Like many beautiful things, the newly released smartwatch edition of Mondaine’s successful Helvetica line might be more trouble than it’s worth. The watch is handsome enough, and type geeks will appreciate details like lugs that are modeled after the curved crossbar in the Helvetica “1.” But a smartwatch—at least in the way Apple has got us thinking about such things—it is not. Sure, you can track the basics (the number of steps you walk and hours you sleep, and you can sync it all up to an iPad app and monitor your progress) but beyond that, avowed members of the Quantified Self Movement will find it lacking.
But one could argue that the smartness doesn’t end there. It’s quite smart looking, fusing the aesthetic of an old-school timepiece with modern software, and that’s why you’re paying $950 for an analog watch with a few “smart” features thrown in. If the Fitbit doesn’t jive with your work attire and the smarter versions of the Apple watch (up to $17,000) are beyond your reach, the Helvetica No 1 is something only diehard tech snobs would turn their nose up at. It still offers that special brand of satisfaction smartwatch users get as you make headway toward your step goal (mine was the standard 10,000), watching the little red hand in the subdial go round; and the way the subdial’s second hand circles counterclockwise towards the tiny moon icon when it’s time to go to sleep (and the delightfully soft mechanical click it makes as it spins) is quite elegant, no?
And even though I wore the hefty men’s version Mondaine sent for my trial run on my “diminutive” and “childlike” wrist (I’ve been called worse), I was actually complimented on it more than once. In fact, I even found it sort of gratifying to swing the brick of a thing back and forth as I rounded the corner on my daily 10k walk. No, I’m not going to train for any marathons with it, but I wasn’t going to train for any marathons anyway. If that’s the kind of fitness goal you’re looking to set, there are plenty of lightweight, rubberized options made just for you. For the rest of us, there weren’t many good-looking options till now.