Hands on: Montblanc Summit 2 smartwatch seeks to sell “luxe tech” appeal

October 18th, 2018 | by Alfred Siew
Hands on: Montblanc Summit 2 smartwatch seeks to sell “luxe tech” appeal

It has the digital smarts with Google’s Wear OS, but Montblanc’s Summit 2 wants to have the appeal of a mechanical watch as well. PHOTO: Handout

If you want the digital smarts of a smartwatch that lets you track your fitness while still sporting some of the look and feel of a mechanical watch, the Montblanc Summit 2 may just be your cup of tea.

Launched in Singapore yesterday, the watch handles like a mechanical watch in many ways, but comes with a digital screen showing off the latest Google Wear OS powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 3100 chipset.

Montblanc, a luxury brand known for its pens and leather goods, wants to sell the Summit 2 as a luxury smartwatch. That means it comes with a calf leather strap, a thick steel or titanium case, a folding clasp and sapphire glass.

Okay, you can’t peer into the moving parts on a transparent case back, like on a mechanical watch, but you get an engraved version that features a glass and fibre glass resin. There’s nothing moving here, of course.

After trying on the watch myself yesterday, I can say that it does feel like a traditional mechanical watch, down to the weight and crown, which is movable by the way.

Instead of winding the watch, you turn it to move through the various functions of the Google software. It’s a smart thing, merging the old and new.

A hefty crown makes the smartwatch feel like a mechanical one. PHOTO: Alfred Siew

To be sure, this isn’t the first time a luxury goods brand has come up with a smartwatch. Tag Hueur just launched one that costs as much as US$200,000┬álast month.

Even for Montblanc, the Summit 2 is its second shot at a new market. The previous version had a thicker base that reminds you more of a sport watch, like a Garmin Forerunner.

The new Montblanc smartwatch wants to look like an elegant mechanical watch with a popular 42mm diameter that fits both men and women.

So, the Summit 2 screen will not default to a simple digital screen when you are not looking, as many smartwatches do to save battery. Instead, it has a low-power mode that shows a simpler colour screen, maintaining its look even when it’s not facing you.

Inside the case, you’ll find a useful 1GB of memory and 8GB of storage, which you can fill up with your songs for a workout. Yes, you can connect to your wireless earphones through Bluetooth.

The Montblanc Summit 2 feels solid on the wrist and will appeal to both men and women with its 42mm diameter. PHOTO: Alfred Siew

What I’m not so sure of are a few software features that Montblanc touts as exclusive to its smartwatch.

A Timeshifter app that promises to advise you how to adjust to a new time zone after a long flight may seem cool, but my best advice is to take a good nap after landing.

Of course, I have to try out the app more to form a final conclusion, but I’m not sure it is exciting enough to get me to rush to the store.

There’s also a travel info app, which aims to give you offline data on your destination. This is supposed to work on the plane in airline mode, but I probably won’t be peering at the small 1.2-inch AMOLED screen too much.

I have to be mindful of using up the 340mAh battery, which promises to last three to five days in time-only mode but only a single day in smartwatch mode.

So who’s the Summit 2 for? The Montblanc folks tell me that they see a lot of young users who want the digital features of a smartwatch but also the luxury feel of a mechanical watch.

For folks like these, the more than 1,000 digital watch faces they can customise on the Summit 2 may appear cool. After all, you can get your smartwatch to look like a mechanical Montblanc watch from its 1858 collection.

Same same but different. On the left, the Summit 2 sporting a watch face similar to a Montblanc mechanical watch. PHOTO: Alfred Siew

Want a moon phase feature that is seen on some fancy mechanical watches? Sure, slap on a digital watch face with that. And the digital version really works too, just like on a Montblanc mechanical watch costing a good few grand more.

If you want a perpetual calendar on your smartwatch, you can as well with the Summit 2. Just remember it is powered by Google Calendar, not made by some watchmaker in Switzerland.

In the end, that’s the irony of a smartwatch that aims to replicate some of the elements of a mechanical watch. With digital technology, there’s no complication too difficult. Yet, it is not valued the same way because it is not handcrafted the same way.

You can slap on all the leather and precious metal on a smartwatch but what happens at the end of a year, or two? The technology in it gets old. It is transient and disposable, unlike a mechanical watch that’s a keepsake.

No complication is too complicated for a smartwatch. PHOTO: Alfred Siew

Perhaps Montblanc can crack this problem. Maybe users’ perceptions will change over time to accept something like a Summit 2 as the best of both worlds instead of being good at neither one.

To its credit, the Summit 2 isn’t cheap but neither is it priced insanely. Starting from S$1,495, a Summit 2 with a steel case is cheaper than many a branded Swiss-made mechanical watch today.

Montblanc’s own mechanical range goes upwards of S$4,000, so someone who likes the look of a Montblanc watch might go with the Summit 2 at a lower cost.

Then again, they could also buy a real mechanical watch for what they pay for a Summit 2. Interesting choices we have today.



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