Wearables

Helvetica 1 Smart ticks all the sartorial boxes

There are five models of the Helvetica 1 Smart with different colour variations in the case, watch face, dial and leather strap.
There are five models of the Helvetica 1 Smart with different colour variations in the case, watch face, dial and leather strap.PHOTO: MONDAINE

Mondaine's limited edition is a classic beauty but its tech features could be better

Mondaine is famed for its Official Swiss Railways watches, which bear the same face design as the iconic clock at Swiss rail stations. Apple reportedly paid US$21 million (S$29 million) to use the same watch face for its iOS 6 clock app.

Mondaine's other watch series - Helvetica - is equally iconic, with the tasteful use of the famous Helvetica typeface. The series includes the company's first smartwatch, the Helvetica 1 Smart.

There are five models of the Helvetica 1 Smart with different colour variations in the case, watch face, dial and leather strap. But the overall design remains the same.

I reviewed one of the limited edition ($1,540) watches, of which there are only 1,957 pieces (1957 was the year Helvetica was invented).

This particular timepiece has a carving that says "1 of 1957" - not found in other models - on the left side of its 44mm stainless steel watch case. There is a push-only crown on the right side.

  • TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: From $1,485 to $1,580

    MATERIAL: Stainless steel case with sapphire crystal glass and leather strap

    WATER RESISTANCE: 30m

    CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth

    WEIGHT: 82g

  • RATING

  • FEATURES: 3/5

    DESIGN: 5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 5/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

It has a thin bezel with smooth, seamless lug ends. Attached is the 20mm leather strap, which means you can easily replace it with one of your own liking.

Its watch face has some resemblance to the minimalist design of Mondaine's Swiss Railways watch. But it has the Helvetica typeface wording and numbering. There are only the "3", "9" and "12" numberings, as the six o'clock position is taken up by a sub-dial. The watch uses analogue quartz movement.

The limited edition is the only model with red typographic details on the sub-dial, which displays the date, activity percentage and sleep tracking via two separate hands.

There is no second hand, only the hour and minute hands. Both are not luminous. It would have been nice if they can glow in the dark.

Still, the watch is a classic beauty - good enough to wear to even a state dinner. It should have been the watch that Apple designed.

But in terms of tech features, Helvetica 1 is not your Apple Watch. It does not display notifications nor does it measure your heart rate. It can only track your physical activity and monitor your sleep.

Although the Helvetica 1 uses analogue movement, the only way to adjust the time is to sync the watch with its MotionX-365 app (Android and iOS). Once paired, syncing is just a matter of pressing the crown once.

The app also allows you to set your daily step target, sleep goals and alarms. The watch is able to store up to two weeks of data, but I would sync every day to ensure no data is lost.

Step tracking is pretty spot-on. It differed from my calibrated Fitbit Charge HR by only around 5 per cent. Sleep tracking is equally accurate, with the deep and light sleep pattern readings close to those recorded by the Charge HR.

However, sleep tracking is not automatic. You need to press the crown for 3sec to start tracking, and repeat after you wake up to end the tracking, which is a hassle.

On the plus side, the watch should last two years before you need to change its CR2430 cell battery. I will let you know in two years' time if that is true.

It is water resistant down to a depth of 30m, so you can wear it all the time.

• Verdict: The Mondaine Helvetica 1 Smart might not display notifications or measure your heart rate, and it is certainly not cheap, but it is one smartwatch that any self-respecting designer or geeky sartorialist should be wearing.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 23, 2016, with the headline 'Helvetica 1 Smart ticks all the sartorial boxes Wearables'. Print Edition | Subscribe