Montblanc Summit Lite full review

Smartwatches are all the rage at the moment and it seems that traditional wristwatch makers want to get in on the action. Montblanc’s Summit Lite is, despite the £715 price tag, the entry-level option in Montblanc’s smartwatch collection, offering a premium build and a focus on fitness that, in theory, is great for fashion-focused fitness fans, but the reality is a little different.

While the Summit Lite is undoubtedly one of the better-looking wearables available right now, flaws in the hardware and software make it very hard to recommend to anyone without money burning a hole in their pocket. Here’s why…  

Design & Build

It should come as no surprise from a company like Montblanc, but the design is easily the strong suit of the Summit Lite. Available in a grey or black aluminium finish, the sleek matte aluminium body stands out from the crowd in a subtle way – it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of a traditional wristwatch, but it certainly demands attention.

That’s partly down to the inclusion of a vivid 1.2in AMOLED display, surrounded by a shiny stainless steel bezel, that offers superb clarity both indoors and outdoors. I never felt the need to shade the display to read a notification on my walk to the shop, anyway.

The AMOLED tech offers great colour reproduction and deep blacks, making the suite of watchfaces available on the Summit Lite pop. It also allows for an always-on display mode, but with limited battery life on offer, it’s not something I chose to use on a daily basis.  

Just like a traditional watch, you’ll find stainless steel buttons and even a working crown dial large enough to feature Montblanc’s logo on the right side. The side buttons provide shortcuts to apps, while the crown can be used to scroll through apps and notifications without obstructing the display.

Both feel solid in use, with the textured sides of the crown providing sufficient grip, and there’s plenty of space between the buttons for your fingers too. Some form of haptic feedback, like with the Apple Watch and other premium alternatives, wouldn’t have gone amiss though.

You’ve got a choice between fabric and rubber straps for the Summit Lite, and while I personally love the soft-touch rubber strap both for general use and exercise, you’ve got the option of swapping it out for something else entirely, with the watch able to fit any 22mm pin buckle watch strap.

The rubber strap is particularly handy if you intend to go swimming with the Summit Lite – something entirely possible, thanks to a 5ATM water resistance rating.

You just might want to find third-party straps as the official ones are an eye-watering £110 each - even the rubber ones.

Features & Fitness Tracking

The Montblanc Summit Lite ships with the latest version of Google’s Wear OS, bringing with it a wealth of standalone apps and smart features that can be used with Androids and iPhones alike. You’ll get your smartphone notifications at a glance, access to Google Assistant on your wrist and Montblanc’s own fitness tracking tech – but more on that in a bit.

While the upgraded Snapdragon Wear 4100 chipset has begun appearing in Wear OS smartwatches like the TicWatch Pro 3, the Montblanc Summit Lite ships with the older Wear 3100 processor – and that’s a bit of a disappointment given the high price of the wearable.

It’s a snappier experience than the dated Wear 2100 that, somehow, still appears in some cheap wearables, but it’s apparent in everyday use that it’s not the most powerful smartwatch in the market, with minor delays when opening apps and the occasional momentary freeze.  

You’ll find built-in GPS – a must-have for runners, allowing you to leave your phone at home – alongside an always-on heart rate monitor and both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, but you won’t find blood oxygen monitoring here. Considering it’s available on even budget wearables, it’s another chink in the Summit Lite’s armour.

What separates the Summit Lite from the sea of Wear OS-enabled smartwatches on the market are a handful of Montblanc-branded watchfaces and the company’s health and lifestyle tracking tech that stands apart from the pre-installed Google Fit.

There are five Montblanc-branded watchfaces to choose from, ranging from colourful fitness-focused faces that provides your health data at a glance to more traditional options that suit the high-end body down to the ground.

I usually opt for high-tech watchfaces, but I actually prefer the latter on the Summit Lite – there’s something about the detailing that makes it stand out compared to the generic options usually available on Wear OS watches. Of course, these can be changed quickly, allowing you to use a fitness-focused face when exercising and a traditional face when you’re not.

The more exciting feature should’ve been Montblanc’s bespoke health and fitness tracking, but the execution is somewhat flawed, to say the least.

Montblanc’s fitness dashboard, accessible via the bottom button, provides a breakdown of your calories burned, recent exercises, recovery hours if you’ve recently exercised, stress levels, sleep and more. It uses the information to give you a general idea of your available energy at any given time.   

The sleep tracking, in particular, is surprisingly in-depth, giving you a great insight into how you sleep. It also uses all the collected data to provide the Cardio Coach service, which looks to improve your cardio health by providing duration and BPM targets for your next workout.

That all sounds great, but in reality, it’s frustratingly limited.

First, you have to use Montblanc’s app to track your workouts – it won’t import data recorded using Google Fit. That doesn’t seem too bad on the surface, but the tracking on offer from Montblanc’s option is, putting it nicely, basic.

There’s a single generic workout mode, not allowing you to record specific workouts like an outdoor run, cycle or weight training, meaning you’ll lose out on exercise-specific metrics, and although there’s built-in GPS, the app won’t generate a GPS heatmap of your exercise post-workout.

The biggest slap in the face, however, is the fact that you can only view all this data on the 1.2in display of the smartwatch. It doesn’t export the data to the Google Fit app and there’s no Montblanc companion app for Android or iOS, meaning all the graphs, data and fitness recommendations stay on the watch.

As somebody that likes to delve into exercise metrics on a smartphone post-workout, it’s the single biggest frustration of the Summit Lite, leading me to move back to Google Fit after just a few days of using the watch.

And, if you’re going to end up using Google Fit for health and fitness monitoring anyway, is there any reason to buy the Montblanc Summit Lite over cheaper, more capable alternatives? That’s a tough one.

Battery Life

Wear OS smartwatches have come a long way in the past few years where battery life is concerned, with the likes of the Suunto 7 getting you comfortably through two days with juice left to spare, but unfortunately, that’s not true of the Summit Lite.

During my tests, I found that I’d just about get about 18 hours of use from the smartwatch before it’d need a top-up, and that’s with what I’d describe as average use: checking the time, reading incoming notifications and tracking a 40-minute run every now and again.

That’s in-line with the likes of the Apple Watch Series 6 – a smartwatch whose battery life has long been the butt of Android user jokes – without the always-on display enabled. If you want the display to be on constantly, expect an even shorter battery life.

That’s a particular frustration due to the sleep tracking capabilities of the Summit Lite. If you want to get a holistic view of your health and fitness, complete with sleep tracking, you’ll have to be savvy about when you charge the watch.

The only saving grace is that the Summit Lite does charge quickly on the magnetic cradle, going from 0-100 in under 90 minutes in my experience.

Find out how we test wearables.

Price & Availability

Here’s the kicker: the Montblanc Summit Lite comes in at an eye-watering £715 (around $995), putting it comfortably at the high end of the wearable market. Hardly 'Lite' in the traditional sense unless you compare it to the £1,040/$1,170 Montblanc Summit 2 Plus.

It shouldn’t come as much of a shock given Montblanc’s premium nature in general and the original Summit we tested back in 2017 was £765, but it is a particularly tough sell considering the outdated processor, one-day battery life and limited tracking tech, especially when you can find much more capable alternatives at literally a fraction of the cost.

Still, the Montblanc Summit Lite offers a gorgeously high-end design and the build quality is superb, and that’s not something that can be said about cheaper rivals. If design and build are what’s most important to you, you can pick up the Montblanc Summit Lite directly from Montblanc in the UK, although it’s not available in the US just yet.

You’ve also got the option of checking out our ranked list of the best smartwatches to make sure you’re getting the right wearable for your needs. The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 and Huawei Watch GT 2 Pro are both excellent and are around half the price.

Verdict

The Montblanc Summit Lite looks great and offers a premium build quality unmatched by much of the competition, and the Montblanc-branded watch faces are a nice touch, but there are only five and even after weeks of use, I can’t justify the astronomical price tag.

The Summit Lite sports the older Wear 3100 chipset, made redundant by the newer 4100, and while that doesn’t present too much of an issue right now, it’ll likely age faster than 4100-equipped wearables. The battery life is a little disappointing too, managing no more than a day on a single charge, despite the apparent focus on health and fitness that relies in part on sleep data.

The biggest disappointment, however, is the half-baked Montblanc fitness tracking. The idea is great, and while select features – like the Cardio Coach and recovery time suggestions – are welcome additions, the limitations of the exercise tracking and the inability to share data with Google Fit, or even view the data on a smartphone, make it difficult to recommend for the fitness-focused among us.

Unless you’ve got your heart set on rocking a Montblanc-branded smartwatch, there are more capable smartwatches available at a much cheaper price point.

Specs

Montblanc Summit Lite: Specs

  • 43mm case
  • 1.2in AMOLED display
  • 390 x 390 resolution
  • Gray or black aluminium body
  • Two side buttons and a working crown
  • Pin buckle strap compatible with 22m straps
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100
  • 1GB RAM
  • 8GB storage
  • HR monitor
  • GPS
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n
  • NFC

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