What you need to know
- New always-on display shows steps, weather, messages and a timer, and includes a backlight.
- Battery life reaches over two weeks on average, even with step and heart rate tracking.
- Pricing starts at $195, and goes up from there depending on style and band choices.
Fossil has quietly offered a wide range of "hybrid" smartwatches that offer basic smartwatch-like functionality but forego the screen and full-featured operating system in favor of classic watch designs, lower prices and much longer battery life. But now it has a new offering to further bridge the gap between those hybrid smartwatches and its lineup of Wear OS devices: the Hybrid HR, which brings an always-on display and heart rate monitoring to the mix.
The new Hybrid HR comes in two main case designs: the Charter has more of a feminine look with a gold case, white dial and smaller 18 mm lugs, while the Collider is more masculine with a dark grey finish, brown dial and larger 22 mm lugs. They're otherwise identical with a 42 mm case size, 11 mm thickness and stainless steel construction.
You could easily glance at this watch and not notice that it actually has a display embedded in the dial. There's a black-and-white E Ink-like (Fossil doesn't disclose the tech being used) display that's just over an inch across and fully surrounded by the physical marked dial and punctured by the hands in the middle. The hands are fully mechanical like the rest of its hybrid watches, so you get that mechanical watch look and read time using the physical dial rather than the display portion.
The display can be customized to show various information in a set of complications, including time zones, step count, weather, heart rate, calendar and more. And when you get a message or call, it's displayed on your watch as you'd expect. And naturally, the watch hands can move out of the way on demand — as soon as you navigate through the interface using the side buttons, or flick your wrist, the hands move to 3 and 9 to let you see as much as possible. When you're done, they move back to the current time. The display isn't illuminated all the time because it really doesn't need to be, but there is a front light available that can come on at any time with a hearty double-tap on the center of the watch crystal.
Despite having a basic display and limited operating system compared to full-on smartwatches, there's a considerable amount of functionality packed into the Hybrid HR. There's heart rate monitoring, step tracking, workout tracking, notifications and . Like its other hybrid watches you can see all of the data it collects in the companion app on your phone — which also syncs up with Google Fit and MapMyFitness — but now with a display you'll be hopping to your phone far less often to get the basics done.
The big hybrid watch benefit, battery life, carries over here — the Hybrid HR battery lasts two weeks on average, and recharges from dead to full in just an hour. So you really won't have to think about battery life on this thing anywhere near as often as you do any other smartwatch or even fitness band.
The best thing Fossil brings to the table with its hybrid smartwatches is design and quality materials that you'd expect from a similarly-priced fully-mechanical watch from the company. Both models look and feel great, befitting the $195 starting price; and without the front light turned on the always-on display portion of the dial blends in rather well and doesn't really detract from the mechanical look.
The smart functionality clearly takes a back seat to the overall design, but not everyone wants or needs a full-blown smartwatch with a color display and robust fitness tracking — nor the inherent compromises of daylight visibility or short battery life that come with it. Considering the price and functionality, the new Hybrid HR can be a really nice middle ground for people who need more than a typical low-end hybrid watch but don't need to go all the way to the capabilities (and price) of a full-display smartwatch.
The new Hybrid HR models are available from Fossil right away, with a variety of watch bands to choose from that complement the two case designs.
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Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.