In case you hadn’t noticed, life is a little overwhelming right now. We could all do with a way to tune out the noise and that’s not something a smartwatch will necessarily help with, even if they do have their many uses. Enter the new Tissot T-Touch Connect Solar, which strips back the idea of a connected watch to its very essentials while delivering first and foremost on the “watch” part of that equation.
It's the brand’s first entry into the contemporary, crowded smartwatch field – indeed, it's the first wholly “Swiss Made” connected watch from any Swatch Group brand – and it’s a total head turner of a wearable: familiar but distinct, smart but understated, different with a purpose. Having been announced way back in the mid of March, it’s finally ready to see the light of day. We wore a T-Touch Connect Solar for the past fortnight and have a few thoughts on its merits.
If it looks like a watch...
The idea of a hybrid “smartwatch” isn’t a new one. Fossil’s Hybrid HR Collider had a decent crack at the concept last year and the Tissot T-Touch Connect Solar is a classier iteration on the theme, one with a chunky 47mm titanium case, ceramic bezel and a MIP (Memory In Pixel) screen for displaying notifications, weather info and basic activity-tracking details. The whole thing feels surprisingly lightweight on your wrist, while its synthetic buckled strap is super comfortable whether you're working, sprawled out on the couch or running a 5K.
It also looks the part, avoiding the toy-like visage that similar creations can fall into. Most folks probably won’t notice its electronic display at first glance and that’s kind of the point. Although the Connect Solar is available in six colour and strap variations, we’ve been wearing the model with a black dial and orange highlights, which proved a sleek and versatile arrangement. Still, a pair of luminous hands would really add to its nighttime legibility.
Definitely not a smartwatch
Tissot is insistent that the T-Touch Connect Solar is not a smartwatch. It’s “neither a gadget nor a device” according to its marketing spiel and we agree with the spirit of that take. Part of this is a matter of expectation setting: you’re not getting GPS, heart-rate tracking, music playback or the ability to make and receive calls without your phone to hand (most of which are par for the course with smartwatches).
That’s not to say, however, that this Tissot can’t do quite a bit. With the help of that MIP screen it’ll count your steps, work as a compass, show you the temperature outdoors, act as a perpetual calendar, run a timer, display your WhatsApps and a fair bit more. Chances are you won’t want to read full messages and notifications on your wrist here, but you’ll get the basic gist and can assess their importance.
All of these features are accessed using a crown and two pusher buttons on the side of the Connect Solar’s case, which take a bit of time to get your head around but generally make sense once you’re attuned. Honestly, we enjoyed taking a lighter touch to our iPhone notifications on the whole; no one wants to feel like a slave to “breaking news” alerts and YouTube-related procrastination prompts. That said, the lack of a heart-rate monitor does mean this watch’s fitness capabilities were a little lightweight for our liking, albeit with some justification.
Powered by the sun
The big upside to the T-Touch Connect Solar stripped-back ethos is its stamina. Without being connected to your phone it’ll run for an absolute age and when hooked up via Bluetooth it should go for six months without the need for a recharge. Why? The clue is in the name: this watch’s face uses solar cells to draw power from the light around you. So if you resent the need to regularly dig out an obscure dongle to top-up the battery of yet another electrical, problem solved.
Given that six-month battery life, it’s a lot easier to forgive the Connect Solar for any “missing” features. The goal of its designers has clearly been to eke out as much longevity for this watch as possible.
Tissot T-Touch Connect Solar verdict
The Tissot T-Touch Connect Solar is a connected watch that does things differently and there’s a lot to be applauded in that. It looks the part, lasts for an absolute age and delivers most of the basic tracking tools you’d expect. Importantly, it feels like a cohesive creation: something you can really enjoy wearing. We’re looking forward to seeing what Tissot does with the concept next.