Hybrid smartwatches are a wonderful fusion of an analog watch design blended with current technology, giving them a unique feel. Fossil's latest smartwatch, the Gen 6 Wellness Edition Hybrid, attempts to marry old and new to carve out a piece of the smartwatch world dominated by watches like the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5.
The Gen 6 Wellness Edition Hybrid is far different from any smartwatch I have tested — it attempts to deliver many key features of modern smartwatches while still delivering the classic watch look that has been mostly avoided by smartwatch manufacturers. I spent the past few weeks trying to determine if it can deliver on its promise of combining beauty, fitness tracking, and battery life into a cohesive and well-thought-out package. So let's see how it fares.
Take the Fossil Gen 6 Wellness Edition, but replace it with an e-ink display and mechanical timekeeping arms, and you've got the Fossil Gen 6 Hybrid Wellness Edition. It can track your heart rate, SPO2, VO2 Max, steps, and other health metrics and give you the big picture of where you're at physically with the help of Fossil's Wellness app.
- Brand: Fossil
- Battery Life: 2 weeks (advertised)
- Operating System: Fossil Hybrid Smartwatches
- Onboard GPS: No
- Case Material: Stainless steel
- Water Rating : 3 ATM
- Sizes: 45mm
- Colors: Black, Silver, Gold
- Display: 1.1" 240 x 240 e-ink (218 ppi)
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi
- Health sensors: Heart rate, SpO2
- Price: $229, $30 for straps
- Strap: 20mm Silicone
- Dimensions: 11.4mm thick
- Beautiful design
- Gorgeous e-ink display
- Amazing multi-week battery life
- Easy to navigate user interface
- Navigation feels sluggish
- No built-in GPS
- Can't respond to notifications
- Limited watch face customization
Price & availability
The Fossil Gen 6 Wellness Edition Hybrid launched on January 5 with a $229 price tag. Currently, it is available from Fossil directly and on Amazon in black, navy, and blush colorways. The black colorway has a black frame paired with a black band. The navy option has a silver frame and a navy band. The blush colorway has a rose gold frame and a pink band.
The Fossil Gen 6 Wellness Edition is beautiful, and it felt great to wear a more traditionally styled watch after spending years as a regular smartwatch user. Fossil wrapped the 44mm frame in stainless steel secured to your wrist with 20mm interchangeable silicone straps and a toggle clasp. The strap felt wonderful and never got itchy or uncomfortable to wear. However, at 11.4mm, this watch is a bit thick.
While the frame is 44mm across, the actual display area is only 27.9mm (1.1 inches) wide. This leaves a bit of bezel surrounding the display, but having it on a watch like this is nice, plus the extra steel around the display adds to the classic watch design. There are three buttons to the right of the display — a selection button and two configurable buttons. These two buttons provide quick access to whatever watch functions you want; I used mine to activate Alexa quickly and to see my recent notifications.
Looking at the display, you will immediately see the two big analog hands. (Coming from a Pixel Watch, it was nice to see physical hands moving around the watch face.) Fossil went with an E-ink display that has a resolution of 240 x 240 for a pixel density of 218ppi. The display is clear, crisp, and easy to read. Looking at the E-ink display, you might forget that this is a smartwatch and not a standard timepiece, though. It blends into the background so well that it looks like the display is painted on.
Fossil made one glaring oversight when designing this smartwatch: While the display is easy to read and looks really nice when there is adequate light, it becomes much harder to see as the lights begin to dim. There is a backlight, but it needs to be activated manually. I would have even found it acceptable if a raise-to-wake feature had been implemented to make it easier to see.
Instead, you need to tap on the watch twice to get the light to kick on. It routinely took me a few tries to get it to work, which was frustrating. To make it even worse, the backlight only gives you about four seconds to make a selection before it turns off.
The Gen 6 Wellness Edition Hybrid has a built-in microphone (it lacks a speaker) and an actuator for vibration alerts. It also has Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi, and is water-resistant up to 30 meters. However, it lacks built-in GPS, so you will need your phone to take advantage of its tethered GPS.
The Gen 6 Wellness Edition Hybrid runs on Fossil's custom operating system, which is compatible with both Android and iOS using the Fossil Smartwatch app. The default screen is filled with information — remaining battery life, weather, various fitness information, date and time, burned calories, and your total steps — but not always in my preferred format. Unfortunately, it shows much of this information in the form of fillable bars, so I generally had no idea how many hours of sleep I got or how many steps I had by quickly glancing at the watch face. You can build your own watch face, but since it's limited to only three complications, you will sacrifice the ability to see all the information at once.
Hitting the selection button brings up the main app menu. This is where you can select from notifications, workouts, wellness, Alexa, music controls, the weather, a stopwatch, a timer, and settings. Pressing the selection button on any of these icons will let you select them. Alexa worked well during my testing, and I was pleased I didn't need to install the Alexa app on my phone to use it on the watch.
When you get a notification, the watch will vibrate and show a small bell at the bottom of the display. Selecting notifications will allow you to read them, but there isn't a way to interact with them or respond to any. Notifications can be found in the main app menu or can be programmed to one of the two configurable buttons.
What's on this watch is what you get. The Fossil Gen 6 Wellness Edition Hybrid has no store to add additional apps or features, so make sure it can do what you want it to before buying.
The watch itself is also painfully slow to interact with. Maybe it's the slow refresh rate of the E-ink display or the processor in use, but be prepared to wait.
Depending on what you are doing, it can take anywhere from one to three seconds to see any change on your display. I routinely thought I didn't press the button hard enough, only to accidentally select something because I didn't wait long enough.
The companion app is pretty anemic, giving you only the essentials, and it pales compared to what other companies offer. It also gives it to you in a horizontal sliding format, making navigation relatively annoying. Within the app, you can change the watch faces, see your health activity (more on that in a minute), and set an alarm.
Health & fitness
The Gen 6 Wellness Edition Hybrid has a built-in accelerometer and a heart rate sensor. In addition to tracking your heart rate, it can track your steps, sleep, and blood oxygen levels (SpO2). It can also track a variety of workouts, including running, walking, cycling, hiking, spinning, elliptical, treadmill, weights, row machines, and general workouts. You can't add any additional exercise routines, so make sure you are comfortable with the options that it comes with.
The heart rate, step tracker, distance, and pacing information were all accurate, at least compared to my Pixel Watch, give or take a few points. Both watches routinely showed almost the exact same information at the end of a run or walk.
I am most disappointed with the available information after finishing a workout. Heading into the companion app, you will quickly realize that you are only getting the basics. It shows your steps, active minutes, calories burned, resting heart rate, hours slept, and SpO2 levels. Drilling into the steps menu is where you can find your recent workouts.
I was also disappointed not to see a GPS readout of my route, even though the GPS was running and connected to my phone. You do get your distance and pacing information, however. Also, you can connect it to Google Fit, but no other connected fitness apps work.
Battery life was phenomenal during my testing. Fossil says you can get up to two weeks of continuous use, depending on how you use it. While I couldn't quite make two weeks, it easily lasted 10 to 12 days before I felt the need to charge it. I didn't time the charge, but it went from 15% to fully charged in about an hour. The watch charges with a magnetic puck charger, and it's a breath of fresh air not to have to charge your watch every single day or even every few days.
At $229, there is quite a bit of competition in the smartwatch segment that caters to a variety of needs. The Withings ScanWatch is another hybrid watch with an MSRP of $300. It has a beautiful display, long battery life, and additional health sensors such as an ECG monitor and an AFib detector. It's a bit more expensive than the Gen 6 Hybrid Wellness Edition, but its excellent build quality and fitness tracking features make it tough to beat.
If fitness is your priority, and you don't mind giving up the hybrid display, the Garmin Forerunner 55 is an excellent choice with its $200 price tag. It has built-in GPS, various workout options, and great battery life. Then there are Wear OS watches, such as the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5, that offer a lot of customizability and let you install additional apps. The $280 Galaxy Watch 5 also offers exceptional fitness features and a beautiful display.
Should you buy it?
Choosing a smartwatch will come down to personal preference and what features matter the most to you, but in general, the hybrid watch segment is an interesting spin on what a smartwatch should be. The Fossil Gen 6 Wellness Edition Hybrid leans heavily into the overall aesthetics of this watch, and it shows. It's a beautiful piece and one I actively enjoyed wearing, especially when dressed up. I also enjoyed the long battery life immensely. It's nice knowing you can take your watch on a week-long vacation and not worry about bringing the charger with you.
If you want more than basic health statistics, you will need to look elsewhere. For example, a fitness tracker can provide the same level of health information and can possibly do even more while costing much less. And if you want something to respond to your notifications, you will need a smartwatch running WearOS.
For me, the overall speed, or lack thereof, is what hurt it the most. It got tiresome waiting for the watch to catch up. All those seconds of waiting added up over the review period, and it heavily detracts from an otherwise good watch. This is a great device if you want a classic watch with some smarts. If you want anything more, then you may want to look elsewhere.