Skagen Jorn Hybrid HR review: Style over smarts

(Pocket-lint) – The Skagen Jorn Hybrid Smartwatch HR is the Danish watch brands’s latest attempt to offer smartwatch powers in a traditional watch design – one that you won’t need to charge everyday.

Unlike its earlier hybrid attempts, it’s followed in the footsteps of the Fossil Hybrid HR by adding a full display. That means it’s able to offer richer features like the ability to display notifications and even view your fitness stats all wrapped up in a signature Skagen watch look.

This half smartwatch, half watch is significantly cheaper than picking up something like an Apple Watch or a Samsung Galaxy Watch and may just offer the level of smarts that will keep you satisfied to keep it on. But there are downsides, too, as we’ve found from our time living with this watch.

Design & Display

  • Size options: 38mm & 42mm
  • 22mm removable strap
  • 3ATM water-resistance
  • 1.09in e-Ink display

Skagen’s first-generation hybrids were some of the most elegant made and had all the hallmarks of the minimalist, Scandi chic design blueprint.


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The Jorn continues that trend. So if you care about something that looks good on your wrist – and you should – then you’re well served here. It comes in either 38mm and 42mm case size options and five different looks. There’s rose gold, silver and black metal cases, and the option of mesh, silicone and leather strap options too. 

All versions channel that same simple-yet-stylish look Skagen is renowned for and it feels like a lovely watch to wear. We had the brown leather strap and silver case combo, which gives it a smart, shirt-friendly look.

The leather strap measures in at 22mm and uses a simple pin mechanism to remove it and swap in another. It’s a strap you can keep on for exercise too as Skagen has introduced a strap that has a silicone finish on the interior to make it better suited for sweaty pursuits. There’s a traditional watch buckle to make sure it stays put too.

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When it comes to interacting with the Jorn, there’s three ‘pushers’ on the right side of the case, which can be assigned to control different features once you’ve set it up in the companion app.

The big deal here, though, is the e-Ink display that sits front and centre. It measures in at 1.09-inches and is a screen that is the always-on kind.

Overlaid on top are traditional watch hands that dynamically move to make sure you can see information displayed on the e-Ink screen. There’s no touchscreen functionality here, though a double-tap on the front of it will do the job of turning on the backlight when you’re struggling to read that greyscale screen at night.

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It’s been a pretty stress-free watch to live with – but there were one or two issues we experienced that did let it down. While Skagen has marked this watch with a water-resistance rating that makes it safe against the odd splash of water, it seems working up a sweat or even washing hands can cause the screen to fog up. It goes away eventually but can sometimes take a day or two. Secondly, we’ve noticed that a line has appeared on the e-ink display as well (as you can well see in our pictures). These are clear design issues here that are blotches on an otherwise slick-looking hybrid from Skagen.

Fitness & Sports Tracking

  • 24/7 fitness tracking
  • Connected GPS
  • Built-in heart rate monitor
  • Works with Google Fit
  • Auto exercise tracking detection

While this doesn’t look like a watch you’d typically want to get a sweat on while wearing, Skagen does include fitness features and more workout-friendly straps that may convince you to grab it for a HIIT session or head out for a run. Based on our experience though, you should keep your expectations low here.

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In terms of the sensors at your disposal, there’s an accelerometer to track things like steps and indoor activities and enable automatic sleep monitoring. There’s a heart rate monitor that can measure effort levels during exercise and monitoring heart rate 24/7 too. There’s also connected GPS support, which means you have the ability to map outdoor activities with your phone close by.  

As a fitness tracker, you can track step counts, active minutes, calories burned, track resting heart rate. Most of that information is available in the companion app. If you’re paired up with a Google Android phone, it does play nice with Google Fit if you want to fire your data over to an alternative app too.

From an accuracy point of view, step counts, distance covered, and the times those steps occurred during the day, did largely match with Fitbit and Garmin fitness trackers that we used for comparison. It also held up surprisingly well for resting heart rate data against a chest strap and Fitbit’s heart rate monitor. Your daily stats are displayed in a ring-style interface on the app and it will also display any tracked workouts for that day.

When it’s time for sleep, you can get a breakdown of sleep stages, sleep duration and your heart rate during sleep. Against a Fitbit Sense and Fitbit’s reliable sleep tracking system, that data had us sleeping for some extraordinarily short periods at times. There was some unusually high heart rate spikes in sleep data detected with no real sense as to why that happened or any sort of analysis of sleep. Overall sleep duration was usually within an hour of what the Fitbit recorded. Ultimately, it’s a bit of a mix bag. 

When you switch to sports tracking mode, there’s a collection of activities to track, which include running, walking, cycling, hiking, treadmill running and indoor rowing. There’s support for automatically detecting these exercises, but we opted to manually track, which can be a bit of a chore on this watch. Especially when you just want to switch to a different mode.

For runs, indoor rowing, and trying to utilise it for indoor workouts, the Skagen just didn’t feel the best fit for exercise. It doesn’t really display stats in a useful, easy-to-glance-at format; and accuracy-wise it was hit and miss during our testing.

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The distance tracking for runs was generally in line with a Polar running watch, but other core metrics didn’t quite add up. Indoors, the heart rate monitor, like a lot of optical sensors, reported higher maximum readings than a Garmin HRM-Pro chest strap. For rowing, the stroke recognition just wasn’t reliable enough either. 

Smartwatch Features

  • Works with Google Android and Apple iOS
  • View notifications & commute time
  • Weather forecasts
  • 16MB storage

Previous Skagen hybrids featured sub-dials to discreetly communicate a notification had popped up on your phone or to let you check in on your daily step count progress. With an e-Ink display in place, Skagen now has more screen real-estate to play with and to present data.

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Whether it’s paired up to an Android phone or iPhone, you can view notifications, weather forecasts, change the look of the dial, get real-time traffic updates for your commute, control music playing on your phone, view multiple time zones, and set alarms.

To get everything in working order you’ll need to download the Skagen Hybrid smartwatch companion app. This is where you’ll be able to set up the notification support and customise the pushers and button to decide which features you quickly want at your disposal.

Starting with that notification support and from the companion app you can set it up for calls and messages with the ability to select auto responses, which can be edited. Like most watches, you can also select the individual native and third-party apps to receive notifications from. When those notifications pop up, you’ll see an app icon to help determine where they’ve come from and your message below. The support works better for some apps than others and it’s slow to scroll through longer messages as well.

When you customise the physical buttons, you can have a maximum of three features at your disposal. From the same screen you can pick from a range of different dial looks – and it’s no surprise that they channel that Skagen look in a really attractive way.

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However, there’s one thing that underpins the performance of these smartwatch features – the sluggish response you get from pressing those buttons to switch to different screens. It leaves getting through notifications you’ve missed or getting to those music controls quite a painful experience. The experience of navigating screens in general feels awkward at best.

If Skagen is going to make this work, things on the performance front and how you get to features needs to improve drastically.

Battery Life

  • Claims over 2 weeks battery life
  • 80% battery from a 50-minute charge

Skagen doesn’t specify the capacity of the battery, but it’s one that says it’s fit to go for up to two weeks – or even longer depending on the features you put to regular use.

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There’s nothing in the way of power saving features, so when it hits zero you’ll need to grab the small grey charging puck that clips onto the back of the watch case. The charger can get this watch from 0-80 per cent in 50 minutes. It’s not the kind of fast-charging tech you will find on some smartwatches, but does mean you get a sizable boost in a not so achingly long time.

As far as getting that two week’s worth of battery, it does really depend on how many app notifications you’re receiving and how regularly you track exercise. We experienced a daily drop-off that was on average 15-20 per cent a day – including tracking a 30-to-60 minute workout. On that basis, you’d expect to get a week out of it as opposed to the two weeks minimum promised.

If you use it more for its basic fitness tracking skills and features like music controls, then you may well get longer than that. In our experience though, it didn’t quite live up to the promise. 

Verdict

There’s no doubting the Skagen Jorn Hybrid Smartwatch HR looks lovely, retaining those design elements that make Skagen watches such attractive timepieces to have on your wrist.

The problem lies when you turn your attention to the software and the pursuit to bring more smarts into play than Skagen’s previous hybrids. Unfortunately, there’s more bad than good here and whether it’s navigating the clunky software extras, or the general performance, there’s clearly more work that needs to be done to make this a pleasurable hybrid to live with.

While it will certainly offer more battery life than many full-fat smartwatches and that e-Ink display does mean it can show more information than other hybrids, the execution of it all doesn’t quite work for us yet.

Also consider

Pocket-lintAlternatives photo 1

Withings ScanWatch

It might not have a full smart display, but it’s a sleek hybrid that does offer good fitness tracking features and an ECG sensor to make it built for serious health monitoring too.

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Pocket-lintAlternatives photo 2

Garmin Lily

Garmin’s hybrid that’s aimed at women offers a smaller display that offers accurate activity tracking and a software that’s easier to get to grips with than what’s packed onto the Skagen.

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Writing by Michael Sawh. Editing by Mike Lowe.





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