Movado Bold Motion – The smartwatch we don't have
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Movado Bold Motion – The smartwatch we don't have

Dominik Bärlocher
Zurich, on 12.12.2016
Before a product makes it to our shop, we test it ourselves. Every once in a while, a gadget miserably fails to pass muster. Here's a review of a product that we've banned from our site. The reason? The shortcomings are simply too extreme. The name of the product? Movado Bold Motion.

"Try this on for size", said our product manager Domenico Melina to me one morning. He'd just discovered the Movado Bold Motion. I'm amazed. A smartwatch with a look that is on the same level as high-end watches? Hardware by Movado? Software and engineering by Hewlett Packard (HP)? "Cool", I answer.

We start testing. Will this thing really work? If so, how well? What does it do exactly? How does it do it? Whenever we conduct our product testing, we're not focussing on how many units we'll be able to sell or following the motto "Any old piece of junk is good enough". Rather, we're trying to find a balance.

  • Of course we want to offer as wide a range of products as possible.
  • Of course we want to sell as many units of each product as we possibly can.

What we don't want though is to palm off some shabby piece of scrap metal on our customers. We want you to be sure you're buying a device that lives up to its claims and that you'll be happy with for as long as possible. Yet Domenico Melina and I aren't so sure ourselves when it comes to the Movado Bold Motion. The reviews online are quite divided. Some think it's a fine smartwatch, while others curse its very existence.

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Attractive but controversial: The Movado Bold Motion

Ultimately we know what we've got to do: We'll get our hands on one and test it in-house to see whether it makes the cut. Internet reviews can swing either way, but we know our customers and that's why we can evaluate products far more accurately for them than an anonymous online reviewer. Our usual testing process is to use the product for a few days. We then make a conscious point of thoroughly checking out every single function at least once.

The test results are in – the Movado Bold Motion fails.

Look and Feel

The first thing I noticed when unpacking the Movado Bold Motion was that, instead of resembling a miniature, wearable smartphone, it's designed to look like a classic wristwatch. Its face is a genuine dial, driven by a mechanical clockwork. The computerised components that make up the "smart" parts of the smartwatch are almost invisible. A ring of small LED lights and a circle at 12 o'clock provide notifications to the user.

The Movado Bold Motion does not have a display.

In an age of smartwatches with displays, it's a daring design choice, but it was carried out so consciously that the end product is elegant and well-executed. The Bold Motion promises nothing more in the first place. It vibrates and blinks when you receive a notification and that's it. You can't read notifications, answer calls or play music on it.

In return, you have a watch that looks really fancy. Tastes differ with regard to its silicone wristband, but all in all, the Movado Bold Motion is the most beautiful smartwatch we've seen so far, despite the fact that the turquoise colour of the watchface was either loved or hated by members of our editorial staff. There's apparently no middle ground here.

It's a bit heavier than other watches of the same size, but doesn't fall victim to the usual smartwatch dilemma where the face feels like it's 12 cm thick. A smartwatch's face can only be so wide, because above all it has to fit a human wrist. That's why early smartwatch developers had to increase thickness. As a result, the devices look great if you look straight at the face, but they look clumsy from the side. The Movado Bold Motion is different. It's only the slightest bit thicker than a classic wristwatch.

So, all in all, the Movado Bold Motion's hardware is a feat of watchmaking and engineering. Even if this smartwatch's range of functions cannot hold a candle to its competitors – and intentionally makes no effort to do so – it's still a stylish item that tries to fill the gap between functionality on your wrist and elegance.

The only problem I came across in terms of hardware is the slightly inconvenient fact that I can't charge the device using the fast charger on my desk. It appears to require a connection to a PC.

"Ok, fine", I hear you say, "What's so bad about it then? Doesn't sound too bad to me." And you're right. On the hardware side, I can't find any real faults with the Movado Bold Motion. The problems start where the watch is supposed to be "smart".

The app that does nothing

Yikes. Things have to take a turn here somewhere, because otherwise we'd have written a glowing review, telling you the Movado Bold Motion is the latest must-have. The truth is, it's anything but. That's because the engineers at HP and stakeholders at Movado didn't think any further than the hardware.

The app is frankly an insult to every user. Its functions are so limited they might as well not even be there, but even worse is the first menu item.

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The app. Trust us, you don't want to see the rest.

Menu item number one is simply a call to buy more stuff. Movado, your customers have just paid you a lot of money for this watch. And your first concern is to say, "Give us more money"? Really? Look, you guys are prestigious watchmakers with a tradition of craftsmanship dating back to 1881 – not a cheesy informercial. This is simply beneath you. For real.

But before you want to do anything clever with your Movado Smartwatch, you need to activate GPS on your mobile phone. Otherwise nothing will work. The old trick of "I'll activate it once and after that it'll automatically work without being re-activated" doesn't apply here because the app immediately goes on strike whenever there's no GPS signal. Instead you get a notification icon at the top of your screen that you'll never get rid of.

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As if I'd forget the clock was there

The message that then appears in the notification area isn't much more useful. It basically says "I exist" and that's it. Even when the watch isn't connected to your mobile, the notifications remain.

Updating the software on the watch is also quite a chore. Transferring data wirelessly can lead to all kinds of problems and then the update will fail. With the Movado Bold Motion app, it seems like the update process only works in rare instances, if at all, even when your smartphone is right next to the watch. It's a bit baffling because the app requires the status "watch is connected to power cable". But as we recall, the watch charges by connecting it to a PC or other device with a USB connection for data transfer. It's a mystery to us why the update can't be pushed through the cable connection.

Generally speaking, the connection between the watch and the app likes to cut out. It eventually reconnects on its own, but in the the watch probably needs a little break in between. How do I know the problem lies with the watch and not the phone? Because my Bluetooth headset, which is connected with the phone at the same time, keeps on chugging away.

The "Activity Tracking" feature is abysmal. The watch counts your steps and that's it. The key feature of any smartwatch is communication. But with the Movado smartwatch, all you can do is view your data. Beyond that, nothing. There's no option to export data or process them in any way unless you manually retype them in a universally compatible format.

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At least the step count is more or less accurate.

It's completely legitimate for a manufacturer to decide not to rely on the frameworks created by Google or Apple. Not everyone has to bow down to the two major companies, even if it simplifies things dramatically and rapidly accelerates the development process for new devices. But producing a supposedly communicative watch that only has a communicative appearance is simply not good enough.

The only positive point I can find in the app is its notifications settings. Since I don't want to be bothered by every app that wants to tell me something, I can grant permissions for notifications for every app.

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Notifications, all sorted

A whiff of Galaxy Note 7

Unfortunately the "Permission" function is built into every smartwatch these days. Yet what sets the Movado Bold Motion apart is its ability to transform my smartphone into a hotplate. The first time I tested it, my phone got so hot I had to cut the test short. Having said that, my current phone, a brand new HTC 10 Evo used for testing, survived the heat alright. Even if the Evo tends to run a bit warm, it's never reached a temperature above that of a nice warm bath. By running the Movado app, it shot to a temperature in the range of "Whoa, this thing is cooking", also draining over fifty percent of its battery within a half-hour. The battery normally lasts all day.

I wasn't able to duplicate this behaviour, but the overheating that the app caused on my phone gave me enough reason to worry. So I reported the problem to Domenico Melina. He laughed. Then he said, "Seriously?" Yes, seriously. The only way I could get my phone back to normal was to uninstall the app.

While we're on the subject of batteries: The battery in the watch also works in mysterious ways. The app shows you how much battery power the watch still has. A regular smartwatch shows you on its screen whenever it needs charging – the Movado Bold Motion doesn't. So the engineers at HP had to come up with another solution. What they came up with was a battery-percentage indicator at the bottom of the screen in the app.

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Shortcomings, even here

Doesn't look too bad, right? It's just that I don't trust this battery display. Why not? Because the number must be incorrect. Above you see twenty-nine percent. I connected the watch to my computer and in five minutes it was at one hundred percent. That simply can't be correct. Not even the fast charger on my desk can do that.

Therefore, we won't be offering this watch

The conclusion is clear: This watch simply isn't worth its price. In terms of hardware, it's fantastic, but as soon as the software comes into play, it falls flat. Personally I think it's a real pity, because the watch itself is so beautifully made.

Admittedly, I gave this exact same feedback, with a bit more laughter, to Domenico Melina. After some lame jokes about using my phone as a grill, we turned to the serious question of whether we would actually want to sell the watch. We came to the conclusion that we don't want to do that. We're very aware that most of the items we offer won't necessarily be for everyone (for example, a PlayStation aficionado doesn't have much use for a Nintendo game), but we still only want to offer products that work without technological hiccups. That's why we test them and, in case of any doubts, we take a closer look before deciding to add them to our range.

The Movado Bold Motion doesn't make the cut. It doesn't mean we'll never have a watch from HP or Movado in the future, but for now, this particular product won't be available in our shop. Maybe we'll give it another try when the Bold Motion II comes out. We'll see.

Movado was not available for a comment. Neither by e-mail nor by social media.

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Dominik Bärlocher
Dominik Bärlocher
Senior Editor, Zurich
Journalist. Author. Hacker. A storyteller searching for boundaries, secrets and taboos – putting the world to paper. Not because I can but because I can’t not.

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