When you hear the name Pininfarina, you can guess that it’s about as Italian as they come. If you know anything about cars, you’ll likely also have an inkling about just what the name means, too. After all, Pininfarina is the marque behind some of the most beautiful cars and, more particularly, Ferraris in the world. It’s the kind of name that makes Pebble Beach Concours regulars weak at the knees. So, imagine my surprise when I found out they were launching a watch, the Pininfarina Senso Hybrid.
Granted, a car manufacture making a timepiece in itself is not too strange; Porsche Design have been making watches for decades and they’re inextricably linked with… Not sure, some car brand. Mercedes perhaps? Either way, they’ve shown that designers most famous for cars can also leverage those skills for timepieces. No, the surprise really came when I realised that they weren’t just launching a watch; Pininfarina was launching a smart watch.
If that little revelation has made you clock out, fair play. I’m sure given the heritage behind the name, you were expecting some kind of cool, classical racing or diving watch, with beautiful curves and a prestige mechanical engine. Well, you’d be part right because although the Senso Hybrid, as it’s been dubbed, is indeed a tech-forward timepiece, it has all the beautiful aerodynamism of Pininfarina bodywork.
First off, the case. Anyone familiar with certain Florentine brands will recognise the big, cushion shape as quintessentially Italian. If Panerai were to try their hand at a smart watch, it would look something like the Senso. It would be bigger and probably solid gold with the on-off switch as the Luminor crown guard (genuinely a cool idea, trademark S.Kessler). Not that the Senso is small of course; it’s 44mm across of stainless steel, but thanks to the cushion case and the shorter lugs that denotes, it sits smaller on the wrist than you might expect.
It’s also a good deal more solid than you’d expect – at least from a smart watch. The steel is watchmaking grade of course, as is the sapphire crystal, and the strap is as good as any Italian leather I’ve come across. Hell, even the look of the thing with its central handstack, six o’clock subdial and chronograph pushers might fool you into thinking it’s a fully- fledged mechanical watch. That’s if it weren’t for the relatively subtle digital display at 12 o’clock.
Because of the size of that dial, the Senso Hybrid necessarily needs to take a streamlined approach to smart functions. With it on your wrist, you can quickly flick between different wellness-centric readings like heart rate, sleep stats, the whole gamut of information that a health-obsessive could want. Better yet, you can use the crown to flick between the different activities you can time with the Senso on your wrist, from running to intervals to football. I don’t do much in the way of exercise, but it kept pace with a short, 10-minute run easily enough.
Switching between functions is straightforward, but more satisfying than it should be given you use the crown and chronograph pushers, again imitating the core characteristics of the watch it’s aesthetically imitating. The rest of the functions – heart monitor, ECG and Sp02 (how much oxygen your blood’s carrying, obviously) are all hidden inside.
All that information is funnelled to an app on your phone that’s slightly less good-looking than the Senso Hybrid itself, but is easy to navigate to find whatever niche health stat you’re after. You can also check the various watch sensors in real time, which can become a bit… enrapturing. The app also tracks your stress levels (which I apparently have), your menstrual cycle (which apparently, I don’t) and your wellness reminders that gently prod you to hydrate and move about. That one I needed as I did not realise how little water I drink in a day.
All in all, it’s one of the less obtrusive smart wellness apps I’ve used and suits a watch that treads the line between the cushion-cased style of an Italian timepiece and smart functions. I do have a slight issue with it though – it fills a niche I’m not sure really exists. Sure, the everyday functions are useful, but is anyone going to wear a 44mm steel watch while running, boxing, footballing or anything else? Only Richard Mille would expect that.
It’s also hard to compare with other smartwatches out there. And I say smartwatch because although it calls itself a hybrid, it’s electronic and has plenty of smart functions. At £399, it’s more expensive than most of the tech brands’ offerings, by a solid margin. At the same time, it’s a lot less than the current king of horological smart tech, the TAG Heuer Connected. It’s a solid halfway house, with build quality far, far above the former, but not quite to the TAG Heuer level, and offering a bit less functionality.
Is it worth the money? Sure, if you want one of the best- looking wearables out there. And there’s something to be said about the blending of classical design and tech when it comes to Pininfarina at large, if you look back at some of their car designs. But it’s not what I was expecting from a name with that much gravitas, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.
Price and Specs:
More details at Pininfarina.