Ask a regular Joe in the 1980s what watches would look like in the 2020s, and he might have imagined the smartwatch: a gizmo with a touch screen that could read your heart rate and send messages to friends across the country at the same time.
We live in that tech-enabled future today. And yet, we still yearn for the old stuff, as humans sometimes do. This is why the “hybrid smartwatch” — a still-being-defined type of timepiece that combines smart tech with old-school wristwatch looks — might be a sweet spot. And the options available today prove that this type of watch likely isn’t going anywhere in the near future.
Skagen’s made its mark on the affordable quartz watches segment by keeping things simple. The Jorn has a steel case that’s a little thicker than the brand’s usual — but Skagen keeps the dial relatively minimalist, with a trio of subdials that mimic the layout of, say, a traditional chronograph, but each fulfilling different functions including sleep and fitness tracking.
Functions: Activity tracking, music control, GPS, heart rate tracking, notifications, sleep tracking
Battery Life: 2+ weeks based on use
The Fossil Hybrid Smartwatch tracks your activity, sleep and buzzes notifications from your phone, and the customizable pushers let you control your music or check the date. The battery lasts for up to six months, and best of all, it’s a damn sharp-looking watch for under $200.
Functions: Activity tracking, notifications, music control, camera control
Battery Life: Up to 6 months
Withings has been perfecting its unique hybrid look — metallic stick hands, quiet digital readout window, classic-style bezel — since 2014. The Steel HR Sport has a heart rate monitor, multi-sport tracking, GPS and VO2 assessment, and it’s available in both black or white dials with loads of different strap options.
Diameter: 36mm or 40mm
Functions: Heart rate; GPS; fitness tracking; smartphone notification; sleep tracking
Battery Life: Up to 25 days
A common problem with the hybrid smartwatch: where to put the smarts? Garmin’s cracked the code with the Vivomove 3: hide it in plain sight. It has real hands, a hidden display, and a touchscreen, and tracks sleep, fitness, and stress levels, plus heart rate, and more.
Functions: Heart rate; notifications; wellness and sleep tracking; activity tracking
Battery Life: Up to five days
Swedish Kronaby has been selling its hybrids since around 2015, and it's got the design part nailed: several of its models, including the Sekel, are beautiful. The smart functions have been improving, according to reviewers, and include an app that helps users screen smartphone notifications, control music or a phone camera, and even find their misplaced phone.
Functions: Automatic time zone change; filtered notifications; reject calls; find my watch app; silent alarm; dual time zone; step tracker; stopwatch; find phone; music control and more
Battery Life: Up to 2 years
Just like the Alpina and the Frederique Constant watches, Mondaine’s hybrid smartwatch was developed by the Swiss company Manufacture Modules Technologies. It uses an app to track sleep and steps, it’s by far the cheapest of the three, and has Mondaine’s classic minimalist look — the utility of this hybrid smartwatch might just be the design-lover’s dream. What’s so “regular” about it? The font is a shift from the first edition’s “bold” typeface.
Functions: Activity and sleep tracking; automatic time zone changes; smartphone notifications alarm; dynamic coaching
Battery Life: Life: Up to 2 years
Like a handful of other Swiss brands, Alpina has embraced smart technology. The AlpinerX features a light fiberglass case, a rubber strap, and an aggressively styled dial that combines a digital readout with analog hands. This version is inspired by the most popular versions of the customizable watch and has the same set of features and an updated smartphone app.
Functions: Heart rate monitor; sleep tracking; smartphone notifications; UV; temperature; altitude; pressure; and north direction; notifications
Battery Life: Up to 2 years
Want a smartwatch with Swiss-made elegance (and a Swiss-made price tag)? This is your watch. The sun-brushed dial, classical watchmaking cues, luxury materials and finishing all work rather nicely to allow you to forget that it's paired with your smartphone and offering you the benefits of current digital tech.
Functions: Activity tracking; sleep monitoring; dynamic coach; world timer; movement analytics; cloud synched
Battery Life: 2+ years