As the holidays approach, it seems like just about everyone is coming out with a smartwatch. For gift givers, this can be a tricky category to navigate. When it comes to buying a traditional gadget, you can look at specs, test out cameras and weigh the merits of different processors. Smartwatches are different.

Perhaps more than any other tech gadget, smartwatches should reflect the wearer’s personality. If you are thinking of gifting one, you’ll have to weigh both technological and fashion questions. Does the recipient want to make calls through it? Do he or she want a touchscreen? How much does style matter? Not everyone who wants the functionality of a smartwatch loves that calculator-watch aesthetic after all.

But no matter where they fall on that spectrum, consumers are spoiled for choice this season. New products seem to be announced every day, from both fashion and tech firms. And you can’t rely on the price to tell you how technologically advanced they are.


Movado showed off the Bold Motion this week – a superstylish $695 connected watch that has a traditional face, with just a few added tricks. Lights around the edge of the timepiece glow in different configurations to let you know when you have an e-mail or incoming call, but don’t display more information than that. Tag Heuer also recently announced its first smartwatch, a $1,500 model called the Connected Watch, which sports a touchscreen and runs on Google’s Android software. It offers Google maps, notifications and features you’d find on much cheaper smartwatches – but with the style and price tag you’d expect from the brand.

Not all watchmakers have gone for the superexpensive route. Fossil’s Q line of connected watches includes a sub-$200 model called the Grant that cleverly lets you customize notifications by choosing a combination of lights and vibrations. (A review unit was provided to The Washington Post.) So while it won’t show you that “Joe” is calling on the watch face, it can be programmed to glow blue when he does. While the watch is certainly not dainty with a 44 mm case that’s 15 mm thick, it also doesn’t tip the scales too much. And it comes with a stand that doubles as a charger, so plugging it in every couple of days is easy enough to remember.

Another option for the even more traditional? The forthcoming Chronos disk, which you can stick under your normal watch for glowing notifications.

At the other end of the scale are offerings from technology companies – LG, Apple, Samsung and the like – which aim to fulfill all of your Dick Tracy fantasies. These pair with your smartphone to let you take a peek at snippets from your email messages, look at photos, make calls and listen to music. They also tend to cost about as much as mid-tier smartphones – or more – and have the benefit of full-feature mobile software and apps from Uber, OpenTable, and Pandora that only make them more useful over time.

The prime example of this is probably the Apple Watch, which the company launched this year at a starting price of $350 (and goes all the way up to $17,000). The Watch is meant to be a full companion to your iPhone (yes, just your iPhone) and lets you hand off a lot of functions to the smaller screen. But there are other watches on the market that have even more functionality. The latest LG model, the Watch Urbane 2nd Edition, even lets you place calls without having your smartphone nearby. It’s yet to get an official price or release date, apart from a “November” launch.

But these superconnected watches have their limits, too. Those with touchscreens tend to have shorter battery lives, which gives you yet another thing to juice up at the end of the day. And sometimes they are too smart for their own good: Their screens are too small for all the smartphone functions you want them to be able to do.

If your budget for a smartwatch is less than $150, some of the fitness bands offer pretty good value. The Fitbit Charge gives you notifications, the time, health stats and a long battery life for less than $130. Similarly, the Garmin vivofit 2 is right at $100.


The watch that probably best balances form, function and price right now may be the Pebble Time Round. When it comes to watches made by tech firms, this $250 gadget is one of the better looking models out there. The slim profile and round face make for a product that doesn’t scream “smartwatch” at first glance – an attribute I count as a point in its favor. It does have a pretty big bezel, which has earned it Internet ridicule. But after wearing a review unit provided to the Post for a week, I hardly noticed it.