The trouble with fitness bands is that they're mostly a bit dumb.
Sure, they can tell you how many 'points' you've earned in a day, and have a stab at estimating the calories you've expended based on a few bits of data you've entered, but they're basically dressed up pedometers with nice apps. Not so the Wellness Watch.
In addition to the usual accelerometer and other movement sensors, the Wellness Watch has a built-in heart rate monitor (like the Withings Pulse), which means it can build a clearer picture of your health status, so it's an altogether more powerful training tool. And, oddly, it looks like anything but.
Sapphire glass, aluminium and a heart rate monitor
The Wellness Watch is quite thick but otherwise pretty dinky. It's shrouded in aluminium (the back), stainless steel (the front) and sapphire crystal glass (the 1.26in screen). The latter is famously nearly unscratchable, which is why it's already used in pricey watches and the iPhone 5s' TouchID sensor. We reckon it's set to become the de facto smartwatch screen material.
The 168x144 monochrome screen is of a similar resolution to the Pebble's, and is navigated via a pair of buttons on the right-hand side of the watch. The screens variously tell you how active you've been in the day, breaks down activity hour by hour, shows your heart rate, estimates your fitness level compared to other people in your age range, a stopwatch and more.
It stores all of this data for up to four months, and also syncs it to an iOS and Android-compatible app via Bluetooth LE for longer term progress monitoring. The app provides some pretty extensive information about exactly what kind of exercise you've done in a day and which part of your run was most effective, and it's elegantly designed.
There's no GPS in the Wellness Watch, which means it's not going to be as accurate at tracking the distance your schlepped as a full-featured running watch, but the plus side is a claimed battery life of two weeks from its 240mAh rechargeable battery.
First thoughts: Wellness Watch
There's much to like about the Wellness, but its price will be a sticking point. At US$320 it's more than a Samsung Galaxy Gear, twice as much as a Pebble and more than three times the price of a Withings Pulse, despite its relatively limited feature set.
Sure, the materials are genuinely nice - the shape of things to come for smart watches of the future - but anyone spending this much can rightfully expect a bit more. Notifications from a connected phone, for starters.
Still, if you're feeling flush and are in the market for a smarter fitness band, you should be able to pick up the Wellness from April.