Tissot is a pretty big deal in the traditional watch world, and now the Swatch-owned brand has its first hybrid smartwatch.
It boasts a screen that runs behind actual hands, which enable you to tell the time at a glance. But this isn’t the full Swiss OS we’ve been waiting for since 2018, but a pared back version that delivers basic smarts.
The Solar is a hybrid smartwatch as opposed to the full fat kind we had been anticipating. Mixing traditional watch making with a digital display is a formula we’ve seen before. And as the name suggests, it uses the power of the sun to boost battery life way beyond normal smartwatches.
So does the T-Touch Connect Solar that costs from $880 offer something new to the world of hybrids? We’ve been living with one to see what the Connect Solar is made of.
Tissot T-Touch Connect Solar: Design and screen
The T-Touch range is designed with hikers and general lovers for the outdoors in mind, so the Connect Solar joins the T-Touch II and Expert Solar in offering that mix of traditional watch look with a display baked into the bottom half of the watch face.
There’s five different looks available all packing a pretty sizeable 47mm titanium case that measures in at 15.3mm thick. While it’s the same size as something like the Garmin Fenix 6, it certainly a much bulkier prospect and on our skinny wrists it felt on the heavy side to wear.
For that quite substantial financial outlay, you’re getting a ceramic bezel, scratch-resistant sapphire crystal glass paired up with a silicone strap that cannot be removed. It remains faithful to the T-Touch look and if you like something that sits big and bold on your wrist, it certainly delivers on that front.
Dropped into the bottom half of the watch face is a memory pixel digital touchscreen display that can also be controlled by the crown and two physical buttons the side of the display.
Much like Garmin, Withings and Alpina’s hybrid watches, the analogue watch hands dynamically move out of the way to ensure you can freely view the display. The screen itself doesn’t feel particularly high quality however and we’ve certainly seen this approach better executed elsewhere.
The T-Touch in the name signals this is another watch that benefits from Tissot’s tactile watch design, which essentially means you can press one of a series of pressure sensitive areas placed around the screen to adjust settings like Bluetooth connection with your phone, adjusting watch vibration and turning on airplane mode.
You can also use it to start calibration of outdoor sensors or to check your move and goal fitness tracking alerts. There’s also the option to use it to set up a password where you can press the different tactile areas to unlock access to the watch too.
Once you’ve pressed one of the physical buttons on the side, you can then simply tap on the tactile areas to illuminate the display, which will show off the chosen feature. It’s a discreet way to add extra functionality without sacrificing the design.
To add to its rugged prowess, the Connect Solar does come with a 10ATM water resistant rating making it safe to take for a dip up to 100 metre depth.
The Connect Solar clearly sits well with the other watches in its range. It’s got that same big, rugged look that’ll appeal to outdoor lovers. As a hybrid smartwatch and what else it out there, it certainly doesn’t have the highest quality display we’ve seen, though the tactile features while not new to the range are an interesting to adding access to connected features.
Tissot T-Touch Connect Solar: Smartwatch features
The Connect Solar runs on Swatch’s proprietary SwALPS operating system, which stands for Swiss Autonomous Low Power System.
So it’s not the Swiss OS we were expecting to see and have been talking about over the last couple of years. It seems Swatch scaled down its ambitions to make something that would rival Apple’s watchOS or Google’s Wear OS.
To get things up running from a smartwatch point of view, you’ll need to download the T-Connect smartphone app, which is available for Android, iOS and will soon work with Huawei’s Harmony OS platform as well. We used it with an Android phone in our time testing with it.
Setting up was pretty painless. We didn’t have any issues pairing or syncing the watch and it didn’t take too long to get it up and running. The app is broken into four sections. the first shows off timezones displayed on the watch and recent activity tracking data. The second sections lets you set alarms with the third section dedicated to your activity tracking data. Last up are your settings, which is all pretty standard fare.
On the watch, it’s pretty basic in terms of the smartwatch features you have at your disposal. You’re getting notifications, the ability to reject and accept calls and that’s really your lot.
For notifications, you’ll hear a pinging noise (which you can turn off) when they come through and you can use the crown to scroll through the notification, though you can’t read the whole notification in most instances.
You’re getting a source of the notification and a few words and then the option to clear. Ultimately, you’re going to need to go to your phone to read and it’s not hugely useful. It also shows the inconsistent use of when the display is touch responsive for some things and not for other things.
Outside of notifications, you’re getting access to a small bunch of settings, but it’s really not much of a smartwatch experience at all. Fellow Swiss brand Alpina in comparison has done a more successful job in our eyes of bringing those smartwatch features to an outdoor watch.
Tissot T-Touch Connect Solar: Outdoor features and fitness tracking
Tissot shifts its focus more on being of better use when you’re exploring. It also offers some basic fitness tracking, letting you count steps, track distance and monitor calories burned. There’s no automatic sleep monitoring, though we’re not sure we’d want to wear this in bed anyway.
We wore it alongside a Fitbit Sense smartwatch and found that step tracking was generally within 500-1,000 steps on most days. It was never identical, but it wasn’t so wildly off that we felt it was over or underestimating those counts. There’s nothing in the way of inactivity alerts to keep you moving during the day and it really is down to the basics.
Step tracking compared: Tissot T-Touch Connect Solar (left) and Fitbit Sense (right)
There’s no sports tracking features here at all, but there is a barometer to offer weather data and altimeter to deliver elevation data when out on your hikes.
A navigation feature, which can be activated from the watch is made up essentially of a compass that you need to calibrate. The watch hands will then act as your compass to get you heading in the right direction.
Like its smartwatch powers, it’s ultimately light on outdoor and fitness features that feel groundbreaking or all that exciting.
Tissot T-Touch Connect Solar: Battery life
The Solar in the name is your indication that it uses solar power to keep it charged for as much as 6 months. It does come with a charging dock that we initially had to use to power it up, but since then we’ve had no reason to grab it at all.
Annoyingly, there’s no obvious way to gauge battery status on the watch, so it would be nice to have the option to get a sense of how much battery you’re playing with.
Tissot T-Touch Connect Solar
The Swatch Group has kept us waiting to play its smartwatch hand and as a starting point, there’s clearly still work to be done. The T-Touch Connect Solar gets some things right on the design front, but its smartwatch powers are very underwhelming and we were hoping for much more. What is there works, the problem is you can get a richer hybrid smartwatch experience elsewhere. It’s a start, but we want to see much more if the Swatch Group and Tissot pursue are fully behind making this work and offering something better than what’s already out there.
- Attractive, typically Tissot design
- Tactile feature shows potential
- Big battery life
- Very basic smartwatch features
- Display doesn’t feel high quality
- Limited notification support