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Don’t Want to Shell Out for an Apple Watch? Buy This Instead

The Timex Metropolitan S delivers fitness tracking features, notifications and more in a lightweight, 36mm package for under $200.

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Oren Hartov

Editor’s Note: Watches & Wonders (formerly SIHH) has moved online and Baselworld 2020 is canceled, but that hasn’t stopped watch brands large and small from debuting their new wares. Stay on top of this year’s best new watch releases here.

Brand: Timex
Product: Metropolitan S
Release Date: June, 2020
Price: $179
From: Timex.com

I’ve made it years without ever considering buying a smartwatch, thank you very much. I don’t have need of any more notifications in my life. I like mechanical things. I am a luddite.

And yet, when Timex reached out with news of the new Metropolitan S, and I was intrigued. Would this make my workouts any easier? I recall running, phone in hand like a lunatic, in circles on a track for months on end, trying to shave time off a 3k. What an utter pain in the ass. On the other hand, there was no way I was going to drop $400+ on an Apple Watch. And I’m just old enough that seeing my mother — who has a data-equipped model — talk into her wrist still weirds me out. Maybe this Timex thing would be a nice happy medium? Let’s see, shall we…

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What We Like

The Metropolitan S (there’s also an “R” version with a round, 42mm dial that resembles a mechanical watch, but that I didn’t test) is lightweight, well-sized at 36mm, and easy to operate (for the most part — more later). There’s enough functionality to satisfy most casual athletes’ workout requirements, but not so much as to be overwhelming to those of us who aren’t used to smartwatches. Available in both black and gold-tone with matching rubber straps, the “S” is also handsome and unobtrusive, much like the Apple Watch.

Functionality includes multiple workout profiles (outdoor running; walking; outdoor cycling; treadmill; indoor cycling; and freestyle); weather information; a heart rate monitor; notifications; an activity tracker; music control for your phone; alarms; utilities such as a compass and countdown timer; and more. Though much of this functionality can be accessed directly from the watch, poking around the Timex Smart app — which is itself very intuitive and easy to navigate — really cracks open the door to possibilities for more serious tracking and customization. (While the watch itself stores two faces, the app gives you access to many more that you can download.)

If you run several times a week, like I do, and you want a simple way to track your mileage and time, then the Metro S is a great solution. If you want notifications and weather info, it’s good for that, too, and of course, it’s perfect for timing simple tasks. You’re not going to get the same level of independent functionality that you’d get out of, say, and LTE-equipped smartwatch that can actually receive calls on its own, but for $179, you’re getting much more than a simple fitness tracker.

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30m of water resistance means that you can wash the S off after a sweaty workout and not worry about damaging it, but Timex cautions you against taking it for a dip (no surprise there). The aluminum body is comfortable and lightweight, and you barely notice the strap on your wrist. In short, given my adversity to smartwatches, I was pleasantly surprised by the wearing experience.

Watch Out For

While I don’t have too many gripes with the Metropolitan S, one I do have is that the Gorilla glass screen can be difficult to operate when your hands are sweaty during a workout. Pushing the crown button to illuminate the watch is easy enough — so is holding it down in order to activate a pre-set command, such as stopping a workout — but actually swiping on the screen with anything other than dry, pristine fingers often requires multiple swipes. And if you’re trying to do this while running and not veering into traffic, it can be a bit of a pain. And one surprisingly annoying aspect of the workout app is that while running, the time only appears in a tiny corner of the screen — so if you need to check this while on the move, good luck. This seems like it could easily be updated via software, however.

GPS needs to be synched before each workout that involves distance (running, walking, etc.), and this can occasionally take a couple of minutes. More often that not, it takes under a minute, but I’m still hopeful that a future software update might quicken this process, or that it might be improved on a newer iteration of the S. Keep in mind, also, that the Metro S only synchs to your phone via Bluetooth, so this needs to be on in order to update the watch or download workouts to the app on your phone — which can be a battery drain.

Other Options

The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 gives you a touch-sensitive bezel and works with Spotify Offline, meaning you can listen to playlists untethered from your phone, which you can’t do with the Metro S — however, this will run you $100 more than the Metro 2. And of course, the Apple Watch itself, in various iterations and series, is also an alternative. (Prices for the Series 5 GPS model are occasionally seen down around $300, making it an even more attractive proposition.)

Or, check our this list of our favorite GPS-based running watches, whose functionality mirrors in many cases that of the Metro R, beginning at around $100.

Verdict

Smartwatch technology has cheapened and proliferated to the point where even a basic, entry-level model comes packed with more functionality than most people can reasonably expect to squeeze from it. Such is the case with the Metropolitan S: if I only use a smattering of the tech that Timex manages to cram in here for $179, then I have no idea what the hell I would do with an Apple Watch. For my purposes — as a mechanical watch snob who goes for runs several times a week and likes to keep track of his stats — the S is the perfect smartwatch for me. The comfort, the ease of use, and most importantly, a feature set that feels comprehensive without overwhelming, is just what I need.

Whether you should shell out more for an LTE-equipped watch in order to make or receive calls or listen to music untethered (or less for a simple fitness tracker) is a very personal choice. Personally, I wouldn’t mind being able to listen to a podcast without have to run with my phone. But there’s also something nice about disconnecting and simply concentrating on the task at hand.

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Timex provided this product for review.

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