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It’s Time To Stop Pretending That Garmins, Apple Watches, And Fitbits Will Ever Look Fashionable

We’re afraid not even the Apple Watch will suffice.

I’m a sucker for smartwatches. I like them because they can provide me with information about my health and fitness journey, which helps me improve my training, recovery, and day-to-day life. The Apple Watch Ultra is currently strapped to my wrist, and it’s already up there with some of the best running watches I’ve tried. I adore its sturdy titanium case, buttery-smooth screen, and friendly UX.

I’ve lost track of how many watches and best fitness trackers I’ve tried over the years. Garmin, Fitbit, Apple Watch, Huawei, Polar, Amazfit, Withings… I’ve worn entries from all of these brands as well as others. But for my wedding, I chose a wind-up rotary watch with a yellow gold-plated case, a midnight-blue face, and a brown leather strap to go with my suit. There is no Apple Watch, Garmin, Fitbit, or metrics.

It was partly due to my desire to enjoy the day without distractions, but it’s not an isolated incident: on formal occasions, I prefer to wear an analog watch rather than any of my smartwatches. I find smartwatches to be extremely useful daily, but I’m not so fully immersed in cyborg life that I can’t take them off for a few hours. I’d rather enjoy my time without being interrupted by Whatsapp messages, decibel alerts in a crowded restaurant, or whatever push notification I’ve inevitably forgotten to turn off for the evening.

The other issue is that, despite the brilliant technology hidden inside modern-day smartwatches, none of them look particularly appealing. The classic analog rotary watch, a masterpiece of clockwork engineering in miniaturized form, supple leather held on with a clasp of precious metals, cannot be matched for style points by the latest Apple Watch, with its smooth pebble squircle and metallic finishes.

Instead, you have a smaller smartphone on your wrist, with all of the elegance lost in yet another screen and a couple of buttons. Looking at it to tell the time is akin to scrolling through Instagram instead of reading a book: it’s a fantastically powerful miniature computer (much more advanced than a book), but sometimes less is more.

The same is true for a smartwatch and its analog counterpart. Even though James Bond might want to know his VO2 max after chasing a bad guy through the streets of Vienna, you’ll never see him wearing a Polar or Garmin instead of his usual Omega. Bond needs to blend in with high society, and a Polar Pacer Pro or Fitbit Sense won’t help him with that.

Because the novelty of the smartwatch has become obsolete in recent years due to its widespread use, brands and third-party manufacturers are working hard to make smartwatches fashionable. Garmin recently released the second generation of its premium Marq line, which includes five luxury fitness watches. Fitbit Luxe debuted last year with a collection of jewelry-inspired bands that incorporated the tracker into bangles and bracelets for added style points. As soon as Apple Watch models are released, bands like this titanium black offering from Sandmarc (opens in new tab) become available.

Are they a success? Both yes and no. Even though they have similar metrics, I’d rather wear a Garmin Marq Aviator with a three-piece suit than a chunky Forerunner 955. However, this is because the Marq watches appear to be almost identical to analog watches at first glance. The smartwatch lacks a distinct style identity and appears best when hidden from view.

Smartwatches are great for everyday communication and fitness, and I love being able to structure my workouts and interpret the signals my body sends out. I’d struggle to go even a couple of weeks without one, and I know I’m not alone: up to 45% of Americans polled regularly use a smartwatch, according to Qualtrics (opens in new tab). But when the chips are down and style is all that matters, I’m going old-school for a few hours. After all, even digital watches are regaining popularity.

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