Review: Sequent Elektron HR 2.2
I’ll be completely honest right from the start: the reason I have this watch here in my hands right now is because I’m a completely superficial person. Scrolling through Instagram, I saw the NASA logo, I saw it on a watch, and my brain had already decided I wanted to know more. Can this Sequent Elektron HR 2.2 live up to the NASA name?
It seems that everything is smart these days. Well, perhaps it does to me. Smart toasters, smart lightbulbs, smart televisions, simultaneously offering to simplify your life whilst making it so much more complicated. We live in an era where your fridge can tell you you’re out of milk and, oh, by the way, that your stocks have plummeted, too. Thanks fridge. I don’t think I want that milk after all.
With computerisation rolling out from the 1950s on, we were promised a utopian future where we, the humans, would enjoy enormous freedom as industry was all taken care of by our robot underlings. Turns out the grim reality of that was just that we would be expected to do more work, process more information, thanks to the assistance of our plucky transistor computers.
A letter that would’ve taken a week to reply to can be returned digitally in a matter of seconds. Information passes from person to person at a rate of growth that makes Moore’s Law look like it’s taking a long nap. As our time to exercise our bodies dwindles to naught, our minds our strained beyond the manufacturer recommended settings. We have been overclocked into oblivion.
So, when I realised the Sequent was a smart watch I was a little disheartened. I don’t need to be berated into submission by yet another device. I was hoping for some nostalgic simplicity from a time when the classic NASA worm logo meant lighting great big candles and pointing them at the moon.
Nevertheless, I was suckered in enough by the Elektron’s 2001: A Space Odyssey looks to give the watch a whirl. Let me run through the basics: this is an electrically driven watch powered by a battery that has the ability to record and display a small selection of health and wellbeing information. It won’t tell you what the weather’s like or remind you your nan’s coming over for tea. You get steps, heart rate, workout, sleep and blood oxygen.
Now, because I’m a lazy, sedentary pig, most of that doesn’t bother me at all. Four fast presses on the crown will give an instant reading of your heart rate on the sub-dial’s outer scale, but generally speaking I’ve become pretty used to knowing if my heart is beating faster because I’m usually making it do that. If my heart were to read either end of the 0-160 BPM scale it wouldn’t matter anyway, because I’d be in the back of an ambulance.
There’s a workout mode activated by a long crown press followed by two shorter presses, which reveals that the little hole at twelve isn’t a mistake, it’s an LED. It blinks blue to let you know you’ve started, and then purple to coincide with your heart rate. The workout is ended by a further three quick presses. I’m sure frequent use will bring muscle memory into play to remember all this button pressing.
Seems, to me at least, like a more fiddly way to do what an Apple Watch does. I’ll be honest, I was a bit disappointed. This watch looks cool, and I am indeed superficial, but I was hoping to be won over with a little bit more substance. But wait, there is more …
Computers are simultaneously the best and worst things to ever happen to this species. On the one hand, they’ve single-handedly forced the output of a single human to unreasonable levels, but on the other hand, Dark Souls. I love gaming. It is my zen.
The Sequent Elektron HR 2.2 has a couple of tricks up its sleeve that exploit my love of gaming to the max, and I’m not even mad. First, the activity monitor running in the background at all times is busy counting how many steps you’ve done and relaying that info back to you on the sub-dial. I know most smartwatches already have progress bars, but to have it physically hits a little different. It’s like a human power reserve meter. Get it to the blue bit if you want to live. The red bit is lava. Every day you’re the main character in the triple A blockbuster game of your life.
Talking of hypothetical power reserve displays, it’s also a real power reserve display. A double press shows a blue blinking light and a readout of the remaining battery life. Useful, for sure, but not exactly interactive like the step counter. Well, actually it is, because whilst the Elektron can indeed be charged in a dock like most smartwatches, it can also be helped along by the dynamo whizzing around in the back.
It’s like an automatic watch rotor, but for electricity instead of spring wind. You can feeling it buzzing around in the back a bit like an ETA 7750 rotor, but more—electric. The more you move, the more you charge, the longer your battery lasts. Depending on your settings, you can extend the 30 days’ battery life all the way up to 12 months.
The watch is inevitably accompanied by an app that allows you to align the hands neatly and set your goals. You then manually sync to the app to collate that data over time for you to scrutinise and worry over. It can also sync with the Apple Health app. That data is collected by that little eyeball on the back that starts dully inwards. Knowing how, erm, fruity a watch can get when worn during exercise, I would suggest giving this area a wipe every now and then to keep it all reading correctly.
The titanium case is lightweight but thick, a little over 42mm wide and 14mm tall, but it’s not offensive for the style. There’s 50m of water-resistance and a sapphire crystal keeping it robust. The straps are made from recycled ocean plastic and are freely interchangeable.
But my favourite thing about it, really, is the way it looks. The retro-futuristic NASA vibe with those rounded, hollow markers that glow in the dark and the big sub-dial with its needle-like red hand is everything I wish the future of yesterday—aka today—really was. Hover cars, moon boots and floating cities. Instead we’ve got NFTs, Bitcoin and Tiktok. Never mind.
The Sequent Elektron HR 2.2 is available from around £600 and is assembled in Switzerland. It could have very easily been an uninteresting smart watch clone like so many seem to be, but between the clean looks, unique interactivity and unusual technology, it’s managed to find a little bit of a niche that tickles even a diehard mechanical watch fan just a little bit. What do you think of the Elektron?