Montblanc Summit Smartwatch Hands-On

Montblanc Summit Smartwatch Hands-On

Montblanc Summit Smartwatch Hands-On Hands-On

Today in London, Montblanc has surprised us with the launch of its Montblanc Summit smartwatch: built on the Android Wear platform with a massive round touch screen and packed with functionality, the Montblanc Summit is the brand's and, in fact, Richemont's first try at producing a fully capable smartwatch. Interestingly, it is also one of the most affordable watches on sale from any brand in the group.

On its social media channels, "@montblanc" has been teasing the connected world of the interwebs with a new release marked by triangles. Yes, triangles. People have of course been engaged in what Montblanc has up their sleeve, and today we have an answer: the Montblanc Summit Smartwatch. First, as always, a bit of (very recent) history to give this some context.

Montblanc Summit Smartwatch Hands-On Hands-On

At SIHH 2015, and in attempt to get in on the then-developing smartwatch craze, Montblanc released its latest creation, the E-Strap. It could best be described as a thin screen-buckle added onto a nylon strap. The electronic module had a built-in activity tracker, notification and calendar options, and a subsequent app that kept its wearer up to speed without having to open the planner. It was an interesting attempt – and much more successful than, say, the IWC Connect (remember?), as the E-Strap has even made it onto the market in some select places. The question was asked “why not just make a smart watch?” with the simple answer, most likely, being: because it's stupendously difficult to engineer from scratch and no tried and proven platforms had been available at the time.

Montblanc Summit Smartwatch Hands-On Hands-On

A lot of things have happened technology-wise over the last two years and as such the Montblanc Summit is built on the very latest Android Wear 2.0 platform, the same that powers the TAG Heuer Connected Modular 45 (hands-on here). There are a number of very notable differences both on the inside and out, so let's look at these.

Montblanc Summit Smartwatch Hands-On Hands-On

Staying with the technical bits just to clear the air on that, the Montblanc Summit's Android Wear 2.0 system will allow it to work with both Android and Apple iPhone devices through the Android Wear app – Montblanc is not releasing its own dedicated app which, I presume, is actually a good thing (you can expect the Android Wear app to be refreshed and work more seamlessly than something proprietary). The system also runs on the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor, one of the latest and most advanced wearable processors on the market.

The screen inside the 46mm-wide case (more on that in a bit) is a 400-by-400-pixel-resolution AMOLED panel. In truth, it looks slightly but noticeably sharper than the screen of the Gear S3 or the Apple Watch and, thanks to the AMOLED technology, it can shut off any of its pixels completely, making for perfectly dark blacks and much improved energy efficiency.

Montblanc Summit Smartwatch Hands-On Hands-On

Speaking of battery life, Montblanc promises a full day of use on a charge and while that may have seemed impossible a few years ago, we had no problem getting that (and some more) on the similarly sized and feature-laden Gear S3 (reviewed here), so there's a solid chance of the Montblanc Summit being able to deliver a full day as well.

Features include the usual, but impressively wide range of functions with all sorts of notifications being delivered to you from your phone, the ability to respond to them in some rudimentary way (to the extent as is humanly possible on a screen of such compact size), the use of Google Assistant through the built-in microphone, as well as a built in heart-rate sensor for fitness tracking. Notably, there is no speaker, just a microphone, so you will not be able to make phone calls on this watch – arguably not something many will miss.

Montblanc Summit Smartwatch Hands-On Hands-On

Thanks to the AMOLED technology of the display – and further extended battery life – the Montblanc Summit's screen has an Always-On mode, which is again, very similar to that of the Gear S3. When you flick your wrist to check the time or touch the screen the screen powers on in full color and at a brightness you've set (on a scale of 1 to 5). After a set amount of time (a few seconds on standard) the screen powers down into this black and white, high contrast Always-On mode where there are no animations whatsoever. Even the running seconds sub-dial freezes, the central chronograph seconds disappear, and it is just the minute hand that advances once every minute.

Montblanc Summit Smartwatch Hands-On Hands-On

Despite its self-imposed limitations, the Always-On screen remains perfectly usable as a watch dial even in brightly lit conditions and, better still, it saves the Montblanc Summit from looking like a turned off, black slab of metal on the wrist. A great function and something we expect to see from the Apple Watch soon – as that is still missing out on this. Last but not least, Montblanc say the Summit is the first smartwatch with a slightly domed front crystal. And that's right: the front does have a slight dome to it – all in an effort to make the Summit look that little bit more reminiscent of a traditional timepiece. A thoughtful idea and effort, though not sure how many will notice it.

Montblanc Summit Smartwatch Hands-On Hands-On

Although the case measures in at 46mm wide, it is remarkably thin for a smartwatch at only 12.5mm – that's only about a millimeter thicker than the Apple Watch but the Summit has a notably larger screen. The Montblanc Summit will be available in a number of material and color combinations. There will be an all-steel version with a polished steel bezel (the most classic and, at first sight for me at least, most handsome looking of the bunch); a steel base with black PVD coated steel "diver style bezel" (non-rotating); an all black PVD steel version; as well as an “all natural” piece in titanium.

What do you think?
  • I want it! (36)
  • Interesting (29)
  • Thumbs up (13)
  • I love it! (3)
  • Classy (2)
  • Phil

    Oh dear.
    And they were doing so well to look like a credible watchmaker.

  • Word Merchant

    Ok. This is horrible, from the plastic back with ‘made in China’ writ large, to the watch face shown, to… well, everything really. What on earth is Montblanc thinking of? Did they hire Invicta’s brightest to work the design over a bit?

    The Tag Connected outclasses this in design terms pretty much everywhere, except the lack of a HR sensor and a lower res screen, and I’m no fan of that watch either.

    What a munter.

  • Shawn Lavigne

    surprised and glad to see this release. and at a great price point too. awesome.

  • Mark1884

    I like Montblanc (Timewalker & Meisterstuck) but this offering is embarrassing.
    Montblanc: please forget the “wrist device” and stick to making real watches and pens.

    Leave this area to the nerds that don’t wear watches, but usually look at their cell phones for the time. This fad will pass……. I hope!

    • David Bredan

      The interesting idea/possibility to entertain is let’s say Richemont really(-really) wanted to get in the smartwatch scene: who from the group but Montblanc could’ve tried to pull it off? All other brands are in their vulnerable bubble of being a manufacture/military diver/high exclusivity/German traditional brand/etc while Montblanc, with their huge accessories business, clearly stands out from the rest as possibly being able to fit this one in their portfolio.
      Actual quality, comfort (from the moment you put it on in the store not after 6 weeks of braking straps in) and user interface is good enough that if a typical Montblanc customer (used to higher prices in return of upmarket quality and some exclusivity) tries it on will probably feel OK about pulling the trigger on it.
      Had they done it just 2 or even 1 year ago I feel it would’ve been not as complete a package and would’ve almost definitely been a flop. As it is today, I found it’s good enough to possibly be sustainable – and would’ve faired even better had it been smaller or at least shorter. Just my .02 on how this may have come to be and why it may do fine.

      • Mark1884

        I do agree. If someone from the group was going to attempt this device, Montblanc would be a logical choice.
        But… I still do not recognize these devices as watches. I hope they are a passing curiosity. Unfortunately we have a generation that does not see the need for a watch. So sad.

        • David Bredan

          It might (not sure yet but might) be a good way of approaching said generation with connected watches and then they can take it from there. Putting watches back in pop culture is an interesting challenge and one that not many brands excel at right now.

  • IG

    Should be hand-wound….™

    • David Bredan

      Haha, trademarked it already I see! Good move!

  • Framlucasse

    46mm… seriously? Does anyone working in the business knows, or cares, what people want ?

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e4ac715d3fbeff6dcbbae1c63f6890b206c9935452d82f08b97490fb9618ab5a.jpg

  • Ben

    Was Davide fired from Montblanc?? No one thought about asking him about the design of this terrible, terrible piece of hardware? If I thought the Tag was already too big for me (granted barely) this looks like it is even bigger… Size apart, this looks like a glorified Samsung S3 and a really sad launch for Montblanc which had been on a roll! I mean come on… This sad plastic caseback? The sad Made in China? Wow…

    • George Yang

      I wasn’t a fan of the SIHH2017 novelties that Davide Cerrato was responsible for. Looks like him and Zaim Kamal (the creative director) is not making for a good duo. I miss the days of Lutz Bethge and Alexandre Schmidt.

      • David Bredan

        Davide is still with the company but, to be fair, no present or prior management could possibly bring all relevant smartwatch production capacities over from China (where they exclusively reside when you want to make something like this – Frederique Constant’s MMT is in Switzerland)

  • Yan Fin

    Why? Why to make it and why to write about it?

  • Raymond Wilkie

    David, if that’s your wrist, it’s a tad to big for you. I have nothing good to say about the piece itself.

    • David Bredan

      Well, trust me, I have noticed that too – and I did mention above that it’s big not just on my relatively small wrist but on anything under genuinely large (if that makes sense).

  • Richard carroll

    Clearly there will come a tipping point where these things will become irresistible. I don’t feel the need as yet. if I felt I couldn’t live without it I’d rather have the notification/tracker functionality on the other wrist in a discrete, distinctly non watch looking format.

  • Sheez Gagoo

    An average smartwatch, not more or less. It`s impressing, that disruptive technologies never come from companies where it`s expectable. A Tesla didn`t come from an established car manufacturer, like smartphones and smartwatches. Can`t understand. Why is that?

    • David Bredan

      What you say I think is a bit contradictory in the sense that Montblanc is not who you’d expect to see the very latest screen technology from and yet here it is. With Apple pushing the retina display envelope with the MacBooks and Samsung with their phones, both the screen and processor stand out in the Montblanc where they really could’ve gone with something off-the-shelf from 1-2 years ago. I just wish they cased it more sensibly.

      • Sheez Gagoo

        You’re right, but I thought in a more global way (naive, I know), Swiss watches were technically superiour centuries ago and I thought, they could have developped a smartwatch. Of course they didn’t. What I wanted to say is, disruptive watch technology is obviously not to expect from a watch company.

  • Ross Diljohn

    You lost me at Android Wear…

  • Sevenmack

    This, along with the latest TAG Heuer Connected, is up my alley — and many casual watch buyers will also pick it up. After all, if TAG Heuer can sell 56,000 Connected watches last year — equivalent to 8.6 percent of its 650,000 units sold in 2014 (the latest year available) — Montblanc can easily sell 8,000 or an equivalent to 80,000 units sold in 2014.

    Collectors, of course, will dismiss it. But the one percent of watch buyers, snobs who want to indulge their desires to escape the constraints of modern life and nostalgia for a past that never existed, were never the intended audience anyway.

    • Raymond Wilkie

      With that attitude dare i suggest your on the wrong blog.

      • David Bredan

        Some select smartwatches we do like and cover as well, so he *is* on the right blog – especially with such a sensible comment. But thanks for chiming in.

  • George Yang

    $16,000USD for a custom digital watch face?! You can buy 2 Nicolas Rieussec watches for that price…

    I own 2 Montblanc automatics and countless pens and other accessories but this is a hard pass by me.

  • Rui

    Had to use rose petals in one of the pictures to stand out its beauty!

  • Chaz

    That third photo…the movement…”Made in ….” looked like it started with a C…. NOT an S as in Switzerland.

    Canada? Cayman Islands? Colombia? CHINA???

    But then again…I have old, tired eyes…

  • Garrett Hu

    No, no, no…This is a disaster when luxury brands start making stuff in China. I guess at least they are being honest about it but I will start to think of Montblanc a little differently. Once you go China….say goodbye to being luxury.

    • Chaz

      Can’t wait to see all the fake Montblancs in the ?? watch market next time I’m there…

  • Simon_Hell

    Or I can just flash Samsung Gear with a Montblanc firmware…and have a 200 hundred dollar Montblanc, that looks better than the 900 dollar one.

    • AW

      Different CPU, OS, and probably sensor suite. You can of course make it look like Montblanc with designed watch face.
      I get some of the smartwatches: TH has custom Intel hardware, Samsung does everything themselves (including OS), BUT Montblanc went catalog shopping in Shenzen and the extent of their input was colors and providing watch faces.

  • My wrist is a bit larger than your’s David, but I don’t think I could pull off wearing this thing (and I wear an Rpaige Skyscraper often). I appreciate that they have a 400 px (vice the usual 320 px) screen but unless a brand pays close attention to lug design (among other things), a 46 mm watch is too large for most people not named Larry.

  • Polerouter

    A bad chinese copy of a Montblanc, but actually endorsed by Montblanc… weird…

  • SuperStrapper

    It looks comically big on you David, and I’ve seen similar-sized watches look fine on your wrist. Poor case structure here.

    Would not consider.

    • David Bredan

      I agree that it really is one very long/tall watch – not sure why the long lugs were necessary (I asked and no antennas or anything in there). Maybe we’ll see a smaller variant in the not too distant future.

  • Ian john horwood

    Do you get a free fountain pen with your aquisition

  • Ian john horwood

    Around 1g for that , not tempting at all , on the apple bandwagon they are

  • Ian john horwood

    Why not just buy a proper watch in the first place

  • The Deplorable Boogur T. Wang

    These ‘connected eledtro-gizmos’ are starting to get interesting.

    • ?????? ????????

      I can remember people were saying just the opposite here

  • Shinytoys

    A G-3 piece with all the goods…the evolution keeps progressing and getting better…Excellent article David Bredan !

    • David Bredan

      Thank you very much – and agreed on the progress, looking forward to what’s to come in the next few years!

  • Shinytoys

    I feel people lose sight of the fact that men especially (no pocketbook or handbags ) need a viable solution to carrying that brick of a phone around. I can absolutely see myself buying a hybrid in the not to distant future, and if I’m so bothered that it isn’t purely mechanical, I’ll wear it on my ankle. Last time I looked I also have 2 wrists, so I’ve got that going for me 🙂 I had a Note 4 and I’m currently using an S-7, nothing would make me rejoice more at this moment to let this beast sit in the charging bay. It’s a matter of evolution and technology for communications, to discount this idea completely in an all in one watch would be a premature mistake…

  • benjameshodges

    Who’d have thought the biggest struggle Swiss manufacturers would have with making smart watches is constructing a well-proportioned and attractive case?

    After trying on the Tag Heuer Connected 45, I am perplexed at how they can sell something so ugly and uncomfortable. This Montblanc looks no better.

    Please vote with your wallet and don’t support Swiss smart watches.

  • Dan Finch

    Interesting to see a Swiss Luxury brand’s take on a high tech piece. Montblanc has just legitimized the smartwatch, making it acceptable for watch snobs to wear one! Kudos to them for overturning the Swiss Watch tactic of “just ignore the smart watch and it will go away.” It’s really refreshing for a Swiss brand to finally admit that smartwatches are actually enjoyed by many people… not just the younger crowd, but many traditional watch customers alike! Companies like MB are in a position to bring a lot to the table and this watch does a good job of proving that fine cases, luxury and style can vastly improve upon the glut of bland, commoditized smart watches.

    The Summit certainly goes far beyond the Hermes Apple watch, which is essentially an iWatch with obscenely expensive leather straps! It’s a tad on the chunky side, but certainly is an attractive, well made watch at an attractive price for a luxury brand. The faces are nicely done, but the antique one seems to me a strange choice for a high tech piece. The Time Walker face seems to suit it much better, and it looks right with the black sports bezel. At any rate, the genie is out of the bottle and it will be interesting to see how well Swiss Branding will translate to smartwatches going forward.

  • goju1

    Can’t get inspired by these so-called ‘smartwatches’. Other than the case and strap/bracelet, I don’t see what the watch company is offering, besides a device that needs replacing annually. Seems like risky business to me. I question that the watch company has the expertise and (real) understanding with regards to software and/or electronics. A completely different ball game!

  • Ulysses31

    Everyone is jumping on this smartwatch bandwagon although, except for Apple and Samsung, most are doing it to fill a hole in their product range than to genuinely innovate.

  • Brian

    You say you can expect “a full day as
    well” from the Montblanc, in comparison to the Samsung Gear S3. The Samsung Gear S3 can reach at least 2 days and often more, if you don’t use AOD. But kudos to them to look to the future. It’s not worth the price though.