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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.