Hybrid smartwatches are wearables for those who want the fitness tracking, sleep analysis and notifications of a smartwatch, but without the expense, daily charging and sci-fi film prop looks of something like the Apple Watch 3 or Samsung Gear Sport.
Hybrids offer traditional looks with hidden technology in a case which needs a new battery once a year, yet maintain a constant Bluetooth connection to your smartphone, faithfully feeding a companion phone app with fitness data, sleep analysis and more.
They also offer the perfect opportunity for traditional watchmakers to get in on the smartwatch game. That’s what Fossil has done with the Q Commuter you see here.
Traditional, physical hands chase each other around a regular watch face, while a second dial displays the percentage of your daily step goal completed so far. A vibration motor alerts you to incoming calls, messages and other notifications, and there are three buttons for controlling various aspects of your connected smartphone.
Fossil Q Commuter price and release date
- Price starts at £159 / $155 / AU $279
The watch features traditional lugs and accepts regular 22mm straps, like the brown leather one featured on our review unit, and they are easily changed without tools thanks to a quick-release system.
As well as this model, you can buy the Q Commuter with either a stainless steel bracelet in silver or black, a two-tone gold model with matching face, case and metal strap or a dark grey face with matching case and a dark stainless steel strap similar to the Milanese Loop of the Apple Watch. All of these cost $175 / £179 / AU$299 each.
There are lots of other options though including a dark brown face and matching leather strap, a navy blue face with matching leather strap and rose gold case or a blue face with silver case and tan leather strap for $155 /
£159 / AU$279 each.
Design and display
- Attractive and traditional watch looks, but could be too large for some wrists
- Good range of strap and case colors
To the untrained eye, there is little giving away the Q Commuter’s smartness. The case, strap and face all look as if they are part of a regular watch, but look a little closer and the clues come into focus. The second dial and its ‘hybrid’ branding gives the game away and the crown is actually a button for controlling your phone, as the watch’s time is adjusted automatically.
The Fossil’s brushed metal face looks smart, while the hands and hour markers are clear and easy to read.
However, they do not illuminate in the dark, making it impossible to see the time at night. The orange of the second dial and tips of the hour and minute hands are a pleasing aesthetic touch to what is a very attractive wearable.
At 42mm in diameter, the case is a fairly normal size for a men’s watch, while the 13mm thickness isn’t as intrusive as it sounds. The rear of the case tapers inwards, so it sits neatly on your wrist and doesn’t protrude as much as a typical smartwatch. Gaps between the lugs and case also help to break up the watch’s design, making it seem more compact than it really is.
Where fully fledged smartwatches sometimes draw too much attention to themselves, especially when worn on a slim wrist, we never felt self conscious about wearing the Fossil.
After all, it just looks like a regular watch and isn’t at all bulky or an inconvenience. To that end, it slips neatly beneath a shirt sleeve - something which not all smartwatches can claim to do.
As you can probably tell, we became big fans of the Fossil Q Commuter almost as soon as we strapped it to our wrist.
The leather strap feels of high quality and we reckon it will soften nicely after a few weeks of use. However, we found it often broke free of the single loop holding it in place. The buckle remained securely done up, but the strap would come out from under the loop; a second loop closer to the buckle, as is common on most leather straps, would prevent this from happening quite so often.
The Q Commuter is water resistant to five atmospheres, which means it can be worn while showering and even swimming without causing any internal damage.