A modern smartwatch – like Samsung’s Galaxy Watch series or the Apple Watch lineup – may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Such watches deliver a barrage of notifications (which can be turned off), have an always-on-display, and buzz if you don’t get up from your seat for over an hour. On the flip side, there are watches – from the likes of Garmin – which focus purely on fitness.
For those in the middle (also known as the traditionalists), there are hybrid watches available in the market. The Gen 6 Hybrid from Fossil aims to bridge the gap between a traditional watch and a smartwatch. Most importantly, the Gen 6 Hybrid is a wearable you can carry around for days without having to hunt for its charger. It’s got two weeks of battery life, an e-ink display (bright enough for the outdoor sunlight) and certain ‘smart’ features to boot. On top of all this, the Gen 6 Hybrid does basic fitness, sleep-tracking, can measure blood oxygen and has a new heart rate sensor.
To me, a hybrid watch is primarily defined by its looks. People buying hybrid watches hardly care about notifications and do rarely need detailed fitness tracking. The Gen 6 Hybrid has a sleek look to it. In some senses, it could be called classy, but wear it for long enough and you will begin to find it a little too chunky. My review unit came with a stainless steel strap that felt comfortable for the most part.
My favourite thing about the Gen 6 Hybrid is that it uses an e-ink display. The watch features a 0.94-inch display with a resolution of 254ppi. E-ink displays have two major advantages. The first is the battery life. With the Gen 6 Hybrid, I only had to reach for the charger every third week or so. Second, outdoor readability. A problem with lots of smartphones and smartwatches is that sometimes you’ve got to strain your eyes to read the text under the harsh rays of the sun. With the Gen 6 Hybrid, that is a problem of the past.
The Gen 6 Hybrid doesn’t pretend to be a full-fledged smartwatch. It’s got a microphone (which can be used for voice commands, not for making calls) but no speaker. There’s also no GPS for tracking your walks and runs. There’s also no mobile with LTE available. The display is also tiny, which means that reading notifications is a tiresome experience.
The one good thing that Fossil has done is to deliver a much better dashboard. Yes, it may resemble the Galaxy Watch’s interface, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s a circular menu that is far easier to scroll and find the exact features you’d want to use. Learning to use the Gen 6 Hybrid takes a bit of time compared to something like the Galaxy Watch. There are three buttons – one of which looks like a crown – that are to be used for navigating the in-house operating system.
With the Gen 6 Hybrid, I can track my exercise (runs, walks, etc in terms of steps), my heart rate, measure my blood oxygen levels with the Sp02 sensor and my sleep. Whilst step tracking was fairly accurate, I felt like the sleep tracking was off, compared to the Galaxy Watch’s readings.
The display may be easier on the eyes but it is not backlit. Trying to view any information in the dark is a strain on the eyes. A double tap on the glass activates a light, which illuminates for barely five seconds. I had to tap pretty hard at times to activate the lights.
Personally, I wouldn’t be using the Gen 6 Hybrid while running or working out. This is a watch that is best suited to get you on your feet more often than not and to nudge you toward some sort of regular exercise regime. It’s not meant to do more and that’s perfectly alright. Thanks to the watch being 3ATM water resistant, I didn’t have to take it off while jumping in a quick shower or running around in Bangalore’s unending rains.
Fossil has found a middle ground with the Gen 6 Hybrid, matching the charm of a mechanical watch with some, if not many, new-age smart features.
At the end of the day, the Gen 6 Hybrid has put me in a conundrum. It’s a hybrid watch with a very specific user base. It may be a watch that can be worn for all occasions, but it is chunky and will ultimately weigh down upon your hand. On the other hand, the Gen 6 Hybrid is way more accurate than most other hybrid watches I’ve tested in the past and has a long-lasting battery life.
Ultimately, I think that the price of the Gen 6 Hybrid will be the number one deciding factor for most because it doesn’t come cheap. At ₹18,595, the Gen 6 Hybrid is quite pricey, especially when compared to other smartwatches on the market. It’s a niche hybrid smartwatch that serves its purpose well for the intended target audience.
Sahil Bhalla is a Delhi-based journalist