Letter from the Editor – What We Think of Smart Watches & Why MONOCHROME Will Remain About Fine Watchmaking

calendar | ic_dehaze_black_24px By Frank Geelen | ic_query_builder_black_24px 3 minute read |
Letter From The Editor SmartWatches Frank Geelen

Smart watches… even the name annoys me. There are however, a league of (more profound) reasons why we do not cover such wrist ornaments on Monochrome. Of course we get questions from our readers asking why we have not reviewed the ref. 5396 Patek Annual Calendar, and rightfully so. We should have reviewed that watch, and as soon as we find a way to do so, together with the 178 year old family-owned brand from Geneva, we will. I’m actually surprised though, that we hardly get questions about smart watches, very pleasantly surprised in fact! So let my rant about these little electronic wrist devices begin.

I started Monochrome 11 years ago to share my passion for beautifully made mechanical timepieces. The history of watchmaking in general, the history of certain brands, the beauty of finishing, and specific complications were all things that I wanted to share with our readers. And that’s what we are still doing today, 11 years later, albeit with a bigger team and a much bigger audience. To me, passion for watchmaking has nothing to do with a quartz/battery powered wrist ornament. Passion for watchmaking has everything to do with the beauty of a fine mechanism performing an almost perpetual dance of gears, levers, cams, and springs, in order to tell the time as precisely as possible.

Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendat Pilot 5320g

The Patek Philippe ref. 5327 Perpetual Calendar that we will review soon

Over the past 16 years I have spent a lot of time learning more about this fascinating world of watchmaking. And in all those years I have never, ever, worn, or even tried, a so-called smart watch. I have no knowledge about the Android Wear 2 that is in the latest Montblanc Summit smart watch, and in the latest TAG Heuer Connected Watch, and probably in many more. I wouldn’t know. I also have no knowledge of Android Wear 1, or the OS that Apple installs on the Apple Watch.

I can’t feel the same passion for an operating system, as I feel for a superbly finished beveled edge of a chronograph bridge, a stupendously beautiful polished angle on the bridges of Gronefeld’s watch or the insanely beautiful architecture of the A. Lange & Söhne Tourbograph.

The Apple Watch… To me, a wrist computer, not a watch.

Furthermore, that space on my wrist is reserved for something that stirs my passion. Not for something that beeps, buzzes and blinks to attract attention for emails, text messages, Whatsapp, Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram, my calendar and so on. My phone does all these things and I can choose to turn it off, to keep it in my pocket or to put it on the desk. My choice.

The Montblanc Summit and the TAG Heuer Connected 45, two examples of smartwatches made by respectable watch brands

Smart watches are anything but smart, but hey, I hope that is clear enough already from my rant. I hope this personal view on “smart watches” will not have put you off, and you will keep enjoying our stories. We’ll keep doing our best to bring you stories in our unique, ‘Monochrome’ way (meaning long, in-depth, historical and borderline educational) about beautiful mechanical time-telling devices that can be worn on the wrist.


Enjoy reading Monochrome! Frank Geelen, Founder and Editor-in-chief

25 responses

  1. Nobody fucking cares about your opinion. Smart watches is the future and swiss industry will die if they keep asking the monopol prices they do today.

    That’s it, end of the line.

    A Rolex, Zenith and Breguet owner.

  2. I heartily agree. I not see the point of “smart” “watches”. For what you pay for these things you have a huge choice of great watches, that won’t be obsolete this time next year and dont need recharging every couple of days. What is the likelihood of any of these things still working in 25 years when your mechanical watch is just nicely run in.

  3. I sincerely feel the same as you do. Mechanical movements all the way… However, as a watch information authority, I humbly suggest you consider opening your views. I truly believe that our own personal likes and dislike are one thing while the direction that an organization that reviews watches of your stature is a very different thing. I would admire your publications even more knowing that while not a big fan of smart watches, you do offer useful information about them and how they’ve evolved. Sure, other sites could pick up that fad while you focus on the true gems, but like you said, you’ve been on it for 11 year, with a bigger team and a larger audience. Perhaps the best next step is to add someone that is passionate about the electronic watches and can add to the caliber of your publications. Just my 2 cents, with or without them, Monochrome will remain one of my favorite sources for horology news and reviews.

  4. “Smart watches is the future” Do your even know the definition of a monopoly ? I doubt you own the watches stated given your ill grasp of basic language skills. Mechanical watches have been “obsolete” since quartz…yet still stir enough passion to breed a vibrant industry.

  5. I couldn’t agree more! Furthermore like phones “smart watches” every one or two years will have new editions. So as I customer who has the previous model which probably will luck some of the new features of the new one, I should by the newest version? (Otherwise if older model is not getting updates will be no “smart” anymore). No.
    I will not follow. I believe that as watch should deliver its purpose: to inform me about time. And fine watchmaking (and Monochrome) is doing it with finesse.

  6. I think you have just made me realize why I have slowly left other watch sites and spent more time here. I don’t like smart watches and don’t want to read about them. I 100% agree with your views and the way this site is run. Maybe just maybe like Julian suggest you could have someone do the smart watch thing here but please keep it off the main pages, maybe a link at the top of the page to see the ‘smart articles’ so those us us like you can just read about what we love

  7. Yes indeed! ‘Smart Watch’ a complete misnomer. It is a computer and designed to be as personal as it gets. Nothing to do with watches whatsoever. Soon to be replaced by technology that will be implanted. Apple is already working on “Smart Spectacles”.

  8. @Shtupstupi
    What should we say about a person who cannot enter a debate without being coarse and vulgar? Anyway, you are quite wrong. Wrist Computers are a fad, which has nothing to do with the principles of horology. The only thing in common is that (currently) they both vie for space on the wrist. Furthermore, people do care about the opinions of the author and this is evident by the success of the forum. Same can’t be said about your diatribe. Suggest you learn some manners and become better informed.

  9. Frank, while I’d have to agree that I would never wear a smart watch over a regular watch, the only difference is that I’ve tried the latest smart watches for a period, and in my honest opinion, I would never wear out again and it has no place in my collection.
    I think that as a watch blogger, you should try to be more objective by actually trying it and then going thru what you like and dislike about or rather than outright condemning it.
    Just my two cents.
    Cheers.

  10. Good day,

    To start with, using bad language and being vulgar automatically disqualify whoever uses suck language.

    However, although I fully agree with the editor that fine watches are mesmerizing and beyond description, I think the whole debate is misplaced. It is like someone who adores tennis writes an article to explain why he would never play basketball. Really 2 different subjects that admit no comparison and no opinion. I agree with the editor 100% on every single word. BUT, I don’t think this justifies bashing smart watches and establishing an irrational comparison. I’m sorry to say it but it’s a bit snob. And it doesn’t matter how many watches one owns and at what prices, it is quite irrelevant to establish any comparison between fine watches and smart ones.

  11. Couldn’t agree more! It all boils down to what is the perceived and expected role of a wristwatch: If it is to tell the time accurately, then a cheap Casio would do that much more accurately and reliably than any $100,000 Patek. My opinion is that a watch is a work of art, the only (or main) legitimate jewelry for men to wear. And if that is how we view a watch, then there is no place for the un-artistic wrist computers. The traditional watchmaking industry survived the quarts chaos (despite all the doomsayers) and will also survive the smart watches.

  12. Frank,
    Passion need no reason.

    But for the overall fountain pen vs keyboard discussion above (pun intended) what is happening today is a further segmentation of the market with mechanical watches being pushed to a smaller corner of the niche. Some brands as you mentioned are reacting to jump on that train because the millenials are less encline to celebrate an achievement with a crowned mechanical piece (for which the manufacturing is already highly robotized) that may appear to them as a fountain pen: vintage obsolete single purpose non upgradeable device of the past generations.
    I too like vintage single purpose non upgradeable device of the last generations but the export numbers from swiss watch industry show that i may be a disappearing specie.

  13. Hi Frank, first of all I would like to say just how much I love your site and work. I whole heartedly agree with you even to the point others have made that the term watch doesn’t apply to these products. However, as an industrial designer there is perhaps a possibility where both can work in harmony. What I await for is an actual smart watch which has functions I might use but primarily to tell the time, date, chrono, GMT functions BUT powered by mechanical means. I hate the idea of having to charge a battery. What I want to see is a mechanical movement utilising free energy. I believe Ventura have come close with their Sparc MGS W55, but we’re not there yet in terms of power. Hopefully in the future there might be such a horological masterpiece, but until then, I’ll keep hoping and reading your wonderful words. Best regards, David

  14. Although I agree , u come off alittle like a douche, these watches are a status symbol and incredibly overpriced. Far be it to me to tell someone not to love their fit bit

  15. @shutupstupi
    Sad it’s so sad if you really are the owner of the watches you mentioned. Your bad manors are the proof that the swiss industry will never die because they can still sell amazing watches to no so “smart” or educated people.

  16. Frank, as you say “Passion for watchmaking has everything to do with the beauty of a fine mechanism performing an almost perpetual dance of gears, levers, cams, and springs, in order to tell the time as precisely as possible.” What I find lacking from most/all Monochrome reviews is the quantification of just how “precisely” these time pieces tell time. Can the priciest tourbillon match Rolex’s +/-2 sec/day accuracy specification? For me, if you would just take a time hack when you first receive a watch for review, and a final one before you return it, and tell your readers the average daily variance, I’d be happy. Sure, different uses have different activity levels, live in different climates, etc. etc., but so what? Rolex knows all that and still says +/-2 sec/day. How do the other brands measure up?

  17. Hi Ed, I’d love to be able to do that. However there are several reasons why this is quite difficult. First of all, most watches that come into the office for review are from brand’s PR collection, and have often been ‘abused’ before we get it. Secondly, from my own experience, most new or almost new watches need some time before they show a fairly stable rate. It would make sense to time watches that are regulated properly (like watches that will be send to customers) and that all had a few weeks to ‘break in’ and show a stable rate.

  18. Exactly Go Ju, spectacles will be oen of the next things, and ultimately it will be implanted under our skin. So here at Monochrome, we’ll keep celebrating the beauty of mechanics.

  19. @Julien, I do understand you, however my main concern is that tech blogs do a better job in discussing tech products like smart watches.

  20. Thanks so much, David, and whenever an interesting hybrid comes along we will cover it. There are already a few covered here on Mono.

  21. Hi Frank,
    I am 100% with you; here in this website we’re talking about passion.

    Be it out of fashion, surpassed by other technology, it doesn’t matter ’cause no damn electronic device can give me the same emotion of an old balance or columnwheel in action.

    Regards,
    slide68

  22. At the end of the day the purpose of a watch is to tell the time. The beauty of it is how it goes about doing it. This is the reason people pay exorbitant prices for complex movements. Its miniature engineering at its finest. I’m all for moving with times. But in my opinion, a smart watch is a step backwards. I’ve had the chance to play around with smart watches from Samsung, and my issue is that; my cellphone can do all the same things and more. So why buy a new product (smartwatch) that does less than your existing product (cellphone)? I’m a time conscious person and I think my watch is something I look at more than anything else in my daily life, so to me it has to something interesting to look at. If it was a smartwatch it would be like looking at my phone (only 5 times smaller). I think what you wear on your wrist is an extension of who are. If it’s a fine timepiece, its shows people that you’re a tasteful person and you can talk about it with other enthusiasts. But if it’s a smartwatch you’re the kind of person who just buys the latest products because an ad on TV told you it’s fashionable. And the only thing you can talk to other people with smartwatches about is; how many steps you took yesterday. Who care about that?

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