After Years of Ugly Watches, Garmin's Got Some Fresh Styles

By Victoria Song on at

While Garmin might be known for powerful frumpy smartwatches, at IFA it’s launched some gorgeous wristables a fashionista wouldn’t be ashamed to wear.

First up is the Venu, Garmin’s first smartwatch with a 1.2-inch AMOLED display. It might sound surprising to get up in arms about an AMOLED smartwatch in 2019, but it’s a big step forward for Garmin. Until now, Garmin has favoured colour transflective screens, which offer better visibility in direct sunlight but aren’t much to look at. The Venu’s screen is multiple steps above that. The demo version I saw had an animated vapour watch face that I dare say, was on par with the Apple Watch. It also comes with lovely colourways – you can get it in black and gold, light sand and rose gold, granite blue with silver, and black and slate. Normally, colour options aren’t terribly exciting, but again, Garmin tends to play it safe with either garish neons or boring black-and-silver.

Looks aside, the Venu is very much in line with Garmin’s Vivoactive series, which got a minor refresh at IFA. It comes with all your regular notifications, GPS, heart rate monitoring, Garmin Pay, and animated workouts on the wrist. It also benefits from recent software updates from Garmin, including menstrual tracking and body recovery levels via a new feature called Pulse Ox. As for the battery, you get an estimated five days in smartwatch mode and up to six hours of continuous GPS and music. At £330, it’s on the pricier end of smartwatches – but it does boast Garmin’s whole suite of tracking metrics and is comparatively priced with the Samsung Galaxy Watch.

The Vivomove Luxe (top row) and Style (bottom row) are gorgeous watches.

But the real beauty is Garmin’s refreshed Vivomove hybrid analogue line. This time around, there are two options: the Vivomove Luxe and Vivomove Style. Both look like traditional watches at a glance. What’s different about the Luxe and Style is the watches feature a hidden dual AMOLED colour touchscreen. It was an idea first introduced with the Vivomove HR, but the display was hard to read as it only filled the bottom half of the screen. Expanding the AMOLED display to fill the whole watch face means it’s much easier to read your notifications and navigate through smart features. It sounds wonky on paper, but in person, it results in one of the most elegant, discreet hybrid analogues out there. I’d happily wear it to a formal event, or even just on a day where I want to feel dressed up. That’s especially true of the Luxe, which features a domed sapphire lens, a stainless steel case, and a $500 starting price ( £405, UK pricing TBA). The Style, which is slightly cheaper at $300 ( £243), is very similar but opts for Gorilla Glass and aluminium instead.

Expanding the hidden AMOLED screen makes it so much easier to interact with the Vivomove Luxe.

The Style and Luxe also offer most of the same features as the Venu. The main differences are that it opts for connected GPS through your smartphone and lacks on-screen workouts. Otherwise, you get the same health metrics, as well as Garmin Pay.

Garmin smartwatches have always been solid in terms of performance but bogged down by finicky user interfaces or ugly, fitness-centric designs. It tried shifting that focus with its £1,400 luxe MARQ line earlier this year, but its iffy screen made it a hard sell. With the Venu and Vivomove Luxe and Style, it finally feels like Garmin may have figured out the balance between fashion and function.