With everyone, it seems, launching watches with smart capabilities, we decided to pit the first horological smartwatch from Frédérique Constant, against the ubiquitous Apple Watch to see how each of them fared
Introducing the watches
The Frédérique Constant (l) and Apple smart watches
First up is the Frédérique Constant Horological Smartwatch. This was launched at Baselworld 2015 and hit the shops in July. Its big USP is that it looks like a watch. The subdial at six o’clock is the only clue to the tech inside. The tech is called MotionX and was been created by Fullpower Technologies, in association with Frédérique Constant’s CEO, Peter Stas. For its first foray into smartwatches, Frédérique Constant has chosen to focus on sleep and activity, which is monitored by the watch with the data being transferred and stored on your phone. The watch itself has a battery life of two years, which is very different to our other smartwatch in the test seat – the Apple Watch. The column inches this watch has garnered is phenomenal. No other watch, smart or otherwise, has been covered in such diverse areas of the press from fashion mags to hardcore tech publications. And you can see why. Apple took its time coming to the wearable tech table and what it has presented is something that has divided opinion. But let’s look at the bare facts. It is a smartwatch in the approved sense of the word. It has an LED screen, albeit one that is flexible, and connects the wearer to email, texts, calendar, their music and social media as well as monitoring activity, via their iPhone. It comes in three versions (we tried out the cheapest Sport option) and has a battery life that varies depending on use but generally has to be charged every night.
What do they do?
The Frédérique Constant and Apple fitness trackers
The Frédérique Constant has chosen to focus its technological element on monitoring the user’s sleep and activity. Through the MotionX app, which can be downloaded from the App Store, your activity is tracked as is your sleep cycles all the data from which can be backed up and stored in the MotionX cloud. It uses the Fullpower MotionX Technology Platform, which manages the bi-directional communication between the watch and whichever device, be it phone or tablet, it is connected to via the downloaded app. In complete contrast to other smart devices, where the data is shown digitally on the watch, the information is read in an analogue fashion via the subdial. By contrast it would probably be easier to list what the Apple watch doesn’t do. In addition to all the functions that sync up to your phone – mail, texts, calls, social media, calendar, music – there are over 3,500 apps, from BBC News to night-sky guides to mind-mapping tools, there to distract you from any boring business meeting. The Apple Watch also has a fitness element to it. The Activity app monitors daily non-specific activity, which ranges from telling you when you need to get up and move around every hour and monitoring how many calories your daily activity burns and how much exercise you do on a general daily basis. Then there is the separate Workout app, which allows you to pick a specific activity, such as “outdoor run” or “indoor cycle”, which you can set with your goals or just leave open. The data is then transmitted to your phone so you can share it for extra motivation. There are plenty more things the Apple Watch does but to list them all would take more page space than most people are inclined to read. Suffice to say, it does a lot.
How do they look?
The more classic Frédérique Constant (l) compared to the techy looking Apple Watch
The Frédérique Constant’s USP is that is looks like a watch. With its leather strap, steel case and Roman numerals, it has all the design codes of a classic timepiece. It even has sapphire crystal. If this style is too classic for your liking and you’d like something more mid-century modern, the technology has also been acquired by Mondaine (below), who chose its latest family, Helvetica, as the home for the MotionX sensor. Both options look like proper watches, with the only clue to the technology within being the sub-dial at 6 o’clock, which makes them a more suitable suit companion, or indeed compatible with any outfit that a Haggerston resident wouldn’t be seen dead wearing. The Apple Watch, despite its nods to watch design, isn’t something most people would recognise as a timepiece. It is an LED screen on a strap that only comes to life when you move your wrist, which means that, for most of the time you are wearing a blank, black mirror; something that manages to appear both impersonal and rude. Thanks to Marc Newson and his eye for design, it is a good-looking piece and, surprisingly for a smartwatch, quite feminine. You do have strap and case options with the Apple Watch, with the Milanese bracelet giving it a more sophisticated veneer (the less said about the gold versions the better), however it still doesn’t quite detract from the “computer on the wrist” look. And, having seen it in the wild, it just doesn’t seem to go with any outfit, whatever your fashion leanings.
How do they compare?
The Frédérique Constant and Apple smart watches in close up
They are different beasts – one is a computer on the wrist, the other is a watch with added technology – however you can compare them in terms of usability and wearability. The MotionX technology is wonderfully intuitive. We linked it to an iPhone and, aside from a few problems getting the two to talk to each other on occasion, it was easy to get it to do what you wanted without having to constantly keep resorting to manual searching. However, it doesn’t quite have the scope of the Apple Watch, focusing, as it does on sleep and activity. That it looks like a proper watch is also a big tick in its favour from us. This means you can wear it with a suit and not look like you probably came to the meeting on an adult scooter. By comparison, the Apple Watch connects you to your life via your wrist. There isn’t anything it doesn’t do, except perhaps pick the kids up from school, but it will certainly tell you when you need to leave to collect them in time. However, it isn’t that intuitive, which is strange for an Apple product. We often got confused by what the crown allowed you to access and what was accessed by the button below it. Because it is connected to so much, you also get constant alerts (signified either as a ping or via a sensory pulse). Far from allowing you to decide when to access things such as messages, it makes everything seem more urgent and therefore more distracting. And don’t get us started on the hourly “stand up now” alerts! Yes, you can disable these functions but then what is the point in having the watch in the first place? We also found it very hard to style. It almost worked with more casual weekend outfits, but wearing it with anything more smart or fashionable and it just didn’t work for us. And that isn’t just a girl thing; the other half also tried it and found it clashed with more smart outfits.
What’s the verdict?
While both technically smartwatches, these examples are really for two different people – the Frédérique Constant is perfect for those people who want to dip their toe in the smartwatch waters but who don’t want the aesthetic that usually goes with that type of timepiece. The Apple watch, on the other hand, is for those who want a computer on the wrist, just a much better looking computer than its predecessors. And if you’re still undecided here are our videos of the watches so you can have a snapshot look at what they do.
The Apple Watch
Frédérique Constant smartwatch
The Apple Watch and Frédérique Constant smart watches are both available through Selfridges. We test drove the Apple Watch Sport (38mm case) which retails at £299 and the Frédérique Constant in stainless steel, which retails at £870.