Two of my favorite geeky worlds collided when I received an email asking if I would like to try a forthcoming hybrid smartwatch with a tourbillon. A watch that connects to my phone, and comes equipped with what’s considered the gold standard of luxury watch features? Yes, please. I jumped at the chance, and was soon introduced to the Lankzet King Harald, a luxurious hybrid smartwatch that has launched on Kickstarter.
The watch has been on my wrist for a few days now. Just indulge me for a little while, as first I will explain the tourbillon’s appeal, and why it makes the King Harald so wonderfully geeky.
The beauty of the tourbillon
What is a tourbillon? It’s about as desirable as mechanical watch complications get. In French tourbillon means “whirlwind,” and it was conceived in the 1800’s by watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet as a way to stop gravity affecting the accuracy of a pocket watch. It was a mammoth task which took ingenuity and skill that is breaktakingly impressive.
Although gravity doesn’t affect wrist watches in the same way as pocket watches, making the tourbillon essentially redundant, his invention lives on. Breguet’s creation was a mechanical work of art. It’s incorporated in many of the finest timepieces in the world as a mark of quality, desirability, and luxury. It’s a beguiling, mesmerizing piece of perpetual motion on your wrist.
— Andy Boxall (@AndyBoxall) February 25, 2020
I recommend watching this excellent video to understand how the tourbillon works. Just don’t expect to come away with a reason for a modern watch to have such an addition, because you won’t find it. The tourbillon should now be considered art.
The problem with art, especially good art, is that it’s expensive. The utterly stunning Classique Tourbillon Extra-plat Squelette 5395 will set you back about $240,000. While there are many (much) more affordable models, you will almost always pay a premium to own a tourbillon watch.
Which brings us to the Lankzet King Harald. No, it’s not even close to $240,000. If you’re quick to get in on the Kickstarter campaign, it’s yours for just $400.
Why? Swiss-made tourbillon are expensive, but tourbillon made in China, like the King Harald, are not, and watches that use them are regularly found at around this price. Additionally, not all tourbillon are true tourbillon — look out for carousel or “open heart” complications, which can look quite similar. However, to my relatively untrained eye, the King Harald does have a true tourbillon inside.
Here, the tourbillon adds an air of luxury to a humble hybrid smartwatch. A hybrid smartwatch is more watch than smartwatch, and rarely has any form of screen or software. Instead, it uses the hands, or even lights, to show notification alerts, or complications that show step count on the dial itself. The hybrid is the middle-ground between traditional watch and smartwatch.
The Lankzet King Harald has a battery that should last for up to four years and doesn’t need charging everyday, yet still has a low-power Bluetooth connection to link with an app on your phone. There it provides step count, sleep tracking, and calorie burn. There’s no support for notifications, making it a basic fitness tracker. That’s typical for a luxury hybrid smartwatch. Just be aware it won’t replace your Apple Watch in terms of functionality.
I used a pre-release version of the app installed through the WeChat Mini Programs system, although a version will be released in the iOS App Store and Google Play when the watch goes on sale. Connecting the watch to the app is easy and reliable, and syncing takes just a few seconds.
The step count seems to be accurate, and matched the count returned by the Huawei Health app on my phone.
I haven’t been able to wear the watch at night for a simple reason — it ticks. It’s certainly not loud, but it can be heard, and I find it annoying at night. The sleep tracker still recorded sleep time from when I took it off to when I put it on again in the morning.
All data is shown on a main splash page in the app, and it’s collated in graphs to show long-term step, calorie and sleep data. The watch does not remain connected all the time, making the most out of the battery life.
To call the Lankzet King Harald a hybrid smartwatch is a bit of a stretch, as although it will track basic fitness, it doesn’t come close to matching even a fitness band like the Honor Band 5. It’s similar to the functionality offered by the Frederique Constant Hybrid Manufacture.
Two models are available in the Kickstarter campaign. You’re looking at the King Harald here, which takes on a pilot’s watch style compared to the dressier Royal Gormsson.
The case is made from 316L stainless steel, and sapphire crystal covers the dial, giving it scratch protection. The watch is water resistant up to 50 meters, and comes with a leather strap. It’s quite large at 44.5mm and 12mm thick, and has a masculine look. The design is attractive, the strap is comfortable once it has been worn for a day, and watching the tourbillon never gets old.
It’s not all good news. I don’t like how the time must be set through the app, not the crown. It doesn’t take long, but it does take longer than using the crown, like almost every other mechanical watch out there.
This is not an automatic watch. It requires winding to keep it going. The power reserve is around 36 hours, and winding is performed manually using the crown, so it’s likely you’ll have to re-adjust the time regularly.
I even encountered a problem with my early model. After winding every other day, the mechanism gradually felt less tight. It appears a screw popped out of the mechanism, which can be seen through the back of the watch. In all likelihood, this broke the mechanism.
The watch is still working, and I’m using a pre-release watch, but this is still concerning. Also, the buttons flanking the crown aren’t as pleasing to press as I’d like on a $400 watch, feeling stiff at first and cheap when they’ve loosened up.
Why pay attention to the Lankzet King Harald? The answer is simple. The tourbillon. A Swiss-made tourbillon watch will be out of reach for many of us, yet cheaper versions like the King Harald let us ordinary folk experience the joy of watching this centuries-old piece of mechanical art at work on our wrist. Step tracking is just a bonus.
You can find the Kickstarter campaign here, where a King Harald or Royal Gormsson tourbillon hybrid smartwatch can be backed for $400. Just remember that Kickstarter campaigns are never guaranteed to run according to plan, and delays to the schedule, and even cancellations, can happen.