Montblanc Summit 3: Have I Lost My Mind Comparing A Smartwatch To A Rolls-Royce?
by Martin Green
We don’t tend to review many smartwatches at Quill & Pad but doesn’t mean we are not following their development. I was at the launch of the first generation of the TAG Heuer Connected many years ago, and I also have fond memories of the diamond-set Samsung Gear S2 by De Grisogono, which was the talk of Baselworld 2016.
While I enjoy following this part of the market, smartwatches tend to have rather strenuous lives in my own collection as their novelty wears off quickly, and I discovered that there is not so much left to be desired after all. Like many other watch collectors may have also discovered, a smartwatch often takes on the role of (useful) tech toy that does not achieve any serious positioning within one’s collection.
That was also my opinion, yet I am writing this article with a smartwatch on my wrist that has changed my mind: the Montblanc Summit 3.
From Minerva to smartwatch
While many mistake Montblanc for a pure Swiss company due to its name, it was founded in Hamburg, Germany, in 1906. Back then, the brand focused entirely on (fountain) pens, but in 1935 it expanded to leather goods.
Today, Montblanc is an all-around luxury brand as watches joined the portfolio in 1997. Quite unique is that the brand managed to establish a unique look for its timepieces that set it apart from the competition. By acquiring legendary movement manufacture Minerva, it also gained the capability to manufacture movements and complications in-house.
When this occurred, I was quite critical. I thought that Richemont (Montblanc’s parent company) might have been better off keeping Minerva as a separate brand rather than integrating it with a “pen manufacturer.”
I happily admit that I was wrong back then as Montblanc has proven to be a tremendously passionate steward of Minerva’s heritage, expertise, and craftsmanship. Together they have reached a synergy that was probably never achieved apart, and the Montblanc booth is now a mouthwatering stop during every edition of Watches and Wonders (and SIHH before).
In more recent years, “new technologies,” as Montblanc likes to call them, were added. This is also the pillar of the brand from which the Summit 3, as well as its two predecessors, emerged. Quite a different field, but also a daring move for Montblanc as this made the company one of the first and few high-end brands to venture into this arena.
I spoke about this with Montblanc’s director of new technologies, Dr. Felix Obschonka, who was quite candid about the resulting chances and challenges. Unlike many tech companies who have launched smartwatches, Montblanc couldn’t start with a blank page for design as there is quite a bit of heritage to take into account – a heritage that must be infused into the smartwatch to keep it recognizable as a Montblanc.
While Montblanc is dependent on outside suppliers for the technology powering its smartwatch, it has an edge as Montblanc boasts extensive experience making watches and working with metal and leather.
One of the focus points for the third generation of the Summit was the size. Obschonka pointed out that while technology is advancing, you still need a certain volume to provide the watch with ample energy. The battery can be flat, resulting in a larger but thinner watch, or kept thicker, decreasing the diameter but increasing the height of the timepiece. Too small a diameter is also not preferable as the screen would be harder to read.
For the Summit 3, Montblanc settled for a diameter of 42 mm and a thickness of 14 mm. At first, I considered this still rather large, and seeing a dark screen before turning it on doesn’t help either. However, having experienced it for a couple of hours on the wrist, the size seems quite perfect to me. The wearing comfort is very good, and Montblanc kept the weight in check by choosing to use a titanium case.
Do it like Rolls-Royce
You probably expect me now to list all the functions the Summit 3 has, how well they work, and preferably compare its performance with other smartwatches. Surprisingly, that is a rat race that Montblanc is staying away from – and also the reason why I became so fond of the watch. Montblanc’s approach is more like that of Rolls-Royce, whose clientele loves technology but doesn’t want it to always be in their face. As a result, technical advancement is kept under the hood (no pun intended) and perfectly portioned in the car.
The Summit 3 is similar as it doesn’t dazzle with complex menus and an overload of information, alarms, and notifications. It’s more like the perfect secretary who knows precisely when to disturb the boss (that is you!) and when not to.
The controls are very intuitive, even to me as an Apple addict, allowing the wearer to control the smartwatch and not the other way around. I find it a pleasant companion during my workout routine, and during the day I appreciate having certain information at my fingertips, but only there when I need it.
While it comes with an app, most of its functions are designed to work perfectly alone. Apart from its good looks, the Summit 3 doesn’t demand much attention, making it very much like a mechanical watch.
While the case’s design is a bit more generic than the previous two generations of the Summit, its finish surpasses that of any other smartwatch I have seen before. It is on par with Montblanc’s mechanical watches costing a great deal more than the Summit 3.
One of the reasons why Montblanc probably kept the case design more generic is so that a wider variety of dials fit with the case. Now the watch becomes much like a Montblanc configurator as you are spoiled for choice. You can also customize these dials to a great extent, so that it seems like you are wearing almost the entire Montblanc watch collection in digital form in a single timepiece.
So while the Summit 3 will still have a hard time demoting any of my mechanical watches, it did achieve a place in my collection, right between a quartz Omega Constellation Perpetual Calendar and a Breitling Emergency.
For more information, please visit www.montblanc.com/en-us/smartwatches.
Quick Facts Montblanc Summit 3
Case: 42 x 14 mm, titanium with stainless steel bezel and case back, 5 atm water resistance
Dial: 1.28″ full-circle AMOLED display, 416 x 416 resolution
Movement: Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 4100+ processor with Wear OS by Google 3.0 operating system, 1 GB of memory and 8 GB of storage
Functions: too many to mention
Remark: comes with charging unit and additional strap