Montblanc’s reputation has mostly been formed in the realm of fancy analogue watches and pens. But when the smartwatch industry started gaining ground and customers sought those over traditional, mechanical watches, Montblanc – like fellow luxury brand TAG Heuer – joined in.
After all, there’s still appeal in these premium brands offering stylish, connected wristwear to the modern buyer. It’s had some mixed results with its Summit series, but the Summit Lite saw Montblanc moving in the right direction. Can the most recent top-of-the-range model build on that success, or is it a case of style over substance?
- 42 x 42 x 14mm case – 22mm strap
- Titanium case – Stainless steel bezel, buttons and rear
- Sapphire anti-scratch crystal glass
- 50 metre/5ATM waterproofing
Montblanc’s brand is all about prestige and luxury, and you’ll see that mostly in the design, materials and fit and finish of the watch. It’s got that feeling of being expertly crafted, and the sense of being something out of the ordinary begins before you even get your hands on the watch. The box it ships in is an experience.
It’s big, for starters, but has the feeling like Montblanc really cares about how the watch is presented to you. It’s as if the first time you get your hands on it and that initial impression is just as important as how nice the watch is to use and wear every day.
When you remove the outer cardboard sleeve the top section of the box lifts up and back, held in place with ribbon, where the watch sits centrally on its little plump white cushion. Then there are two drawers in the front of the box that you slide out to reveal paperwork/guides and such, plus the premium leather band, cable and charging cradle that ship with it. It’s a far cry from the type of box you get with your typical tech manufacturer’s watch.
Montblanc doesn’t spare any expense in the materials used in the watch itself either. The watch case is built from titanium, that’s brushed, sculpted and polished in a way that ensures it catches the light just right.
Where the main body of the watch is brushed, there are delicately angled chamfers that are polished to a high shine along the corners and edges that reflect light back at you, and it’s a look that’s mirrored in the bevel around the display and on the three buttons on the side of the watch.
Even the stainless steel underside – which you will rarely see – looks good. The metal base, like the rest of the case, features a polished, angled edge and a brushed middle part, with branding and marking to let you know a few things: that it’s made from titanium, that it’s got sapphire crystal over the screen and that it’s highly waterproof (up to 5ATM).
The advantage of titanium – except for being seen as a premium material – is it is lightweight and durable. So despite the quite large, chunky (but not too chunky) look, it doesn’t feel overly heavy on the wrist. And, despite it having that classy, dress watch look, it’s a watch that’s designed to survive the daily rigours of your life. So it’s pretty and robust, and that’s a winning combination.
It seems like quite a minor thing, but no one does clicky smartwatch buttons like Montblanc. The top and bottom buttons almost have that springy clickiness of a great ballpoint pen. The kind of click that makes you want to press it repeatedly, but probably shouldn’t because it’ll be confusing the user interface. (Montblanc will happily sell you a ballpoint pen too, by the way. And yes, those are also quite expensive).
The middle button is also a rotating crown and looks and feels like a rotating crown from an analogue watch, which is both good and bad. It’s really smooth but doesn’t move as easily as we’d like for a smartwatch interface control. It takes a little extra force than what we’re used to in order to rotate it. For a physical control that’s designed to be used instead of the touchscreen at times, it’s not the easiest.
Otherwise, it’s really hard to fault the fit and finish of the Summit 3. Even the Italian calfskin leather strap that ships with the watch has that feeling of being a proper, classic leather watch strap. It’s thin, but initially stiff, requiring you to wear it so it can soften around the shape of your wrist. In truth, it doesn’t take long for it to start adopting the shape of an arm. It had already taken on the curves of our forearm after just a few days.
Display and software
- 1.28-inch round AMOLED display
- 416 x 416 resolution
- Wear OS 3.0 – Montblanc fitness tracking
Like most Wear OS watches from traditional watch/fashion brands, the hardware is pretty similar across the different models. That applies to the round 1.28-inch AMOLED display on the front. It’s bright, vibrant and colour-rich, with good, deep contrast levels. It’s not perfect in bright conditions, but it is ultimately readable in the majority of situations.
The Summit 3 was one of the first non-Samsung watches to launch running Wear OS 3. In fact, it was announced before Google’s own Pixel Watch. That’s not to say the software experience is identical to Google’s, but it is close.
You get the same general interaction as the Pixel Watch, with the new card-based notification screen that you swipe up from the bottom, or the quick settings shade you drop down from the top.
One strength of Wear OS 3 is that you get more customisation on the watch face front. Montblanc has its own take on this, offering a handful of classic-looking options, most of which allow you to change the background colour, accent colour, and the hand and dial style. They also all have an ambient always-on version that kicks in when the screen dims, to save battery.
Being Wear OS means there are plenty of third-party watch faces to choose from too and – more importantly – plenty of apps. And when it comes to fitness tracking, we found the third-party option was a necessity.
Montblanc has loaded the watch with its own fitness tracking software and – on the watch – it’s actually decent. It tracks steps, and measures your heart rate and calories burned. It can even track your sleep, giving you a good look at your sleep stages and then uses that data to work out your ‘Body Energy’.
It’s similar in a way to Fitbit’s ‘Readiness’ score or the Garmin ‘Body Battery’ feature that uses activity and rest to determine how much you’ve got left in the tank, and if today’s a good day to exercise.
All of this information is really conveniently displayed using the software’s glances that you scroll through from the watch face. The only problem – and it’s a big one – is that it’s only on your watch. At the time we wrote the review there was no option in the Montblanc Summit smartphone app to sync and view that data.
This is quite a big miss if you like to check on your fitness data, see progress and charts of all your activities and it shows why Google has put Fitbit on its Pixel Watch, and why Samsung has Samsung Health on the Galaxy Watch. It is such a key part of the experience.
You can download third-party activity tracking apps like Strava, or even download Google Fit, and have your data synced with those, but we’d much rather Wear OS – in general – had something built in right out of the box.
In addition to the app situation, there’s the fact that tracking isn’t a fantastic experience either. GPS accuracy seemed inconsistent, and sometimes doesn’t work at all. For instance, the built-in fitness app counts you down from three, just like Apple Watch, and at the end of a 25-minute run, measured almost exactly the same distance as the Apple Watch Series 7 on our other wrist (give or take 10-20 metres). But it didn’t have a map or route displayed.
Similarly, heart rate was pretty much the same. Using Google Fit, the same can’t be said. It didn’t even manage to lock on to our GPS location at all and so over-estimated, measuring far further than the Apple Watch and – again – didn’t have a map of our route.
In short: if fitness and health tracking is your primary reason for owning a smartwatch, we’d swerve the Summit 3. If you want to spend big money on a fitness-first watch you’re better off looking at some of Garmin’s premium models like the Epix 2, Fenix 7 or Marq 2.
Performance and battery
- Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 4100+
- Bluetooth 5.0 – Wi-Fi – NFC payments
- One day battery
As far as hardware and performance go, there’s nothing to really set the Summit 3 apart from its competition. Primarily because it uses the same platform used by most Wear OS watch-makers over the past couple of years. That’s the Snapdragon Wear 4100+.
It’s since been replaced by the Wear 5 Plus, however, the performance it offers in daily interactions and app loading is decent enough. There’s a little stutter and lag, but not enough to really tarnish the experience. You get good response times, and even loading the Play Store and searching for apps is generally quite quick, even if it’s not blazing fast.
Battery life leaves a lot to be desired with the Summit 3 sadly. Like the Pixel Watch, the Montblanc smartwatch struggles to go longer than a day on a full charge, especially with the always-on display enabled, especially when used to track outdoor activities. Taking it off charge in the morning, we’d usually find the watch was down to under 20 per cent 24 hours later. And that was on a day without any working out.
That means, if you want to track your sleep at night, you’ll need to get into a fairly rigid routine of charging your watch. Most days – just like with the Apple Watch – that meant charging it in the hour or so before bed, then putting it on just before going to sleep.