Ayear and a half after launching their first smartwatch, Montblanc announced on 11 October an updated version, dubbed the Summit 2. It features a 42mm case with a 1.2-inch display and is the first luxury smartwatch to include Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon Wear 3100 chipset designed specifically for smartwatches. It runs on Google’s Wear OS, making it fully compatible with Android smartphones as well as limited use on iOS. The Summit 2 has been available from 15 October and is priced from $995 (around 72,900).

Montblanc worked in close collaboration with Qualcomm and Google on the watch, Montblanc CEO Nicolas Baretzki told Bloomberg. “The new chipset requires less battery and incorporates a time-only mode, with only the time displayed and all smartwatch functions turned off." The time-only mode can result in a battery life of up to one week, according to the company.

The Summit 2 also offers more storage (8 GB), GPS, a sharper display, faster processing, voice assistant, mobile payment and is water resistant (ATM 5). New travel applications have been added, including the Timeshifter app designed to reduce jet lag, as well as a live Running Coach app. The permanent colour-ambient display means the face should always be visible.

Personalization is also key, with around 1,000 software options, including backgrounds, hands and indicators, according to Montblanc. Case finishes include stainless steel, black DLC steel, two-tone steel, and titanium, all featuring a rotating crown and sapphire glass.

Phase Two

Like the second generation from Montblanc, the smartwatch industry is also now in phase two, says Ramon T. Llamas, research director, mobile devices and AR/VR at International Data Corp., an intelligence and advisory firm. “Phase one was really all about experimentation. We knew people wanted smartwatches, we weren’t sure what they wanted on a smartwatch," he says. “Moreover we weren’t sure what a smartwatch should look like, feel like and function like. It’s not as simple as shrinking your smartphone down to your wrist."

Phase two of the smartwatch industry, says Llamas, is all about taking those lessons learned and refining both the hardware and software. “If you look at the different iterations over time you are seeing market changes. First thing is you are finally getting smartwatches that look like watches. Then as the hardware improved so did the user interface. The first smartwatches were terrible in terms of how to navigate. Now you’re only a couple of swipes or gestures gestures away from where you need to be."

The growth of third-party applications and cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity allowing the watch to work as an independent item have also increased desirability.

According to IDC research, 33.3 million smartwatch units were shipped around the world in 2017, resulting in a global market value of $12.7 billion. In 2018, about 46.2 million units are expected to be shipped with a market value of about $15.4 billion.

Crowded Marketplace

The Summit 2 arrives in an increasingly crowded market, both at a mass market level and also in the luxury sector it inhabits. There’s the Hermès version of the Apple Watch (from $1,299) as well as smartwatches or hybrids from brands such as Louis Vuitton and Tag Heuer. Baretzki says Montblanc is aiming to become the market leader of the segment. “As a Maison built on innovation, smartwatches are strategically important," says the Montblanc CEO. “We want to stay connected with customers who want more from their watch than just a high-tech wearable."

Llamas notes the challenge for luxury brands will be balancing prestige with technology: “Over the past several years the emphasis has been on the design and style of the watch because that is what these brands bring to the table. Watches are basically jewellery and jewellery is meant to stand out and be an extension of the wearer’s personality."

Yet, he continues, “At the same time (watch brands) have been missing out on some of the technological developments that other watches are at this point maybe a year or two ahead. Things like say GPS or mobile payments. Or cellular connectivity." In this sense, the Summit 2 is a massive leap forward from its predecessor.

To the Future

Baretzki says the focus will be on fashion, access to short pieces of information, and how the device sits on the body.

“We will explore these three verticals further in equal measure and keep pushing boundaries to come up with new and important use cases," he says, adding that it is all about individuals who need technology to keep them ahead and allow them to be productive on-the-go, while still enjoying the experience and aesthetics of a fine timepiece.

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