of RAM in the Summit, which is the same as you’ll find in the LG Watch Style, but less than the 768MB in the Huawei Watch 2 and LG Watch Sport, which may go some way to explaining the slightly subpar performance.

That is paired with the Snapdragon 2100 chipset though – the brain of choice for pretty much every new Android smartwatch at the moment, apart from the Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45.

It keeps the general performance of the watch in line with its rivals, and with access to the Play Store directly on the device you can download apps straight to the watch without having to download them to your phone first.

The number of apps available for Android Wear is steadily increasing, but it still feels like it lags behind the options you get on the Apple Watch, although big names such as Spotify, Runtastic, Foursquare and Uber are all present here.

The Mont Blanc Summit isn’t your typical smartwatch. It’s also not a watch for the typical, everyday person. It’s more than just an Android Wear smartwatch. It’s a statement. It’s a blur of art and technology. It’s a device Mont Blanc wants millennials to dream about now, and then buy later in life when they can afford to realize their dream.

It’s also really, really expensive.

There’s no getting away from the fact that the Summit offers nothing in terms of specs or features over smartwatches a third of its price. 

The craftsmanship is slick, it looks great on the wrist and it bears the firm’s iconic brand name – but this isn’t a traditional, handmade luxury timepiece that’ll be handed down through generations and increase in value over time.

This is a smartwatch that, in a few years, will be irrelevant, such is the pace of modern technology.

Who's it for?

The Mont Blanc Summit isn't for the average smartwatch owner. It's for those with enough disposable income not to be worried about spending it on a watch with features identical to devices a third of the price.

It straddles the line between smartwatch and luxury watch, and will likely play second fiddle to an owner's traditional timepiece, as an item that's worn for specific occasions rather than day to day.

Should I buy it?

If you're in the market for an Android Wear smartwatch there are plenty of cheaper options that give your comparable, and it some cases superior, features and performance.

This makes the Mont Blanc Summit a difficult product to recommend to pretty much anyone. If you're looking to be part of a more exclusive Android Wear club and have money to burn, then the Summit may be up your street.

Yet, if you're willing to spend this much then perhaps you should consider the Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45. It's an even more expensive, and potentially more elite, Android Wear offering.

All this leaves the Summit in a bit of a no man's land, then, and you'll either have to love the brand, or the watch's design, to plump for this particular wearable.

The smartwatch world may not be firing on all cylinders right now, but there are still a number of competitors vying for the space on your wrist. Here are three you should consider before making your final decision.

LG Watch Style

Looking for an Android Wear smartwatch that's not laden with features? Look no further. Like the Summit, the LG Watch Style doesn’t offer GPS or NFC, but it does have a rotating bezel for easier navigation.

It’s also a third of the price of the Mont Blanc summit. The design isn’t quite so premium, and the slimmer, more rounded finish may not to be to everyone’s taste – but just remember how much it costs.

Huawei Watch 2

If you fancy a smartwatch which packs in more features than you can shake a stick at, you’ll want to check out the Hauwei Watch 2. 

There’s NFC for contactless payments via Android Pay and GPS for keeping track of your workouts without needing your phone, while 4G connectivity means you can make and receive calls, send texts and browse the web completely independently of your handset. 

It may be a little too much for some users, but those looking for maximum bang for buck will be in for a treat.

Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45

The biggest direct rival to the Mont Blanc Summit comes from Tag Heuer in the form of the Connected Modular 45. The modular part of the name comes from the fact you can easily disconnect the strap and horns from the watch case, and replace it with either an updated Android Wear case or an analogue watch.

It’s not cheap though, and the Connected Modular 45 is more expensive than the Mont Blanc Summit, putting it out of reach for many shoppers.

First reviewed: July 2017

TechRadar – Technology Reviews

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