Fossil's Gen 5-based portfolio is an impressive display of smartwatch diversity
We're used to most companies coming to a trade show, like IFA in Berlin this week, and announcing one or two products. But Fossil Group did what it's really good at: launching a whole slate of new products, across multiple brands and market segments, all at once. Between a pair of announcements, we got Puma's first smartwatch, a Michael Kors fitness watch, and a variety of fashion-focused smartwatches from Michael Kors, Emporio Armani and Diesel.
Fossil is uniquely positioned to address an extremely wide market of people, with designs that span from minimalistic to ostentatious and small to large. Between selling under its own brand, brands it owns, and brands it licenses, Fossil isn't tied into any particular look or constrained by needing to keep a cohesive product portfolio — whatever it thinks people will want, it can probably find a brand to pair with that type of smartwatch.
The new fitness-focused Puma and MKGO watches are both incredibly thin and light. When first picking them up, I thought they were non-functional display units. That's perfect for someone who will want to wear either one constantly even with intense activity, but the MKGO in particular is just a cool watch that would fit in fine at the gym but also throughout the day with a variety of clothing.
Both watches have smaller 1.19-inch displays, like the Fossil Sport, basic straps and in the case of the Puma not even the typical set of three side buttons. They're simple (though not ugly or boring), but there's a market for that, and Fossil could make these because these aren't the only watches it makes — they're just two of dozens from the company.
By having the Puma and MKGO on the small and light side, things can be very different further up the line. With sparkling gold and silver, you can get a chunky and flashy watch from Michael Kors in a handful of different design combinations. Or you can go medium-sized, sleek and stylish with one of the Emporio Armani models; whether it be a formal black-on-black with a link band, or a more casual green finish with a contrasting silicone band.
Showing the complete opposite end of the spectrum from the Puma, you can get an absolutely massive Diesel instead. Sure it looks like a surplus ship porthole cover that was repurposed as a watch, and it's so big you probably couldn't fit a long sleeve over it, but some people want that! Our friend MrMobile was immediately intrigued by these absolute units.
There's variety in size, materials, styling and brand. But no matter what, you get standardized capabilities and features — and it's a good set to build on. The only reason we can see this sort of diversity is that Fossil has standardized its platform across the brands. Each of these is basically a Fossil Gen 5 inside, with components moved around to fit inside the different casing styles. That means you're getting a Wear 3100 platform, solid battery life, NFC, GPS, heart rate monitoring, a speaker and a rotating crown on every one of these smartwatches, no matter what it looks like or which brand is making it.
There's also variety in pricing — ranging from $275 on the low end for the Puma, to around $400 for an Emporio Armani. Most people won't look to the "Fossil Group" as one company and be cross-shopping all of these watches, but that's not the point — people will look for a smartwatch that fits their style preference and personality, and simply see tons of options to choose from. And they get to pick one based on style without having to worry about compromising on features from one to the other.
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A Wear OS watch that's actually worth your time and money.
The Fossil Gen 5 hits (almost) all of the right notes. It has a simplistic yet stylish design, feels great on the wrist, and surprisingly good performance with a healthy set of features. Battery life is adequate at best and the price is a bit steep, but all-in-all, this is an excellent package.
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Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.