The thought of uttering Garmin and Tag Heuer in the same sentence in a discussion about high-end watches seems a tad ridiculous. But that’s exactly what the makers of the Forerunner and Fenix hope will happen with the arrival of its new Marq collection.
Garmin calls the Marq a connected tool smartwatch, sitting above its Fenix range with prices ranging from $1,500 to $2,500. If you thought the top-end Fenix 5 was pricey, well, the Marq is taking things up a notch.
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Garmin attempted to dip its toes into this high-end watch world before with its Fenix Chronos watch. But, as Sean Biddlecombe, EMEA managing director at Garmin, tells us, it didn’t quite work out.
“It wasn’t a great watch to be honest,” he said. “We didn’t make a great watch, but it wasn’t a disaster. We didn’t have high expectations and it was quite expensive. It didn’t have the best feature set and on the business side we probably threw it out there not knowing how it was going to sell.”
Despite the failings of the Chronos, it, along with Garmin’s Connect platform and the Fenix and Forerunner ranges, form the legacy that helped bring the Marq to life. We were able to get our hands on one of the five Marq watches to see how Garmin is hoping to break into the luxury watch world.
A familiar feeling
The Marq comes in five watch models, all based on the five main divisions at the company. There’s the Aviator, Driver, Captain (pictured), Expedition and the Athlete. Garmin decided not to collaborate with watchmakers to build the Marq watches, but it’s clear from my time with the marine-centric option that it’s taken some inspiration from iconic watch designs.
When we first picked up the Marq Captain on a race boat in Barcelona, it was impossible not to think of the Omega Seamaster. There’s that similarly design-dominating ceramic blue bezel that surrounds the always-on, sunlight readable display, five physical buttons dotted around the bezel and a lightweight titanium body. That’s complemented by a nylon strap that Garmin partnered with a company based in France to produce. It’s a strap that feels very different to anything we’ve tried before, and it definitely feeds into the nautical theme Garmin is plugging for.
The design element that tells you this isn’t your typical luxury watch is the display. It’s not touchscreen, and while it’s certainly not poor quality, it’s a clear sign that what you have here is a Fenix in different clothing – one that’s clearly been inspired by watches that already exist on the market. Smartwatches from the likes of Tag Heuer and Louis Vuitton adopted full touchscreen displays for their watches, but Garmin wanted to stick to what it knew best to deliver the software experience it wanted and a battery performance that wouldn’t have you charging the Marq every night.
Is the Marq a watch that feels comparable to a Breitling or a Tag? It’s clear that Garmin has not scrimped on the materials used to construct these watches. The housing certainly feels high grade, though while the screen is by no means bad, we was hoping we’d get something more in line with the quality of what Apple, Samsung and Google’ Wear OS watches offer in the display department. Of course, we appreciate that would’ve likely compromised battery life, but it definitely would have helped it feel less like a Fenix with a more attractive design.
Those Fenix features
The Marq sits at the very top of Garmin’s wearable range, so that means all the good stuff you’ll find on the watches below it are likely to be found here. So, you’ll be able to track sports activities like running, cycling and swimming, and there’s also all-day activity tracking, smart notification support, Garmin Pay for contactless payments and on-board music storage – including the ability to store offline playlists from music streaming services like Spotify. You do not, however, get any LTE connectivity, despite Garmin rolling out the feature earlier this year on the Vivoactive 3 Connected by Verizon.
All of the data and tinkering with settings you can’t already do on the watch will be done inside the very same Garmin Connect app that exists for Fenix and Forerunner watches. We’re told nothing new will be added to make that app experience feel any different.
Garmin Marq Driver
On top of those core features, there are extras that are only available on each Marq model. So, sailing-centric features will not be available on the Marq Driver, for instance. In the case of the Marq model we got to spend time with, the Captain is able to play nice with systems built into sailing boats. Key data such as current wind speed, temperature and tide information can be displayed in real time on the watch.
We were able to see from the data screens on board the boat that information was accurate, and we could certainly see the appeal for sailing crews of having this information quickly to hand in race situations. There are other features sailing teams could find useful, too, like the virtual starting line mode, tack assist and a man overboard feature, which raises the alarm for all Marq wearers when someone’s fallen into the water.
For other models, like Marq Expedition, you’ll get TOPO mapping and extra compatibility with satellite communicators to make it a better fit for adventurers. The Marq Driver pre-loads famous race tracks and lets drivers keep track of lap times. These features aren’t going to be massively useful to the everyday watch-wearer, but if you’re a sailor, driver or serious adventurer, you might be willing to splash out to have them.
Can Garmin Marq really break into the luxury watch market? Right now, we honestly aren’t sure. This is a massive jump from the Fenix or the Forerunner, where a big audience for those watches exists and where Garmin has its strong sports heritage to lean on. The company does already play in the marine, aviation and automotive worlds, and for the aspirational watch wearer it’s aiming these collection at, we’re sure those unique features and core smartwatch features will be appreciated.
These are a set of beautifully designed watches, and we’re genuinely intrigued to see if they can live alongside the luxury devices they’re aspiring to match and ultimately surpass.