Skagen Hagen Connected: hands-on with the seriously analog-looking hybrid smartwatch


When the world transitioned from using standard cellphones that did little more than make calls, send texts, and maybe play a little Snake to full-blown, sky's-the-limit smartphones, it was a big adjustment, but one we quickly embraced. Sure, form factors changed, and batteries didn't last quite as long as they used to, but our relationship with mobile phones was still new – and as a society, we largely found ourselves happy to make the adjustment.

But wearables have been a trickier nut to crack, and with decades and decades of wristwatch history behind them, it's been difficult for smartwatches to land on the scene and convince everyone that they're desirable replacements for simple timepieces. The reasons for resistance are familiar ones: they're bulky, not always particularly attractive, and while old-fashioned watches had battery lives that could sometimes be measured in years, smartwatches are lucky if they can go two days between charges.

Until engineering tech catches up with our ambitions, manufacturers are taking some creative approaches to making connected wearables that still deliver the smart features we crave, while building them into a form factor that melds well with our long-ingrained expectations for how a watch should look and feel. This year at IFA 2016, we checked out a number of wearables trying to do just that, including the new Hagen Connected from Skagen and Fossil.

Perhaps the most striking thing about the Hagen Connected watch is how very un-smartwatch it looks like. Case in point: there's no display to be found. Earlier hybrid watches that attempted to give us some smarwatch-connected features (while stopping short of anything like app support) tried cramming in tiny screens to convey their information – think models like the Martian Notifier. Instead, the Hagen Connected communicates with its wearer through analog watch-hand positions, as well as a vibrating alert motor.

Say you're getting an incoming call on your smartphone from your mom; rather than using a text display to spell out mom's name, the Hagen Connected can point to a pre-set position on one of its dials to signify her identity. While that limits the number of contacts you can easily identify in this manner, it should suffice for the most important ones in your life.

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That watch-connectedness goes the other way, too, and you can control your smartphone remotely with the watch's buttons. Using the companion app's custom-link option, you can do things like trigger the shutter on your phone's camera right from your watch. Phone compatibility extends across both Android and iOS platforms.

Skagen also builds some activity tracking into its wearable, recognizing motion and counting steps. Beyond letting you use that data in smartphone apps, the watch itself can let you know how close you are to meeting things like step-count goals, displaying your progress on a sub-dial.

As for battery life, you can forget about charging. Thanks to its streamlined feature set and lack of a display, the Hagen Connected runs on a regular non-rechargable watch battery. It's designed to be easily replaceable without complicated tools, and should net you about six months of operation before needing to be swapped out. That alone gives it what could be a huge lead over other connected wearables.

If there's one big downside, beyond the limited feature set, it's that despite all the effort gone into making the Hagen Connected look and feel like a traditional watch, it's still noticeably thick. Maybe some shoppers dig the chunky-watch look, but for as stylish as the rest of this model looks, it's hard to get over a profile that looks more like a big-ol' Android Wear model than a slim tracker. If you can get over that issue, though, there's a lot to like here. Pricing starts under $200, with the Hagen Connected arriving later this month.

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