Michael Kors is one of the few designer brands that’s managed to bring out fashion-focused smartwatches packed with features that we – sometimes – genuinely want to wear.
Michael Kors is one of the Fossil Brand army of fashion houses, and has gone all-in on fashion heavy smartwatches. Its focus is on the less techy crowd, who aren’t so worried about specs, screen pixel densities or cutting edge health features. It wants those that are looking for a fashion watch first, with smart features as a bonus.
Fossil smartwatches are currently on Gen 5 hardware – and now Michael Kors has updated two of its lines to run on the latest hardware: the sportier Gen 5E MKGO and sparkling statement Darci Gen 5E Smartwatch.
Michael Kors Gen 5E Darci is packing the same internal smarts as the Fossil Gen 5E smartwatches, which means there have been updates to size and performance over previous models.
Let’s be up front. None of the MK smartwatches we’ve reviewed can compete with the likes of the best smartwatches out right now in terms of features and fitness tracking, including the Apple Watch Series 6 or the Garmin Venu 2 – but they’re aimed at different audiences.
We tested the Gen 5E Darci to find out whether it performs as a smartwatch and a statement watch.
Michael Kors Darci Gen 5E: Design and screen
This watch is big, bold and blingy. It weighs a whopping 112g, which felt very heavy during the first day of wear. We got used to it, but one thing is clear: this is for those who want the premium look and feel of a designer watch.
If you’re attracted to the smarts but usually opt for something light and minimal, the Gen 5E Darci is unlikely to suit you.
Size-wise, the watch is 43mm with a 1.19-inch AMOLED screen. There’s a pavé-studded bezel and a crown on the side with the MK logo etched into it. Push it to open up an app menu or long-press to activate Google Assistant.
The watch case is 20mm thick, which is much chunkier than nearly any of its rivals. Although this does stick up off your wrist, it didn’t catch on things throughout the day – and standing out is the whole point of the Gen 5E Darci.
The casing is made of stainless steel and has a stainless steel 7-link bracelet. The watch comes in rose gold, gold, silver and two-tone rose gold and silver. We had to have five links removed, so that’s worth bearing in mind if you have smaller wrists.
The watch is water-resistant to 5ATM, and the Michael Kors website says it has “swimproof technology”, so feel free to wear it in the pool or shower. But don’t take it diving or expose it to water for longer than a swim session.
Michael Kors Darci Gen 5E: Wear OS and Michael Kors extras
On the inside of the Gen 5E Darci, you’ll find the same smarts as the Fossil Gen 5E smartwatch, including a Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100 processor and 512MB of RAM. Performance was good and felt improved on previous versions of Michael Kors smartwatches.
There is a 4100 processor out now, and we’ll likely see this on Fossil Gen 6 devices at the end of 2021 or early 2022 – so that’s something to bear in mind. But again, if you’re studying the tech specs list, the Darci 5E will come up short against rivals.
It runs on Google’s Wear OS operating system, which means you’ll need to download Google’s Wear OS app onto your phone to get it up and running – as well as Google Fit for fitness features. Another word of warning: Google has announced a big update to Wear OS launching at the end of this year, but there’s no guarantee this watch will get that update.
You can pair the watch with an Android phone or an iPhone, and Wear OS allows you to read notifications from your wrist, download apps and monitor your health and fitness, as well as much more.
Although it does work with Android and iPhone, a few features work best with Android devices; this includes Google Pay (there’s NFC on board).
The app selection isn’t quite up to the standards of the Apple Watch app store, but there’s plenty to browse and it makes the Darci 5E a lot more useful. You can check out our guide to the best Wear OS apps.
There’s a built-in speaker, which alerts you to calls that you can either accept or reject from your wrist. This feature is handy if you don’t want to keep checking your phone all the time for calls as well as notifications, or if your smartphone is tucked away in your bag.
However, answering calls from the wrist was far from seamless. Our phone rang for 8 to 10 seconds before it registered on the watch and the connection was also slow, which isn’t a great experience.
Fitness tracking and GPS
If you want a Michael Kors watch geared up for fitness, look at the MKGO Gen 5E instead. Its strap and design is, at least in our opinion, much better for working out.
The Darci Gen 5E isn’t workout-friendly. It’s heavy and the metal is uncomfortable when you’re sweating. However, there are fitness tracking features on board if you can handle the weight.
Thanks to Google Fit, you’ve got different types of fitness tracking on board, including walking, HIIT, weight training and yoga.
But you can use a third-party app for tracking too, if you’re not a fan of Google Fit. The service is extremely basic compared to what you’ll find on a Garmin, Apple or Fitbit smartwatch.
There’s connected GPS – which means you need your phone with you for it to work. This was quick and acquired location within seconds in an area that sometimes causes problems. Distance was accurate too, as was the map that was produced in the Google Fit app shortly after we completed a workout.
An optical heart rate monitor takes readings on the spot and whilst you workout. We found these to be accurate overall, even if it did seem like it didn’t react as quickly as the device we used as a test – the Whoop Band 3.0.
The two devices recorded similar heart rate readings during a 40 minute spinning session. The Whoop Band 3.0 recorded an average of 118bpm throughout the session, the Darci 120bpm. The Whoop recorded a high of 145bpm and the Darci 142bpm. If you really start pushing your heart rate up and down the sensor will start to produce less accurate data – but as a general guide of effort on steady workouts, the sensor is good enough.
Even though the design doesn’t feel cut out for fitness, the rest of the watch performs well.
The Gen 5E Darci can track sleep too, but the battery won’t last through the night and it’s far too heavy and uncomfortable to wear to bed.
Michael Kors Darci Gen 5E: Battery life
Michael Kors promises 24 hours of battery. After tracking a walk and a 45-minute workout, it lasted 22.5 hours, then it switched to one of its helpful battery saving modes and became just a regular old dumb watch – so the screen displayed the time and nothing else.
As with all smartwatches, the rate the battery drains depends on how you use it. For example, dialling up the brightness and using the watch for fitness tracking can drain it quickly.
We used the Darci Gen 5E to track a 45-minute workout – so the heart rate monitor was being put to work – and it went from 29% battery down to 20%. That’s a pretty significant leap, especially if you’re going to regularly use the fitness tracking features.
Just over a day’s worth of battery life is what you’d expect from a Michael Kors smartwatch, as well as Fossil’s Gen 5E watches. It’s similar to the battery life you’d expect from the likes of the latest Apple Watch Series 6 as well. But it still means regular charging, and if that isn’t for you, it might be worth trying alternatives that last longer, like the Fossil Hybrid HR or a smartwatch that looks more like a fitness tracker, like the Fitbit Versa 3.
To charge it, you need to connect a circular USB charger to the back of the watch, which clicks into position thanks to a magnet. You can expect to go from zero to full in around an hour and 10 minutes in terms of charging.
Michael Kors Darci Gen 5E
By Michael Kors
This is a big, bold designer watch from Michael Kors. You really have to be all-in on the design because it’s heavy and sparkly. It’s a statement smartwatch – and let’s face it, there aren’t many of those on the market. In terms of smart features, Wear OS lags the likes of the Apple Watch, and fitness features pale in comparison to Fitbit and Garmin. But the overall experience is simple and easy to use. If you’re looking for statement watch with that can track steps, offer apps on the wrist and let you know when your phone’s ringing, the Darci 5E does the job.
- Really stands out
- Great big screen
- Nice watch faces
- HR tracking is good
- A very specific look and feel
- Hard to use for fitness
- Single day battery life