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Montblanc Summit 3 review: unmatched luxury, half-baked smartwatch

The Montblanc Summit 3 on a mans wrist.
Montblanc Summit 3
MSRP $1,290.00
“The Montblanc Summit 3 is a beautiful, highly desirable luxury smartwatch with the latest WearOS 3 software, but it's let down by short battery life and basic fitness tracking.”
Pros
  • Beautiful design
  • Luxury materials
  • Latest Wear OS 3 software
  • Two straps included
Cons
  • 1-day battery life at the most
  • No Google Assistant
  • Limited Montblanc fitness app

The more I wear the Montblanc Summit 3, the more I consider it one of the most important smartwatch releases of recent times. Big statement, right? Absolutely. So let’s examine why.

It’s the first non-Samsung smartwatch with Google’s Wear OS 3, it works with Android and iOS (unlike Samsung’s latest), it comes from an established luxury Swiss brand, and while it’s expensive, it’s not obscenely so. However, it being important is one thing, but being a good smartwatch is another. Can it succeed at both?

Montblanc Summit 3 design

There’s a chance that, like me, you associate Montblanc with beautiful writing instruments and luxury travel accessories more than watches. When you do think about Montblanc watches, its traditional, quite classically styled travel watches and dress watches that come to mind. Things are changing, though, with the company launching some intriguing new models — the beautiful Iced Sea divers watch and 1858 GMT, for example — which seem to take it in a new, more modern direction.

The Montblanc Summit 3 showing a watch face and its blue strap.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Summit 3 fits in perfectly. It’s a wonderful mix of current tech and elegant watch design, but because it doesn’t take too much inspiration from Montblanc’s heritage models, it looks modern and stylish. It’s made from titanium with a stainless steel bezel, crown, buttons, and case back, plus it has an anti-scratch sapphire crystal over the screen. In the box are a rubber strap and a leather strap, allowing you to freely choose a sportier or more casual look.

Speaking of which, it looks fantastic. The satin finish titanium oozes class, the polished steel sections glint in the sun, and the flat sapphire crystal is beautifully clear. While it shares similar materials to the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro, the two couldn’t be further apart in the treatment of those materials or the design around them. This is a proper luxury smartwatch, and it feels very special to wear it. It’s even light and comfortable enough to be worn overnight, and the rubber strap doesn’t get sweaty or uncomfortable.

The Montblanc Summit 3 on a mans wrist.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The large knurled crown — a Montblanc trademark — makes using it easy and comfortable, plus I like the way it has a button inside it, rather than the entire crown being a button. The pushers that flank it look great, but are quite clicky when pressed compared to the crown’s button. The 42mm case size is modest as is the 14mm thickness, and I think it fits my 6.5-inch wrist really well. It’s quite a masculine design, though, and that added to the size of the case, means those with smaller wrists may find it overpowering.

Its natural rival is the 42mm Tag Heuer Connected Calibre E4, which only comes in stainless steel but has a ceramic bezel. It’s sportier and more modern than the Summit 3, as you’d expect from the brand, while the Montblanc smartwatch is more elegant and restrained. The screen is identically sized and looks equally as bright and colorful too. My own watch preferences meant I initially leaned more towards the Tag Heuer, but the Summit 3 has turned all that around.

Man using the Montblanc Summit 3's crown.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

I don’t wear watches styled like the Summit 3 very often, and they need to be pretty special to tempt me away from divers watches and chronographs, but the Summit 3 has really won me over. It reminds me of wearing a Longines Record for a weekend, despite it being totally different from my usual choices, and absolutely loving the way it looked. The blend of Montblanc heritage, modern design choices, and high-class materials makes the Summit 3 very desirable.

Montblanc Summit 3 Wear OS 3 software

The Montblanc Summit 3’s design will make watch fans stop and stare, but it’s the software that makes tech fans hot under the collar. Samsung has exclusively (officially or otherwise) loaded Google’s Wear OS 3 software onto its Galaxy Watch models, making Montblanc the first to use it without Samsung’s user interface over the top.

Main menu on the Montblanc Summit 3.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Wear OS 3 is all-new and sadly quite familiar at the same time. The initial onboarding process is new as you don’t use the Wear OS app to connect (in fact, iOS makes you uninstall the Wear OS app entirely before it’ll pair), and instead, you rely on Montblanc’s Summit app. This is a big change for manufacturers with Wear OS 3, and it allows them to completely control the entire watch experience from the app to the software on the watch, meaning it can all be branded appropriately. For example, all the watch faces available in the app are Montblanc’s own.

Controlling the watch is basically the same as ever, with swipes to navigate menus, taps to select options, and the rotating crown to make zipping through Wear OS faster. The rotating crown works throughout the system and is far more deeply integrated than similar models using Wear OS 2. The top pusher shows recently used apps, while the bottom pusher launches Montblanc’s Fitness app, but this can be changed to an alternative in the Settings.

You swipe through multiple Tiles to see relevant information, including your calendar, the weather, steps, heart rate, blood oxygen, and sleep data. The layout and options can be customized in the app. Other apps can be downloaded from the Google Play Store, you can control music on your phone from the watch, notifications arrive in a list accessed with a swipe, and Quick Settings appear when you swipe down on the main screen.

Design highlights for me include the subtle, grey, oblong-shaped buttons in the app menu and notifications, plus the easily pressed Quick Settings controls, the clean fonts, and the overall uniformity of design. The operating system’s speed and fluidity don’t disappoint either. Wear OS 3’s design is attractive, clean, and modern, plus giving control over the app and pairing process to the manufacturer makes it all feel more cohesive too. It’s also faster to set the smartwatch up, another improvement over Wear OS 2.

However, the software is limited and sometimes problematic on the Summit 3. I had a few problems entering my Google account and it accepting a Wi-Fi network. It’s not without odd bugs, the worst being a few random shutdowns. I’ll come back to the iOS compatibility in a while, but it’s not good. There are some features missing, especially in the accessibility menu. There’s no option to adjust the vibration intensity, no duration settings for button presses, and because there’s no speaker on the watch, there’s no voice control — and Google Assistant isn’t available either. The only accessibility mode is magnification.

Bugs need to be squashed, the accessibility is disappointing, the lack of a speaker and Google Assistant mystifying, and it can be a bit ponderous to use when using apps like the Play Store. Wear OS 3 is an improvement over Wear OS 2, but it’s not clear whether the shortcomings seen here are part of its unfinished nature or decisions made by Montblanc.

Montblanc Summit 3 fitness and activity tracking

There’s a heart rate sensor on the back of the Summit 3, sensors for blood oxygen, plus it’ll work out your stress levels and track all your workouts through dedicated apps on the watch. Why is on the watch italicized? Because you can only do so on the watch, as none of Montblanc’s own fitness features sync with the Montblanc app on your phone, so all data is kept and viewed on the little screen. No graphs, no easily sorted historical data, nothing.

Montblanc’s fitness app doesn’t sync with other platforms either, so if you use Strava, then you’ll have to download and use it separately. It doesn’t link to Google Fit or Apple Health, so there’s no way to keep track of all your activities and health data in one place on your phone. This means adding an additional series of apps duplicating what’s already available from Montblanc.

It’s a considerable downside, effectively minimizing the usefulness of the Summit 3’s own nicely designed health tracking features, and forcing you to download further additional apps. It’s not clear whether this is a consequence of Wear OS 3 and the arrival of branded companion apps or if it’s a Montblanc decision. It’s something that may be addressed in a future software update, but at the moment on the model we reviewed, this is the situation.

The Montblanc Summit 3's app.

What about accuracy? It estimated the same calorie burn as the Apple Watch Series 7 but differed with a higher average heart rate. During workouts, I’d see it recording vastly higher (and unrealistic) numbers than the Apple Watch, so this is to be expected. Oddly, when you choose the “Other” workout mode it still records distances and speed, despite me not leaving my living room when exercising and the little icon showing a person lifting weights.

All this means the Summit 3 is not a smartwatch for fitness enthusiasts. It has none of the ability of the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro, is missing the simplicity and accuracy of the Apple Watch Series 7, and lacks dedicated apps and modes to appeal to golfers like the Tag Heuer Connected Calibre E4.

Montblanc Summit 3 with iOS

The Montblanc Summit 3 works with Android and iOS, but I cannot recommend it to anyone with an iPhone. This is usually true anyway because the Apple Watch better integrates with iOS for more functionality, but technically most non-Samsung smartwatches can be used with iOS if you really wanted to and don’t mind missing out on things like Google Maps. I’ve had the Summit 3 connected to several Android phones and an iPhone 13 Pro, on which the experience was a horror show.

Horrific? Oh yes. Downloading the 20MB-ish Google Fit app when connected to iOS took about 20 minutes, then another 10 minutes to set up because it was so slow. Once I’d done this, I noticed the battery had taken about a 50% hit during its Herculean effort to give me a fitness app that syncs across several platforms. Not only that, but it was the second time I tried to install the app, as the first time it refused to download at all.

Living with it, the Summit 3’s software stutters and pauses when connected to iOS in a way that’s almost entirely absent when connected to Android. It’s no wonder Samsung decided to keep the Galaxy Watch 4 and Galaxy Watch 5 away from iOS, as if they operated anything like the Summit 3, people would have been sending them back immediately. Even after a reset and trying again with iOS, I had the same experience.

Montblanc Summit 3 performance and battery

The Summit 3 has Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 4100+ processor and 1GB of RAM, and it’s a modest performer when connected to an Android phone. Wi-Fi range is quite short, though, certainly shorter than your phone, and there’s no ability to take calls on the smartwatch. The screen is a beauty with its pin-sharp 416 x 416 resolution, and the 1.28-inch size is just right.

Battery life isn’t so good. In the couple of weeks I’ve been testing the smartwatch, it has not lasted more than a full day, and even with minimal use — no GPS or workout tracking, for example — it’s down to less than 30% most evenings. Tracking workouts give it a bashing, too, with a 30-minute workout taking (at the minimum) 12% of the battery each time.

Charging the Montblanc Summit 3’s battery each day is essential. It takes a little less than an hour using the clever wireless charger, which can be used as a plinth or an upright charger for use on a nightstand.

Montblanc Summit 3 price and availability

There are three models of the Montblanc Summit 3 available, and all cost $1,290 or 1,105 British pounds. The difference is in the titanium finish, with the standard titanium version seen in our photos, a black titanium version, and a bicolor model with a grey titanium case with a black stainless steel bezel.

While not cheap in the slightest, the Summit 3 is the cheapest way to get a Montblanc watch on your wrist (outside of the older Summit Lite), and it’s also quite a lot less than its top rival in the luxury smartwatch world, the Tag Heuer Connected Calibre E4.

The Montblanc Summit 3 has luxury, desirability, and high-tech appeal

I love the Montblanc Summit 3’s fantastic design, and I like the direction Wear OS is taking, but the treatment of activity tracking is a misstep, the missing features baffling, and the short battery life disappointing. It all works acceptably enough, the design is great, and all the tools are there, but it can’t quite live up to the promise.

If we only looked at the design, build quality, and lovely presentation, the Summit 3 would be one of the best, most desirable smartwatches you can get to use with an Android phone. However, the technical side, despite having the latest software and a decent (if not that new) processor, just isn’t as good as it should be.

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