Mondaine Smart Helvetica hands-on review

The Mondaine Smart Helvetica is everything we want from a hybrid smartwatch

The Mondaine Helvetica Smart is understated and classy, with strong smart features, and we didn’t want to take it off our wrist.
The Mondaine Helvetica Smart is understated and classy, with strong smart features, and we didn’t want to take it off our wrist.
The Mondaine Helvetica Smart is understated and classy, with strong smart features, and we didn’t want to take it off our wrist.

Highs

  • Understated, classy design
  • Beautiful use of Helvetica font
  • All the smart features you need
  • 2 year battery life
  • Unisex case size

Lows

  • None

The more watchmakers embrace smart technology, the better hybrid smartwatches get, a point proven by Mondaine with its latest model, the Helvetica Smart. Mondaine has already released several hybrid watches, but the Helvetica Smart comes along with two other excellent examples from Alpina and Frederique Constant that happen to use exactly the same app — due to all these brands licensing the same technology from Swiss software company MMT. It’s very easy to setup and use, allowing you to enjoy the design.

Understated design

Mondaine’s Helvetica Smart is beautiful. Understated and classy, yet still eye catching, we adored the blue-faced model, which taps into a huge trend in the watch world this year. Examine the dial closely and you’ll see the outer numbers have four letters (in Helvetica font, naturally) replacing the 10, 2, 4, and 8 o’clock numbers. These relate to the smart features. The hour hand points to a letter depending on the notification or feature activated. The inner set of numbers on the face are percentage points, and the minute hand indicates progress towards your step or sleep goal.

When the hour hand points to the A, it’s indicating your step count, while the S is for sleep. To view your step or sleep percentage, it’s a single or double press of the crown. When a message comes through on your phone, the hour hand moves to the M, and to the T for an incoming call. Both times the watch also vibrates. The vibration is a subtle buzz on your wrist. It’s in keeping with the inconspicuous nature of the Helvetica Smart. It’s not a watch that feels the need to shout.

Mondaine’s Helvetica Smart is beautiful.

Putting the Helvetica Smart on is a pleasure. It’s beautifully built, and the water-resistant case feels solid and cool against the wrist, while the crown is easy to press with a pleasingly tactile action. The leather strap is stiff — a good indicator of its quality — and the stainless steel body shines. The face is covered with sapphire glass, protecting it against scratches and damage, and creating a desirable sheen when viewed in sunlight.

These are points which may sound silly, but in reality they all add up to a great watch ownership experience. The case measures 40mm, which makes it quite compact for a modern watch, and also suitable for wrists of almost all sizes.

Connected app, price, and availability

The app which connects your phone to the Mondaine watch is based on the same design as the one we used on the Alpina AlpinerX, meaning we’re already fans. It was rock solid in its connectivity, simple to use, and informative without being overly technical. We haven’t tried it on the Smart Helvetica; but there’s no reason to suspect it won’t provide the same excellent experience. Bad apps create a barrier between you and your watch, and it’s often the hardest part to get right. Mondaine is off to the right start here.

Mondaine will release the Smart Helvetica around May in four different colors. We love the blue version, but we appreciate the stylist simplicity of the white, white/grey, and black models too. The price is set at 450 pounds in the U.K. and the price in the U.S. is expected to be around the same — so less than $500. This is more than you’ll pay for Fossil, Skagen, or other non-Swiss hybrid smartwatch brands; but you’ll miss out on the heritage, the superb build quality, and the wonderfully understated and classy design. In our opinion, all those things make the watch worth the price tag.