Even though smartwatches often rely on a large touchscreen with advanced features, the ScanWatch Horizon goes for a different look, aiming to be classic but still smart. Does it work, and is it worth the price?
The times they are a changing, and the timepieces with them, it seems. Screens both big and small are making their way to your arm, alongside more features, notifications from your phone, and health tracking, arriving to offer something for lots of different purposes.
Consider some of the options right now: the Apple Watch can help you get a health and notification tracker for an iPhone on your wrist, a Samsung Galaxy Watch can do the same for the Android crowd, and Huawei even has a variant that works for both and includes a classic inflating blood pressure monitor in the design. That’s before touching on the good assortment of health tracking bands by the likes of Fitbit, Garmin, Oppo, and so on and so on.
Withings is one of the other options, and it’s one going for a different style of notification, health tracking, and time, with one that’s more classic.
Inspired by and designed to look more like an analogue watch, its trackers fit the original style of a watch because they are one, resembling an original timepiece rather than one of the new screen-topped interpretations of them. It makes them a little bit different, even if the tech inside is just as on-point.
The latest is the ScanWatch Horizon, a variation on a theme that offers a diver style stainless steel look and feel, complete with the metal link band and rotating bezel. It sure is designed for someone who appreciates this style of watch, and offers some water proofing to match. Is it the smartwatch for you?
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Design and features
Withings’ latest may look a little different to your regular screen-topped smartwatch, but if you’ve seen what the company produced before this, it’s very similar.
The ScanWatch Horizon follows the bones set by the first ScanWatch, offering a traditional analogue watch design complete with smartwatch innards for notifications, advanced health tracking, and a small screen to see things on.
Heavier than your typical smartwatch thanks to its stainless steel design topped with sapphire glass, it’s clear the Horizon is heavily inspired by proper analogue watches you can find about the place.
Not quite a TAG or Omega, but definitely built in that style, it features a moving circular bezel so you can time things, though it’s not a tachymeter, marked with the ticks of the clock already, so borrowing from the diving style.
Arriving with two bands in the box, a soft fluoroelastomer and a pre-attached stainless steel link band, the look is definitely more premium, especially with the latter, and even comes with a hammer and pin system to let you change the size of the stainless steel strap without being forced to see a watch specialist.
The whole thing appears quite different from the elegant look we saw on the first ScanWatch, but isn’t a major material shift, using stainless steel and sapphire glass atop on that model, as well.
Inside it’s largely the same, with a small OLED screen largely controlled by the crown on the side of the watch, while the sensors include tracking for your heart rate, blood oxygen (SpO2/pulse oximeter), and electrocardiography (ECG), the latter of which can monitor for signs of atrial fibrillation also known as “AFib”.
It’s also water resistant, down to 100 metres, and features a battery life of up to 30 days, though Withings says an additional 20 days of power are available in a power reserve mode for time and activity tracking, losing the health sensor features and Bluetooth notifications.
While the small screen doesn’t offer much in the way of viewing, the Withings ScanWatch Horizon relies on the Health Mate app to get more details, available for iOS and Android, and the same app you might already be familiar with if you use either the BPM Core+ blood pressure monitor or even the Withings Sleep Analyser.
Take out the watch and set it up, and you’ll find that using the ScanWatch Horizon doesn’t require any complex handling, any manuals, or even maybe a new process to learn. It is pretty simple, and geared at people who have used a watch, not so much a smartwatch.
Pair the Horizon to your phone with the Health Mate app, and it will largely take care of everything for you, setting the electronically-controlled clock hands to the time on your phone and activating itself.
You’ll still need to go into the settings in the app to turn on notifications for messages, for calls, and to switch on the advanced health tracking features, but after that, the whole thing is pretty much as simple as it gets. Simply put, you go about your daily business and the ScanWatch Horizon just works.
Some measurements are always on and always automatic, and others can be triggered, often by pressing the crown, scrolling through a small menu system on that equally small OLED screen.
The ECG feature works in Australia, and is triggered by pressing the crown, scrolling a few screens, pressing it again, and then holding your hand down on one side of the watch for 30 seconds while it checks your vitals, and the same is true for checking SpO2. We found the blood oxygen reading didn’t always work, typically if you were moving your arm a bit, so just keep calm, stay still, and try again.
Controlling the Scanwatch Horizon is easy enough, but that simplicity of menu items and always on feature set means you don’t need to worry about the performance too much.
It largely just works, though sometimes with a hint of lag, popping up at times if you jump between menu times on occasion.
Opening up the main health features is something that barely takes a turn and press if the crown, and each feature whirs into action giving you a bit of a pause before beginning, so you can prepare yourself.
Features such as the ECG and pulse oximeter (SpO2) will need you to hold the watch with your spare hand, so the second or two pause at the beginning is enough to let you adjust and get settled in for a 30 second test, where the watch just does its thing. That’s not a slow down in performance, just the time it takes to do the test.
It’s also what we’ve come to expect, because Withings has already shown us how this should all work in the first model, the standard Scanwatch from nearly two years ago. This is more or less the same, and so performs similarly, as well.
With virtually nothing changing between the models in regards to how the Horizon works in relation to the original Scanwatch, it’s the same situation for the battery.
Up to 30 days of battery life is on offer in the ScanWatch Horizon, though this will vary based on how you use the watch. Trigger the health sensors more often and get your watch notifying you of every alert your phone bats gets, and aside for having an arm vibrate like you’ve been shocked, you’ll find the battery life will diminish a little more.
Throughout our review period, we actually charged the watch up to 50 percent to see if it would last the roughly two weeks we expected. And sure enough, it lasted close to that.
This is one smartwatch battery that bucks the trend set by everything else, with a battery that works for weeks, rather than requiring a charge nightly or the next.
However, the price is a little on the exy side, and sees Withings cashing in on the look, it seems.
While the materials are similar, save for the metal link band you get on the Horizon, the price clearly isn’t. The recommended retail price on the ScanWatch Horizon is $699.99, while the standard ScanWatch has an RRP $200 lower at $499.99, and nothing has really changed between the models beyond design.
It doesn’t really help that the street price of the regular ScanWatch is $200 lower, sitting at $299, charging you more of a premium for something that is clearly the same, but in a different design.
We’re not sure that’s necessarily “value”, so to speak, even if it is a good looking model health monitor and time piece.
What needs work?
Frankly, two years on, we’d hoped Withings would have tweaked the formula a little, if only to account for that value beyond the diver design.
The rotating bezel is nice, but it doesn’t bring the value up in our mind, especially when there are other things it could have added, such as support for a mobile payments platform, an on-board GPS you could choose to use if you wanted (it relies on a phone), and maybe even a microphone and speaker.
Adding that last one could have offered just that little bit extra. We’re not sure how often we’d have used it, but at least it would bring the feature set up a little, and price the watch more like what Withings is suggesting.
Final thoughts (TLDR)
Largely a new wardrobe for the excellent Withings Scanwatch, the Scanwatch Horizon provides a different take made for those who prefer the diver style of watch.
Make no mistake, the Scanwatch Horizon is a lovely health-focused watch wrapped in a beautiful metal body. It looks and feels premium, and delivers a style more like a classic analogue watch than any smartwatch out there.
While it lacks some of the niceties you might expect in a smartwatch today and the price feels a touch high, it gets the style, battery, and health features right.
The ScanWatch Horizon is just as good as its sibling: still great in a sleek style. It’s smart and classic, something you can seriously get into. Honestly, you might never take it off. Highly recommended.