Smartwatches that range from chic to geek (pictures)

More than other smart-devices, smartwatches must fuse fashion and function. Here's how 10 try to negotiate that balance.

Ross Rubin
Ross Rubin is principal analyst at Reticle Research, where he analyzes the adoption of consumer technology, and also publishes commentary at his blog, Techspressive.com. Previously, Ross was executive director and principal analyst at The NPD Group and vice president and chief research fellow at Jupiter Research.
Ross Rubin
1 of 11 Martian Watches

Long before smartphones arrived to make handsets beautiful on the inside, phones such as the Motorola Razr and the LG Chocolate tried to make handsets objects of fashion. That's not an optional requirement for smartwatches, which will be seeking to displace wrist-wear that for hundreds of years has been at least as much about fashion as function.

However, just as there isn't one watch brand or model for everyone, smartwatches will fall along many points in a continuum from high fashion to high tech. These will range from models barely distinguishable from today's traditionally styled watches to stuff that looks teleported right out of a science-fiction movie.

Click through our gallery for a look at how a number of the current models fit into the "more chic or more geek?" equation. CNET contributor Ross Rubin's Nerd Factor ratings take you from the smartwatches that are most like the traditional wristwatch to those that are the geekiest.

(The glam shot above shows the Notifier, made by Martian Watches.)

2 of 11 Casio

Casio Edifice (Nerd Factor: 1)

Casio, the driving force behind calculator watches (the multitasking geek-wear of the 1980s), has proceeded with caution after seeing the smartwatch struggles of big watch brands such as Fossil and Swatch. Its Edifice includes Bluetooth capability to connect with an app for time-setting and phone-finding, and that's about it. With such minimal functionality, it's not surprising the timepiece is virtually indistinguishable from many other Casio watches.

3 of 11 Connectedevice

Connectedevice Cookoo and Cogito (Nerd Factor: 2)

Connectedevice has developed an alternative to power-consuming displays that provide detailed notifications. By embedding a half-dozen icons around the watch face, it's come up with gadgets that can tell you what kind of notification you're getting -- but not what the notification is. For that, you'll have to refer back to the phone. The Cookoo (left) and Cogito watches can also reach out to your iPhone or Android for tasks such as music control and remote photo-taking.

4 of 11 Martian Watches

Martian Watches Voice Command and Notifier (Nerd Factor: 3)

Like Connectedevice, Martian Watches makes two watch lines; they're the first in our list to have a digital display, albeit a small one-liner that shares the face with the watch's analog hands. The Martian Watches products can receive notifications from a host of iOS or Android apps, and you can personalize the vibration pattern for different alerts. The Voice Command watch (left) also includes a microphone for activating Siri.

CNET Reviews checked out the Notifier. You can see what the verdict was here. Our Reviews editors also took a look at another Martian model, the Passport. Read about it here.

5 of 11 Pebble

Pebble (Nerd Factor: 4)

Even in its upscale Steel version (above), the Kickstarter darling's chunky buttons belie the fact that the Pebble is a smartwatch. It has a fully addressable display that uses e-paper technology so it can be read in the sunlight without too much struggle or the bright distraction of a color LCD (the watch face you see above is completely digital -- those aren't analog hands). The company has attracted designers responsible for the capable WebOS that once commanded the HP TouchPad and the even bigger screens of LG TVs, so the Pebble may have trouble retaining its uncomputery look.

CNET Reviews weighed in on the Pebble here, and CNET's Scott Stein gave a thumbs-up to the Pebble Steel here.

6 of 11 Samsung

Samsung Gear Live (Nerd Factor: 5)

Like other watches in the inaugural classes of devices powered by Google's Android Wear OS, Samsung's second Android watch (right) has an LCD display and touch gestures that will draw attention (as with the Pebble, there are no analog minute, hour or second hands here). The Galaxy Gear was Samsung's first Android watch -- though an update has since swapped out that operating system for the open-source Tizen OS.

The circular screen of Motorola's Android Wear-powered, all-digital and yet to be released Moto 360 (on the left) may be a lot more stylish, but it's no less geeky in its core operation.

CNET Reviews' take on the Gear Live is here. And Reviews also has some early thoughts about the Moto 360. Those are here.

7 of 11 Qualcomm, Timex

Qualcomm Toq (Nerd Factor: 6)

The Qualcomm Toq (left) is noteworthy for its widescreen display that uses the company's Mirasol technology. The display allows easy daylight readability with the advantage of color and animation. But the high-tech specifications don't end there. While the Toq has no physical buttons, it has touch sensors built into the band and supports wireless charging via a case that can also accommodate a matched set of Bluetooth earbuds. Timex has worked with Qualcomm on the forthcoming Timex Ironman ONE GPS+ fitness smartwatch (right), which brings AT&T cellular connectivity to a watch that incorporates elements of the Toq reference design, such as its Mirasol display.

CNET Reviews checks out the Toq here and the Ironman here.

8 of 11 Samsung

Samsung Gear 2 (Nerd Factor: 7)

This cousin of the Gear Live is based on Tizen, the Linux-based successor to a line of operating systems such as MeeGo and Maemo that have had trouble garnering developer support. So if you want a rich suite of apps, you may have to code them yourself.

Here's CNET Reviews' verdict on the Gear 2.

9 of 11 Samsung

Samsung Gear Fit (Nerd Factor: 8)

Staying with Tizen, the Samsung Fit is a study in contrasts. Its vertically oriented display with curved glass can be easy to miss when it's turned off, but its vibrant colors when turned on will certainly help people notice you; there's nothing else out there that looks quite like it.

Here's CNET Reviews' take.

10 of 11 Neptune

Neptune Pine (Nerd Factor: 9)

While the Gear Neo may look discreet until its display is activated, there's nothing subtle about the Neptune Pine. It's so aware of its ungainly appearance that it labels itself "an experiment in mobile computing." More miniature smartphone than smartphone accessory, the Pine includes a full implementation of Android on its 2.4-inch display, including a tiny digital keyboard fit for those whose fingers have evolved toothpick tips.

11 of 11 Rufus Labs

Rufus Cuff (Nerd Factor: 10)

Why watch when you can do? That might be the motto of the mammoth Rufus Cuff, which is more like a sci-fi armband than a smartwatch. Like the Neptune Pine, the Rufus Cuff includes a full version of Android (KitKat) But dwarfing even the mighty Pine -- with a 3-inch display, front-facing camera and Wi-Fi -- the Cuff protrudes inward on your arm. In fact, users may struggle to see the Cuff 's screen if they wear long sleeves. (The screen is shown in the inset image above.)

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