Carrozzeria Pininfarina is an Italian design house and coachbuilder headquartered in Turin. It's best known for designing almost every Ferrari until the supercar maker took design in-house in 2012, and has since branched out to everything from Coca-Cola drinks dispensers to televisions and even Olympic medals.
The company’s latest product is the hybrid smartwatch you see here. Simply called the Pininfarina Senso Hybrid, it's available with its stainless steel case finished in slate grey, rose gold, mercure grey and moonlight silver, as loaned to T3 for this review.
The case is a beautiful piece of design. A little large for some wrists, at 44mm wide and 16mm thick, but that’s the price to pay when it houses a processor, battery, small circular display at the 12 o’clock position, an accelerator, heart rate monitor and an ECG function. It feels like no time at all since ECGs were only available on the flagship Apple Watch.
I love the slightly curved edges of the tonneau-shaped case, as well as the brushed finish that's nicely offset by the polished finish of the circular bezel. Cutouts in the lug bars remind me of the weight-saving efforts of vintage aircraft and the skeletal chassis of a racing car, while the crinkle finish to the dial harks back to the same texture found on the dashboards of 1960s Ferraris.
It’s a mature and sophisticated design that's clearly come from a company with decades of experience. The aesthetics alone make this £399 ($399 in the US) watch feel like good value for money, while the leather strap is soft and flexible, helping the large and weighty case feel comfortable on the wrist.
I also like the push buttons, which are used to navigate the menu of the small display, and the way the crown makes an audible tick when rotated. It offers a bit of premium tactility from what is actually a digital watch with no mechanical movement. The crown can be pressed, again to operate the various health and fitness tracking features, and the time is set using the companion smartphone app.
The watch comes with a charging dock and USB cable, and Pininfarina says the battery life is up to 30 days. While that could be possible with notifications turned off and limited use, a week to 10 days is closer to the mark. I saw around 10% battery depletion per day with email and WhatsApp notifications switched on and an hour of exercise tracking, but without sleep tracking.
Other hardware features include a sapphire crystal to protect the dial and 50 metres of water resistance. Even without any of its smartwatch features, I would say the Pininfarina is worth its price tag. The design and sense of quality is superb, but I wish it was just a little smaller. If Pininfarina offered a non-smart version in a 40mm case I would buy it in a heartbeat.
What’s the Pininfarina Senso Hybrid like as a smartwatch?
This watch promises a lot, from activity, exercise and sleep tracking, to a heart rate monitor, reminders to stretch and even an ECG function.
Unfortunately, I ran into trouble right away as the smartphone app requires a user account and it only allows passwords that contain the special characters of @, !, &, $, # and *. Although an unusual restriction, this would be fine if the app actually said only these characters (plus letters and numbers, of course) are allowed. Instead, it just told me over and over how my chosen password was invalid. I have raised this with Globics Technology, the company that produces the watch, and am told the app will be fixed soon.
Globics Technology told me they are "committed to making updates to the app to improve the UX and UI and are constantly improving the app experience based on users' experience and usability".
That aside, the app works fairly well. There’s a lot on offer and all of the data collected by the watch is presented clearly. It isn’t as polished as similar apps from the likes of Apple and Fitbit, but if this is your first activity tracker I’m sure you’ll get along with it just fine. My only real concern is how the quality and design of the app feel a long way behind those of the watch. The aesthetics of the two items, the watch and the app, aren’t aligned in the way they are with a hybrid watch from Withings, for example.
The experience is let down by the sort of small details I’d expect a legendary design house like Pininfarina (or at least a tech firm working for them) to get right. Like how the app invites a user to give their “feedbacks” and how a ‘Test Screen’ seems to open a developer environment I’d expect to be hidden from normal users. I also once had to force-close the app as I’d ended up in a submenu with no back button to return to the previous page.
Thankfully, all data collected by the Pininfarina Smartwatch can be exported to Apple Health, Google Fit and Strava, so you needn’t use the watch’s own app after the initial setup is complete.
The watch’s digital display is better. It’s very simple, but easy to navigate with the beautiful scroll and push action of the crown and buttons. The display turns on when you lift your wrist and shows the last thing you looked at. This meant I could navigate to my daily step count, then that’s what I’m shown each time I look at the watch. Receiving notifications on such a small screen feels like overkill, so just setting it to show step count, heart rate or the weather forecast is plenty for me.
Should you buy the Pininfarina Senso Hybrid?
I want to recommend this watch purely on the hardware alone. I think it looks fantastic, is full of fun little Easter eggs harking back to classic car design, and the Pininfarina logo will never fail to excite the petrolhead in me. It’s comfortable, if a little on the large side, and the battery life is long enough as long as you turn off notifications.
The application isn’t great. I wouldn't mind if this was a sub-£200 hybrid smartwatch from a lesser known brand. But because it’s £400 and because it carries the name of a company synonymous with Ferrari, the software needs to be better, and can’t stumble when only tasked with getting the basics right. Thankfully, data collected by the watch can be shared with other apps, like Apple Health, which means the Pininfarina app can mostly go unused.
If I owned this watch I would continue to use it and enjoy it, purely on its aesthetics alone. Its ability to count steps and check on your heart rate is a bonus, but shouldn’t be your primary reason for buying it in the first place. If you're happy with sending data over to another app, like Google Fit or Strava, then the Pininfarina Senso Hybrid could be a handsome addition to your watch collection.