The Best Smartwatches That Look Like Traditional Watches

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The Best Smartwatches That Look Like Traditional Watches

This article originally appeared on Gizmos.

The world of smartwatches and wearable fitness trackers is a world of generally unattractive squares and rectangles. Sure you get a bevy of features on your wrist, but why does it have to be at the cost of style?

Enter hybrid smartwatches. These watches have traditional watch faces while hiding smart features. Many of them just cover sleep and activity tracking with automatic time adjustment while others throw in smartphone notifications via subtle vibrations and LEDs. Plus, you don't have to deal with an operating system (Android vs. iOS), just a cross-compatible app.

We think you should have the best of both worlds and get a classic watch design with features built for the 21st century. Even with full-on smartwatches and fitness trackers, you have to deal with unreliability of Bluetooth connections and margins of error with fitness/sleep data. Hybrid smartwatches aren't exceptions to these shortcomings, but they offer an elegant solution to the brutalist wearable tech problem.

We sifted through dozens of hybrid smartwatches to find the most stylish and reliable ones for your everyday life.

01

Best Hybrid Smartwatch for Most People

Best Hybrid Smartwatch for Most People

We know that most of you are just looking for an attractive Fitbit, so we recommend the Nokia Steel. The Nokia Steel is here for you, your wrists, and normal person workouts.

We recommend the Nokia Steel because it has a great minimalist design, tracks activity well, and it's waterproof.

What Works

Unlike some hybrid smartwatches, the Nokia Steel doesn't overwhelm you with numbers and dials. The minimalist design makes the watch easy to read and adds to its streamlined look. Plus, you can easily swap out the band for another one that suits your style.

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The activity and sleep tracking is better than its closest competitor, the Garmin Vivomove. The Steel can track more than 10 activities and shows your progress toward your daily goal on the inset dial. The Health Mate app is easy to use and sync to the watch.

You can wear it to bed to monitor the quality of your sleep or just tuck it underneath your pillow. It can also vibrate to wake you, but this will shorten the battery life.

Speaking of battery life, the watch's coin/button cell battery (the typical battery size for analog watches) lasts for up to eight months and replacement batteries are generally less than $10.

The Nokia Steel also has 5 ATM water resistance, so it can be used while swimming and in the shower. You'll want to get the battery replaced by a jeweler if you want to maintain the seal.

What Could Be Better

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The watch doesn't support smartphone notifications and there's no heart rate monitor. We think that notifications are a perk on hybrid smartwatches, since there's no screen. The lack of heart monitoring, however, can be a dealbreaker for people who really like health data and people who need to monitor their heart rate.

If these features are important to you, the Nokia Steel HR is another great option that also rocks an inset screen (with much shorter battery life and a $180 price tag).

There are mixed reports from users on how accurately it tracks swimming and other water sports. Since most hybrid smartwatches rely solely on an accelerometer (like the one in your smartphone) for data, there's bound to be a margin of error with certain activities. If the data is way off the mark, we recommend reaching out to customer support for a replacement.

Warranty & Customer Support

The Steel can be returned within 30 days and has a one year warranty. 

02

Best Hybrid Smartwatches for Smartphone Notifications

Best Hybrid Smartwatches for Smartphone Notifications

Do you want a watch that looks like a watch, receives notifications from your phone, and tracks your activity and sleep quality? That's not a tall order; we found over a dozen.

Fossil bought the fitness tracking company Misfit in 2015, and we can see Misfit's fingerprints all over Fossil's hybrid smartwatches and vice versa. We recommend the Fossil Q Hybrid Smartwatches and the Misfit Command because they offer smartphone notifications and controls,  swim-proof water resistance, long battery life, and a wide range of design options.

The main differences between Fossil's Q line and the new Misfit Command are the apps, battery life, and buttons. The Misfit app is a bit better for fitness, Fossil Q watches' battery last between 6–12 months, depending on the model (compared to the Command's year), and there are only two buttons on the Command.

What Works

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These watches receive smartphone notifications and give you a little phone control. You'll receive notifications from texts, calls, emails, alarms, and apps while also being able to control music, snap a photo, and find your phone before you dash out the door.

The notifications come as vibrations and you'll get visual cues for the type of alert it is based on watch hand movement. In the case of the Command and certain Fossil Q watches, these alerts have their own inset dial on the watch face.

These watches are also great for activity and sleep tracking with sensitive accelerometers and 5 ATM (swim-proof) water resistance. Misfit's app is a bit better for fitness tracking, but the Fossil Q app is nothing to sneeze at either for the casual user.

You'll get up to a year out of the Misfit Command's battery while Fossil Q batteries will last 6–12 months. These batteries should be replaced by a jeweler so the water resistant seal remains intact.

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The Misfit Command comes in four attractive styles and the Fossil Q watches run the gamut of women's and men's watch designs.

What Could Be Better

The watch cases are thick and on the heavy side. You get used to the weight after a day or so, but people used to thin analog watches might have a harder time adjusting.

Warranty & Customer Support

Fossil and Misfit offer a 90 day return window and a two year warranty. 

03

Best Small Hybrid Smartwatch

Best Small Hybrid Smartwatch

Smartwatches, hybrid or not, tend to be quite large, averaging 40 mm wide watch cases and getting as big as 46 mm. That's a whole lot of watch, and not everyone's wrists can handle that.

For an attractive watch with a small face, smartphone notifications, and activity tracking, look no further than the Skagen Mini Hald. We recommend this hybrid smartwatch for women who want something a little smaller than the Nokia Steel, and we also think the mesh steel versions are great for men too.

What Works

The Mini Hald offers the perks of the Skagen line of hybrid smartwatches in a small package. With a 34 mm watch case, it's the smallest hybrid we found that look great and didn't have some fatal flaw. You can get it with a grey leather strap or in three steel mesh tones: silver, gold, and rose gold.

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The watch receives smartphone notifications from texts to app alerts and sends activity data to the Skagen Connected app. Activity tracking is on the basic side, but it does a good job at tracking steps and sleep quality. You can also control music on your phone, take a photo, and find your phone.

The Mini Hald has a 3 ATM water-resistance which makes it safe in the shower and during a sudden downpour. We recommend having the battery changed by a professional in order to keep the seal in tact. 

What Could Be Better

"The replaceable battery only lasts for up to four months."

The coin battery only lasts up to four months, which is a pretty short length of time for most screenless hybrid smartwatches. We still think it's better option than having to charge your watch on a regular basis.

Like other Skagen and Fossil Group hybrids, the Mini Hald's watch case is fairly thick and takes some getting used to. What might be a bigger issue for some people is that the watch is not swimproof.

Warranty & Customer Support

Skagen accepts returns within 90 days and also offers a two year warranty. The best way to reach customer support is through their responsive Facebook page.

04

Best Hybrid Smartwatch for Battery Life

Best Hybrid Smartwatch for Battery Life

The Mondaine Helvetica 1 Smart is the popular Swiss watch brand's first foray into smartwatches and they knocked it out of the park. The initial price tag ($899) was a major deterrent for a long time, but now that they're more affordable, we can recommend these hybrid smartwatches.

We recommend the Helvetica 1 Smart because it has the longest battery life for a hybrid smartwatch paired with a minimalist design and accurate activity tracking. If you don't mind a hard-to-read watch face (with the exception of this version), Mondaine recently released an updated watch that supports smartphone notifications.

What Works

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The battery in the Helvetica 1 Smart lasts for at least two years. That's right, not "up to." You get two full years of activity and sleep tracking with this watch. Plus, the tracking hardware and software is the same one used in Nike's wearable tech.

The watch has a 3 ATM water resistance rating which means it can handle rainstorms and the shower, but you shouldn't take it for a swim.

The Helvetica 1 Smart is, above all else, nice to look at. Taking a page from its namesake font, the watches design utilizes simple lines and negative space to great effect. If you're more of a Times New Roman when it comes to Swiss watches, Frederique Constant also makes some sleek hybrid smartwatches, and they just released the first ever mechanical smartwatch.

What Could Be Better

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The watch face is on the large side with a 44 mm diameter which makes it generally better suited to men. There are also no smartphone notifications on the Helvetica 1, but if this or the size is an issue for you, we recommend their updated version.

These watches are also more expensive than our other picks, but they are quite affordable considering they are Swiss-made.

Warranty & Customer Support

The Helvetica 1 Smart is covered by a two year warranty which includes certified repairs.

How We Chose

We looked at the various hybrid smartwatches that have hit the scene in recent years, comparing professional and user reviews to get a clear picture of what works. We found that Fossil Group, Nokia, and Mondaine were rising above the pack, so we dove deeper into their specs and reviews. We considered design, price, battery life, and tracking accuracy and finally sussed out the best hybrid smartwatches for your wrist.

Close, But No Cigar

We excluded designer brands like Michael Kors, Kate Spade, and Emporio Armani because their watches all have similar (perfectly average) guts. Choosing any of their watches would speak to your personal brand affinity, not the watches' overall quality.

We were also intrigued by Frederique Constant's brand new, first of its kind, hybrid smartwatch with mechanical movement for true traditionalists. It's too new and unproven for us to recommend outright and it seems to only be available at local jewelers.

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The Guide Team