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Frederique Constant smartwatch review: Time-tested activity tracking in a beautiful Swiss watch

Jon Phillips | Aug. 7, 2015
Fanny packs. Dad jeans. Bright yellow mock turtlenecks purchased at the Gap circa 1991, and still worn defiantly, inexplicably, today. If you wear any of these items, feel free to accessorize your outfit with a touchscreen smartwatch. You're already style-compromised, and the smartwatch can't do any more damage.

In the MotionX companion app, I've set my daytime activity goal for 10,000 steps. As I walk around throughout the day, the silver hand slowly advances. As you can see in the photo above, the hand is knocking on the doorstep of the 45 percent marker. This indicates I've walked roughly 4,500 steps.

The glint of ambient light

The same complication dial illustrates progress toward a sleep goal. To start sleep tracking, you press and hold the crown button for three seconds. The red hand will advance to the little icon of a crescent moon at 12 o'clock. This signifies you've begun sleep tracking. Then, throughout the night, the silver hand will sweep across the complication dial as the watch logs your slumber.

My sleep goal is seven hours, so, unlike with step tracking, there's not a linear, one-to-one relationship between hours slept and what appears on the dial. For example, if I sleep exactly seven hours, the dial will show I've reached 100 percent (and not 70 percent) of my sleep goal. It's only mildly annoying, and, of course, I could address the problem by changing my sleep goal to 10 hours.

Throughout testing, I found it easy to check my daytime step goal progress simply by reading the complication dial. The silver hand on this dial is thin and delicate, but with a gentle tilt of the wrist, all the hands and indices of the watchface come alive with the glint of ambient light. It's a subtle nuance that you'll only get from a fine analog watch.

Reading the date is much more difficult. The date notation is extremely small, and there are two-day day gaps between every date marker. The upshot? You better have great eyesight to read the date. It would also be nice to have luminescent hands and indices to see sleep progress and the current time during the dark hours of the night.

Stubborn Android syncing

A significant degree of activity-tracking logic is executed directly on the watch via the built-in MotionX module, designed by Fullpower. As a result, you really never need to pair the watch with its companion iOS or Android apps to see your activity data--it's all manifest on the complication dial, albeit in rough, broad strokes.

But when I visited Fullpower in April, the company told me that syncing the watch with the MotionX mobile app taps into a second level of data accuracy, and then a third level of processing kicks in via advanced analytics on Fullpower's cloud servers.

While I found Bluetooth syncing with the MotionX iOS app to be consistent and reliable, the Android app didn't behave as advertised, even after a firmware update on the watch, and a sideloaded app update to my LG G4. The apps are supposed to run a sync as soon as you open them, but this never happens with the Android app. You can manually initiate a sync by pressing the watch's crown button (sadly, it provides almost no tactile feedback), but in practice this takes multiple attempts with the Android app. It's a frustrating experience, but not a deal-breaker.


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