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  • Cheryl Tan

Montblanc Summit 3 Smartwatch Review: Good Idea, but Still Needs a Lot More Work

Even though smartwatches like the Apple Watch or Samsung Galaxy Watch are gaining plenty of traction, there is still a market for high-end luxury watches. Mostly because the Apple Watch or Samsung Galaxy Watch doesn't quite live up to our expectations or ideas for a premium timepiece. Of course, that changed slightly when Apple introduced the Apple Watch Ultra with sapphire glass and a titanium case, but the point remains the same: if you're looking for a luxury piece that looks elegant and can be worn for formal events, the Apple Watch doesn't quite cut it.

That's where Montblanc sees their chance. The Swiss company is, first and foremost, most well-known for its luxury writing instruments. But they've expanded over the years to offer products like bags, perfumes, watches and more. And while Montblanc might not be on the same level as Rolex, Patek Philippe or other luxury watchmakers, the company's watches are not only elegant and well-made, but some models have become very recognisable, like the 1858 Geosphere, Boheme and more.


More than that, the Swiss company has also dabbled in smartwatches ever since 2017 when the first Summit came out. Now, we're at Summit 3, so let's see how polished the idea of a luxury smartwatch can be.

Design

When Montblanc said luxury, they weren't kidding. From the very unboxing experience to the accessories included in the box, it's certainly mostly on par with what I would expect from a luxury watch purchase. While we don't get the same wooden box we get with other brands like Rolex or Omega, the packaging is miles better than whatever you get with modern smartwatches.

Inside, you get two straps with the watch, one will be a calfskin leather strap and the other is a rubber strap. It's a good thing to have options, certainly, but I have to note here that the rubber strap doesn't feel quite as premium, with a squeaking sound along the spring bars if you move the strap back and forth. This problem isn't present with the leather strap, but yes, a little disappointed with the rubber strap. There's also a nice charging cradle included with the charging cable, and of course, you get paper documentation in a drawer.


There are three different models for the Summit 3, based on their case colours: Black Titanium, Titanium and Bicolour Titanium. The name is a little misleading: while the hand-polished satin finish case is made of titanium, the shiny bezel, crown and pushers are actually made with stainless steel. Regardless, the watch itself feels premium in the hand and certainly looks wonderful. For people who want the classic luxury watch look, the Titanium model would probably be the best bet. The Black Titanium and Bicolour Titanium do look more like smartwatches than a traditional watch.


As for the pushers and crown, they are all actionable buttons, with the middle button actually surrounded by the rotatable crown. The tactile feel of the buttons is decent, they're relatively clicky and not mushy. The top pusher opens the list of recent apps, while the middle button serves as a home button of sorts and the bottom button is customisable but opens the fitness app out of the box.


Personally, I'm not a big chronograph person. I find the pushers tend to dig into the back of my hand because of how low I wear my watches. For the Summit 3, this can still be a problem, but I found myself typically wearing the watch slightly higher on my arm because, well, the watch strap is too big for my small wrist. Wearing the watch higher up allowed for more accurate heart rate readings, so that actually eliminated the pusher problem for me. Design-wise, I do have to say it looks good and I like it quite a lot. It's a 42mm watch with a 14mm thickness, and the size is pretty good for me as I prefer watches in the 40mm to 44mm range.

Specifications & App

Let's move on to the innards. The watch is running on the Snapdragon 4100+ chip, which is slightly older but the overall experience is relatively smooth with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage. As for the operating system, the Summit 3 is one of the few around that is using stock Wear OS 3, which is a rarity. That being said, you have no need for the Wear OS app as everything is handled by Montblanc's Summit app. The Summit 3 is also one of the few smartwatches around that play nice with both Android and iOS devices, which is great.


One of the nicest things about a Montblanc smartwatch is that you get official watch faces that let you feel as if you're wearing one of Montblanc's iconic watches like the Geosphere and Boheme mentioned earlier. Controls are intuitive as well, and you get a short instruction process during the set-up as per normal. There are tiles to show heart rate, sleep, steps, blood oxygen and more data.

Montblanc Summit 3 Problems

Truthfully, I loved the idea of the watch. I have a Panerai that I wear to fancy events and I love it, but it has always bugged me that I can't record steps or heart rate data like I can with my Apple Watch. And the idea of a luxury watch that can record that data? I was stoked. But after trying the watch, I'm disappointed. The biggest problem with the Montblanc Summit 3 is that the health data recorded by the watch stays on the watch. It doesn't integrate with Apple Health, and it doesn't even show up on the Montblanc Summit app.


You have to look at your data on the watch directly, which means you're looking at really small graphs and data without being able to see a comprehensive overview. This is my biggest issue with the watch, but there are smaller issues that aren't as big a problem. First, there's no support for Google Assistant, but that's fine for me because I don't use it anyway.


Second, you can get notifications from your phone on the watch, but you can't interact with the notifications. This might be an issue specifically for people who are very used to using Apple Watches or Samsung Galaxy smartwatches, but after being able to quickly reply to a text via my Apple Watch, it feels like a big step back to receive a notification on my watch, look at it, pull my phone out, then send an emoji in reply. Of course, this isn't an issue that's only present on the Summit 3. Most other smartwatches that aren't the Apple Watch will have the same issue, but it's one to take note of regardless.


Third, while the health tracking data is relatively accurate, I did find that it did deviate from other watch readings significantly from time to time. There was a day when the Summit 3's steps tracked was 2790 versus the Apple Watch's 3802, and my maximum heart rate was 124bpm on the Summit 3 versus the Apple Watch's 84bpm, which is a massive (and worrying) discrepancy. The blood oxygen feature failed the first time I used it as well, because the watch requires a very snug fit against the wrist. The accuracy for that was at least more in-line with Apple's, 99% to 98%.

Battery Life

Lastly, the battery life on this watch is not great at all. I took it off the charger at 2am one night and slept with it until 10.30am, and the battery dropped from 100% to 43%. That was a shock for me, seeing as the Apple Watch typically only drops around 25% battery at night. This is due to the fact that the "sleep" mode on the Summit 3 doesn't turn the face off, it only dims the display. That's certainly something for Montblanc to change in the next iteration. Charging is quick though, from 38% to 100% in around 40 minutes.


All that combined makes this watch a bit of a head-scratcher. It does live up to Montblanc's idea of being a smart luxury watch, but some features of this watch and user experience aren't so smart at all. Of course, this is just the third iteration and Montblanc still has time to refine and rework parts of it, but the company does need to get a move on as plenty of other companies are pushing out excellent offerings.


Another point that people might consider is the fact that luxury watches can last a very long time, and a smartwatch clearly can not since there are electronic components that will fail over time, such as the battery, PCB and more. Montblanc isn't expecting the Summit line of smartwatches to last forever either, but they are doing their part in reducing e-waste and prolonging the life of the Summit smartwatches by offering repair services for the batteries and such, alongside an upgrade program where customers can trade in their old Summit smartwatches for newer generation Summit watches.

Montblanc Summit 3 Price

And that's nice, because the Summit 3 costs S$2,000 or US$1,290. That's a pretty insane price when you think about it. Nice mechanical watches like a Hamilton, for example, can be had for as affordable as S$800, or maybe in the S$2-3,000 range for chronographs and the likes. But those are meant to be able to last for years and years. The fact that Montblanc is offering an "upgrade" system to get newer Summit watches with more features is a great idea, because smartwatches simply can't last that long.

I mentioned before I love the idea of the watch, and I really do. It's a gorgeous, premium smartwatch that makes me want to wear it out every day, and I totally could do that if Montblanc could fix the issues and make the watch work better with iOS devices. For now, the pricing is just a bit too much to swallow.


More information about the Montblanc Summit 3 can be found on Montblanc's website.

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