The Withings ScanWatch Horizon feels like a well-built, premium, classical timepiece.
Until the screen lights up, it’s easy to miss that there’s anything smart about it – and that’s a big part of its appeal.
Withings ScanWatch Horizon
Price: £499.95 / withings.com
- Premium styling
- Excellent battery life
- HR, ECG and SpO2 tracking
- 10 ATM water resistance
- No standalone GPS
- Sleep-tracking limitations
- Stainless steel band scratches
MF rating: 4/5
If it isn’t a smartwatch, and it isn’t a fitness tracker, then what is the Withings ScanWatch Horizon? The classically styled timepiece looks very traditional, giving us Omega Seamaster energy with a digital twist. Inside its stainless steel body, though, there’s an advanced fitness tracker, complete with sensors you’d more typically associate with an Apple Watch.
Pair the ScanWatch Horizon with your smartphone to unlock its heart rate, SpO2 and ECG monitoring, as well as exercise, step and sleep tracking. It can also piggyback off your phone’s GPS to track runs, cycles and other outdoor sports more accurately.
At just shy of £500, Withings’ pricing might not phase classical watch buyers, but it’s in the upper band for smartwatches. Missing out on smart features like an app store for third-party services and a colour display, though, is the ScanWatch Horizon a perfect blend of smart and traditional, or is it a marriage of compromises?
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What is the Withings ScanWatch Horizon?
To look at, the Withings ScanWatch Horizon is a watch first and foremost. Its confidence-inspiring stainless steel body houses all the watch brains. There’s a rotating bezel, a brass dial for step tracking, hands that glow in the dark, and the screen’s made of tough sapphire glass. It’s also 10 ATM waterproof, making it handy for tracking swims.
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Like a fitness tracker, the Withings ScanWatch Horizon can relay notifications from your Android or iOS smartphone. When you get an alert, the watch vibrates and displays it in a ticker-style, scrolling across the small, monochrome PLED screen in the top half of the watch face.
In the box you get two straps, a stainless steel band and a durable and water-resistant fluoroelastomer (FKM) band for exercise and sleeping. The watch comes with all the kit you need to switch out links and resize your watch band, so you’ll be able to hit the ground running with the right fit.
From the watch, you can activate a bunch of health measuring features. These include heart rate (BPM), medical-grade SpO2 (blood oxygen saturation) tracking, and ECG recording. Passively, the ScanWatch also tracks sleep, steps (and distance), as well as calorie expenditure and elevation (in metres and floors climbed).
While the watch doesn’t have a GPS, it can work with your phone’s to track outdoor activity, and if you forget to fire up tracking, it can automatically detect runs and swims.
The real hook with the ScanWatch Horizon is its battery life, though. By dialling back some smarts, Withings promises more than 30 days from a single charge – vastly better than an Apple Watch’s 18 hours.
How does the Withings ScanWatch Horizon work?
At the heart of the ScanWatch Horizon experience is the Withings Health Mate app. If you’ve got other Withings tech – scales, blood pressure monitors or digital thermometers – it’s one app for all the kit, which is a good start. We have an old set of Withings smart scales from 2015, and Health Mate synced our profile with the ScanWatch Horizon out of the gate for more accurate tracking – a nice touch.
What’s great is how many services Withings Health Mate syncs with. If you’re using an Android phone, data links to Google Fit, IFTTT and Samsung Health, and iPhones sync with Apple Health. Better still, both operating systems support MyFitnessPal, Nest, RunKeeper, and Strava integration, which is much better than some alternatives, like the Huawei Watch GT 3 Pro.
Onto the watch itself, and the digital crown on the right side also doubles up as a button, and you can work your way through the watch’s interface with a series of presses and scrolls. It all feels simple and intuitive, though pared back and a bit clunky when compared to a touchscreen smartwatch.
To measure your heart rate, you can simply wear the watch as normal. Accessing SpO2 and ECG results requires the opposite hand to rest on the side of the watch for 30 seconds while stationary. Nothing about the experience left us confused, or didn’t work during our time with it.
Is the Withings ScanWatch Horizon any good?
The watch itself feels like a well-built, premium, classical timepiece. Until the screen lights up, it’s easy to miss that there’s anything smart about it, and that’s definitely part of its appeal.
Available with either blue or green accents, we tested the blue option, and it looks more subdued than the pictures on Withings’ website suggest. It’s navy in all but the brightest light, when its metallic glint shines through. We also found the default link band comfortable enough for sleeping and running.
It’s much better to think of the Withings ScanWatch Horizon as a seriously premium fitness tracker rather than a smartwatch or sports watch alternative. When we went running with it, while its heart rate tracking was accurate for a wrist-based device, a glance at our wrist didn’t display our progress or a map – we had to press a button and squint to see how we were doing. Even when we fired the screen up, a very limited amount of information could be displayed on the tiny panel.
The lack of a GPS means accurate distance tracking requires a phone to be linked to the watch when running or cycling – not great if you want to leave your mobile behind. In turn, the Withings ScanWatch Horizon isn’t a standalone option for gadget fiends or fitness enthusiasts after excellent connectivity or loads of metrics.
We would have also liked more nuanced sleep tracking from the watch. For starters, it doesn’t track REM sleep – just deep and light – and it was also less accurate than the Huawei Watch GT 3, reading restless awake time as time asleep. That being said, the other metrics the watch captured were accurate when compared against a chest strap (heart rate), an Apple Watch (SpO2 and ECG), and a Huawei Watch GT 3 (step tracking).
As for the battery life, it’s a revelation if you’re coming from an Apple Watch. When we first set up the Withings ScanWatch Horizon, the battery depleted quicker than anticipated. After one battery cycle, though, and a few workouts every week, it’s on track to last more than 24 days.
Should I buy the Withings ScanWatch Horizon?
It’s easy to recommend the ScanWatch Horizon to anyone looking for a fine-looking timepiece packed with wellness smarts. With its high price, it won’t be for everyone, and it isn’t a do-it-all sports watch like the Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar. Neither is it an app-supporting smartwatch.
Once you get comfortable with exactly what the ScanWatch Horizon is, and isn’t, you can decide whether you want a great-looking wearable that helps you casually track your health data without needing a daily or weekly charge.
Words: Basil Kronfli