This is my full review about the Withings Scanwatch Horizon. I’ve bought this stylish watch some time ago to replace my 3 year old Apple Watch. That was looking a bit worn out and beaten up. Since I’ve used a lot of different smartwatches over the past decade I decided to share my experience with you.
Why the ScanWatch Horizon
After using many smartwatches, starting with the Motorola 360 back in the day. I settled for the Apple Watch about 3 years ago. And while my 2020 Apple Watch SE was just a basic model. I must admit the Apple Watch is probably the best smartwatch I’ve ever had. The software is well rounded.The design is simple but recognisable, there are many many options for bands and accessories etc. And while probably not the best watch in any category, the Apple Watch does it all quite well. This isn’t the best sports watch, but it will track your activity and workouts quite well. Probably it isn’t the most durable watch our there, but it will take quite a beating and keep on going. It doesn’t have a great battery life by any means. But when you charge it every night you probably will never run out of battery.
So, why haven’t I just bought a new one then? Well, the first and main reason was that I really wanted a watch with sapphire glass. I’m a bit of a klutz and tend to ram my watch in to doorways, walls or just anything I walk by. That meant my once pristine Apple Watch was scratched up in a matter of weeks. Normal glass just isn’t strong enough to withstand me. And sapphire glass is available on Apple Watches. But they will cost you at least 900 euros for a stainless steel Apple Watch. And that is just too much for a piece of tech that is outdated the moment you strap it on your wrist.
The other reason for me was that I missed the ‘classic’ watch look and feel. I’ve always been a fan of nice, mechanical watches. I’ve traded that hobby for the convenience a smartwatch brings. But the last years I’ve been craving a ‘real’ watch more and more. Especially since everybody and their mother has an Apple Watch these days.
Adding those things together meant a new Apple Watch just wasn’t going to cut it anymore for me. And after looking at other watches the Scanwatch Horizon kept popping up as the most suitable alternative. And for the right price. So after some debating I took the plunge and invested my hard earned 500 euro’s in this stylish looking smartwatch. I already knew Withings because I own a blood pressure monitor from the brand. That is also very good and I like the Whitings app as well.
ScanWatch Horizon: the looks
If you are reading this, I guess the looks are one of the reasons you are interested in the ScanWatch Horizon. If not, the much cheaper and smaller original ScanWatch will probably suit you better. That does everything the Horizon can do too for about half the price.
The ScanWatch Horizon is styled to look like a classic dive watch. It is available in either a very nice looking dark blue or green color. I’ve opted for the green since that matches well with my green iPhone. And because I’m a fan of the color green. Both the blue and green look very bright in the marketing images. But in real live they are much more subtle and even better looking. The color does pop when you are out in the sun and than you also see the beautiful sunburst finish on the dial. Just like you see on way more expensive watches.
The dial and hands are easy to read with distinct white markers that have decent luminance in the dark. But you could also use the small OLED screen in the top of the dial in the dark to see the time and date. Below the OLED screen is a small extra ‘complication’ that shows your progress towards your step goal for the day. It goes from 0 to 100%, giving you an idea of how you are doing without diving in to the menu’s.
The watch features elements that make it look like a high end watch like a Rolex Submariner of something similar. It has a full stainless steel housing and comes with a nice looking and well built stainless steel band. It also has a rotating bezel. In a real dive watch you can use that to see how much time you have left in your oxygen tank. But you can also use it to time other things of course. Besides that it doesn’t have any function on the ScanWatch Horizon besides looking cool. It does feel very nice when rotating it, with just enough resistance and nice clicks to give a high quality feel. The housing is very well made and details like the edges and the fit and finish look very good, especially for a smartwatch.
Size of the Scanwatch Horizon
Coming from a small and light Apple Watch the Scanwatch Horizon took some time to get used to. This is a big and quite heavy watch. You might be tempted to think it is about the same size as an 44/45mm Apple Watch since the spec-sheet of the Horizon says it is 43mm. But there is a big difference between these measurements. The Horizon is 43mm wide while an Apple Watch is 44/45mm long. That is also the ‘lug-to-lug’ size of the Apple Watch. And the lug-to-lug size says a lot more about the actual size and how a watch feels on the wrist. Measuring the Horizon it comes to a lug-to-lug of about 52mm, making clear it is bigger than an Apple Watch.
The Horizon is also a generous 13mm thick, that isn’t flat by any means but I don’t mind it when wearing it. But all in all the combined size, thickness and also weight make this a watch for a bigger wrist.
A substantial part of the weight is the high-end stainless steel bracelet. The Horizon comes with a heavy, but very well built bracelet. The links aren’t folded and hollow like cheaper watches but full solid steel, which is normally only found in high-end watches. This makes the bracelet more durable and luxurious, but also heavier. When you don’t want to use the steel bracelet you also get a very comfortable silicone strap that matches the colour of the watch. It’s a great and lighter alternative for sporting activities for instance.
Important to note: The watch comes with a full watchmakers-kit to adjust the bracelets length. You can easily remove links if the band is too long. And you also get two spare links to add if the band is too short for you. In my case I added one link to make the band fit, and I have quite wide wrists (20,5 cm circumference).
The Horizon itself weighs 73 grams and the bracelet adds another 85 grams making a total that comes close 160 grams. Compare that to an Apple Watch weighing about 40 grams without strap and you can see this is a different beast.
That being said: after some getting used to it the Horizon isn’t uncomfortable to wear. The steel bracelet doesn’t pull out any hairs and it is flexible enough to form itself to your arm. And the watch itself is nicely finished, so there aren’t any sharp edges.
The technical stuff
The ScanWatch Horizon is waterproof up to 100 meters (in stead of just 50 for the regular ScanWatches). This should be more than enough for swimming and snorkelling, but probably isn’t going to cut it as a real dive watch (despite its looks). And as mentioned before the glass is sapphire and therefor very durable and scratch resistant.
On the right side of the watch you will find the crown. Unlike normal watches this isn’t for setting the time or winding it, but it acts as a single control button you can press and rotate to navigate the menu’s. It does feel very nice and gives decent feedback.
On the back you can see the sensors for measuring your hart rate and blood oxygen. The back also acts as one of the electrodes for making an ECG. There are also two small contact points that are used to connect the charger to the watch.
What can the ScanWatch Horizon do for you
Well, this might not be surprising, but you can actually tell time on this watch. And the good thing: you don’t need the screen, it has real moving hands. So no flipping your arm up to activate the screen or to make your always on screen light up to be legible in bright light. That is a win for the SacnWatch Horizon.
Some of the other features worth mentioning:
- Track steps and stairs
- Track your heart rate
- Calculatie blood oxygen levels
- Make an ECG
- Track your sleep
- Track about 30 different kinds of sports activities
- Show notifications of your phone
- Makes you look cooler than you actually are (just joking, since you are thinking about buying this you probably are cool already!)
Steps and activity
Since I’m not a sportsman at all I barely use the tracking of sports activities. My only sports is riding my bike and walking. I must say I am quite impressed that the watch picks up on those activities by itself very well. It rarely misses an activity. But for die hard sporters this probably isn’t the watch for you. It is big, bulky and quite heavy and I can imagine it being just a little too big and heavy when training. Even when using the supplied and very comfy silicone (?) sports strap. An other drawback for sports tracking is the lack of GPS. It can log you run or bike trip, but it will need your phones GPS to do so. So you can’t leave your phone home and still impress your Facebook friends with your latest Strava record I’m afraid.
When automatically starting registration of for instance a bike ride it doesn’t start GPS tracking or heart rate tracking. So it will only show duration and burned calories in the app afterwards. If you do want full heart rate tracking and GPS you will need to start an activity manually. Luckily that is as easy as can be, with the flick of the crown and a few presses you are good to go.
The ScanWatch Horizon does of course also track all your steps throughout the day. I do have the feeling it is a little conservative when it comes to that. Comparing it to my Apple Watch it seems to be lower by about 15% over a whole day. I did do some testing counting my steps while walking and that gave a quite precise result. So the difference may very well just be the times you walk from your desk to the coffee machine. Since you make quite some of those small trips that can add up over a whole day. That isn’t a real problem by the way, since steps are only an indicator for your activity. But it can be frustrating if you are competing for most steps of the day with your buddies that use an Apple Watch or something like a Garmin.
Blood Oxygen and ECG
The watch has the possibility to measure your blood oxygen level. I don’t know how it does that exactly, but it has something to do with the color or reflectiveness of high oxygen blood being different to blood with low oxygen. That also means it is a quite tricky process and you have to have the watch on your wrist just right and have to keep still to get a successful reading. So it does result in inconclusive results from time to time.
The ECG functionality is great to keep an eye on the health of your heart. Especially when you may already have some pre-existing heart problems. But you have to keep in mind that it is just a first measurement and the app also warns you that the ECG functionality can’t detect a heart attack or other conditions. Making the ECG is a piece of cake. Just select the option in the menu and keep your hand on the watch face so it can act as the second electrode to take the measurement. The measurement takes 30 seconds and the watch counts down for you and gives you a signal when it is done. After that you get a result, ‘normal’ when everything is okay or a message to check with a doctor if any anomaly is found.
You can check the measurement in the app and you can even playback the ECG. And you can share it with your doctor in a PDF if you have any concerns.
Sleep tracking by the Scanwatch Horizon
One of the best features of the long battery life of the ScanWatch Horizon is that it is a breeze to use the sleep tracking. When you have a watch you have to charge every day it is most convenient to do that at night when you sleep, but that interferes with the sleep tracking. No such problems with the ScanWatch Horizon, since that wil go on for weeks with just one charge.
Sleep tracking works very well. The Withings Scanwatch Horizon knows very well when you fall a sleep and when you are awake. It seems to be able to notice the difference between laying in bed and watching some tv and actually sleeping. It also picks up on interruptions (kids – mosquitos) very well. Your sleep is scored on a scale of 0-100 giving you an idea about how you did.
When I feel like I slept like crap the app normally shows a result that is in line with that. But besides confirming what I already knew you can also see what is the reason you didn’t sleep well. For instance you have too little REM sleep which you need to recharge your energy. And the app gives you helpful suggestions to improve your sleep as wel. Like try to go to bed earlier and keep a regular schedule. The watch also checks your blood oxygen from time to time to see if you have sleep apnea or other problems, a comforting idea.
The Horizon has the option to show notifications from your phone. The watch vibrates as a messages comes in and when the hands are covering the screen they move out of the way so you can read the message better. This works quite well but has its limitations.
First there is the small screen. It shows notifications, but they scroll over the screen in a ticker style. So they are quite literally no-ti-fi-cat-ions. That makes them great for a quick glance and to see if you need to grab your phone, but you don’t want to be reading long messages on the screen. You can however rotate the crown to scroll through the message and go back and forwards to re-read a part of the message.
The other limitation is that you can’t see if you have missed any notifications. So there is no signal like the small red dot on the Apple Watch, and there is no option to re-read messages that you didn’t see while they came in. You have to read the message the moment you receive it or it is gone forever (on the watch, it still stays on your phone of course). A message-log would be great, now you always have to check your phone to see if there was something you missed.
The last limitation is that you can’t reply to messages. There is no way to respond using the watch, it doesn’t even have a microphone. You also don’t get any of the other smartwatch features like music control, Siri, or something else. That might be a problem for some of you, but I like it a lot. This is a watch first, health and activity tracker second and notification machine last. There is just less distractions, especially when using the ‘do not disturb’ for messages.
Battery life and Charging
For some people battery life is very important. If that is so: don’t worry! The Scanwatch Horizon does great. The specs say up to 30 days on one charge. And while I might not get to 30 days completely, I think I get very close every time. I think about 20-25 days? Don’t know for sure, because I can’t remember the last time I charged this thing. It just keeps on going for such a long time.
That is a good thing though because the charging solution isn’t the best. It is a small magnetic puck that plugs in to a USB-A port. It kind of snaps to the back of the watch and makes contact with 2 points on the back of the watch. Don’t get me wrong: it works. But the magnets are a little too weak and you really have to line them up well to start charging. And even then you should touch the watch as little as possible since it isn’t too secure. But then again, you’re only doing this once every 3 or even more weeks for about 2 hours and you’re good to go again.
Is the Withings Horizon the ultimate smartwatch? No, not for everyone. It is a very well rounded, beautiful looking and well built smartwatch. The Scanwatch Horizon leans more towards a regular watch with some smart functionality and health tracking than a smartwatch. It doesn’t do all the things an Apple Watch, Pixel Watch or Samsung Watch will do. But on the other hand it will also not disturb and distract you throughout the day.
And then there’s the look. This is just soo much better looking than any of the regular smartwatches in my opinion. It feels like a luxury watch and not a gadget. The build quality, materials and fit and finish are very good and come close to non-smart watches in the same price range. That is an impressive feat by Withings. And I love the durability of the full stainless steel housing and bracelet and the sapphire glass.
The looks and limited smart-functionality must fit your needs. And the Scanwatch Horizon is a big and heavy watch. So you’ll need the right size wrist for it. So it may not be for you. But if the size is your main worry the new generation Scanwatch 2 might be right for you. That is smaller, has a better screen and more functionality and now also comes with the sapphire glass. But otherwise: I love my Scanwatch Horizon!
Convinced this could be the watch for you? If you use one of my affiliate links in this review you can buy the watch directly from Withings, and I can make a small commission to keep my blog online. So I’d be very grateful if you were to use one of my Withings links.
Most images in this review are made with my Sony A7R3 and the Laowa 85mm f/5.6 2:1 Ultra Macro lens.