Today in London, Montblanc Replica has unveiled its latest horological creation, the Summit Smartwatch. You might remember Montblanc dipping its toe into the digital waters a few years ago with an “e-strap,” but now the watch and pen company is diving in head-first. We’ve got all the details on the new line-up, along with a ton of live photos and some perspective from Montblanc Replica CEO (and now Richemont board member) Jérome Lambert.
It’s worth noting up front that this is the first smartwatch to come from one of Richemont’s portfolio brands. It comes hot on the heels of TAG Heuer’s second smartwatch and just a few months after Frederique Constant spun off MMT as a separate company. The Swiss are clearly serious about getting into the still-developing smartwatch market and specifically about creating a space for luxury smartwatches.
“This project goes all the way back to 2013, just around the time I was to join Montblanc,” said Lambert when asked about the origins of the Summit. “I was practicing mountaineering in Switzerland and experimenting showed me my traditional running watch wasn’t capable of what I needed and my fine watches wouldn’t either. I was frustrated that after 11 years in fine watchmaking I couldn’t fine a proper tool.” So he went out and made one.
The Summit Smartwatch replica uses Montblanc’s sporty, vintage-inspired 1858 collection as a jumping off point. The case is 46mm across and 12.5mm thick. It very much looks and feels like a Montblanc watch, despite the fact that there’s no physical dial or hands to speak of. It certainly wears big, as you’d expect from those specs, but it’s relatively lightweight, since there’s not a hefty mechanical movement inside and the construction is either steel or titanium.
There are four different color variants of the Montblanc Summit: black PVD stainless steel, stainless steel with a black PVD bezel, stainless steel with a satin finish, and grade five titanium with a satin finish. You’ll notice there are no photos of the titanium version here, as prototypes were not yet available to shoot. To complement these cases, there are eight strap options: black, blue, green, and red rubber NATOs, black calfskin, brown or navy blue Sfumato calfskin, and alligator. Montblanc quotes “more than 300 different configurations” but that does include the different watch faces as well, not just hardware set-ups.
The Summit’s crystal is curved and made of sapphire, something Montblanc is emphasizing as a connection to more traditional watchmaking. We’re very used to tapping and swiping on flat glass, and sapphire tends to fingerprint pretty badly, so I was a little skeptical here. But, the curve is barely noticeable (I honestly think most people won’t even realize). Fingerprints, on the other hand, are definitely an issue, though that’s not unique to this smartwatch by any means.
As far as the technical specs go, the Summit has a Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor inside and a 1.39 inch AMOLED display outside. There are sensors for measuring steps and movement, a compass and gyroscope for orientation, a barometer, an ambient light sensor, and a heart rate monitor. There’s also a microphone for voice commands and both wi-fi and Bluetooth connectivity (no cellular though). On board you’ve got 4GB of storage for synching music and other data offline. The two things you’ve probably noticed missing are a speaker and an NFC payment chip, so you won’t be making phone calls (GOOD!) or utilizing Android Pay with the Summit.
Battery life is about one day, so you’re going to need to charge the Summit while you’re sleeping each night. You can do this via micro USB on an included magnetic dock. The whole thing is IP68 water resistant, which is the same standard Samsung has used for its latest crop of phones (and one standard above the iPhone 7).
The Summit runs Android Wear 2.0, which is standard for new Android-based smartwatches at this point. Released just a few weeks ago, the latest iteration of Google’s wearable operating system is the first major revamp of the platform and it adds support for things like contactless payments and cellular connectivity. There’s the usual mix of Montblanc-themed watch faces, including those styled after 1858 collection watches as well as the new batch of Time Walkers, and each month, Montblanc will release a new face so the watch always stays fresh.
One interesting new offering is the opportunity for customers to design their own digital watch dials with Montblanc’s creative team. It won’t be cheap – starting from €15,000 (approiximately $16,100 at time of publishing) – but if having your Summit look completely unique is a priority, or you have some very specific use case that needs to be accommodated, it’s an option.
When asked about the high price, Lambert had a very simple response: “Of course, if I’m going to have my designers work exclusively on that [for a period of time].” He also emphasized that with this service comes a few Summit watches with the watch face loaded on them, and a one-on-one relationship with the creative team at Montblanc. “This gives us the opportunity to do things we cannot do in fine watchmaking, unless you go to Villeret and then we get a €200,000 watch.”
Otherwise, most of the software experience is pretty standard for Android Wear 2.0, though with some aesthetic touches and integrations of apps into Montblanc designs. For example, you’ve got the Google Assistant, Uber, Google Play Music, and Foursquare city guides all right out of the box, plus an integration with Runtastic that includes special watch faces and a free three-month Premium membership. One noted exception is the new Worldtimer app that’ a super cool digital take on a favorite complication.
After speaking with Lambert for half an hour or so earlier today, he mentioned the Summit being a “second watch” for people already interested in mechanical watches. I think he’s right there. I don’t know if I see people shopping for $350 Android Wear smartwatches springing for this instead. Rather, the person who wants a digital tool without having to give up everything he or she knows about watchmaking will see this an option that can scratch both itches.
Long term, Lambert also seems this as part of a larger digital ecosystem. For instance, integration with Montblanc’s Augmented Paper will be coming soon and addition tie-ins are already in the works.
The Summit will be available beginning in May, with a starting retail price of €890 (approximately $955 at time of publishing). For two weeks it will be available exclusively on Mr. Porter, with general availability at Montblanc.com, Montblanc boutiques, and authorized Montblanc retailers starting after that. This prices it below TAG Heuer’s options, but still well above most Android Wear smartwatches (and, for what it’s worth, the Apple Watch).