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Nixon Mission: A Smartwatch for Action Sports

Friends keep asking which watch I’m wearing. Not only because it has style for days, but because they notice me touching the screen to read texts and emails, flicking my wrist in different directions to change functions, or talking to it. Yes, I talk to my watch. In many ways, it’s more intelligent than I am.

Nixon partnered with Snocountry to bring real-time reports to your wrist. Program your favorite resorts and ideal conditions, and the watch will let you know when to drop everything and head for the hills. Want to know when Mammoth gets six inches of fresh? The Mission will gladly do that for you. Do you surf? Want to know when waves will be four-to-six feet with winds blowing offshore? Nixon also partnered with Surfline to send alerts to your watch when the surf’s up and hitting the beach is mandatory.

The first smartwatch with a 10 ATM water-resistant rating—meaning it’s water-resistant to 100 meters–only when the patented MicLock is closed—does so much more than any other sports watch. It answers calls, navigates me through the city so I don’t get a ticket for not driving hands-free, and in a couple months will tell me when the snow is good at my favorite resorts, so I can better balance work and play. That’s something I look forward to. I also anticipate not having to stop snowboarding when my phone buzzes. I’ll be able to check my inbox without removing gloves and digging my phone out of a pocket.

It lacks a heart rate monitor, so should you want to count beats you’ll need to pair it with a chest strap. The chest often gives a more accurate reading than the wrist, anyway. For those who enjoy tracking things like speed and distance traveled on the mountain, the Mission works with the Trace Snow app. As long as the small Trace sensor is on your body or board, it’s accurate enough to report airtime, even turn radius. Going into a zone with no cell signal? Download topographic maps to your watch before you leave and track your progress.

The touchscreen works when wet.
The touchscreen works when wet.

Scott Cole, Product Developer of Digital and Advanced Concepts at Nixon, gave me more examples of just how smart this watch is. “Want to know who won the World Series in 1982? Ask your watch and prove your friend wrong in an instant,” he said. “Need to remember to feed the cat when you get home? Tell your watch to remind you,” he continued. Although websites can’t be browsed on the watch itself, it will open sites on your phone when asked to, and since many apps being developed nowadays are compatible with wearable devices, it works with more apps each day—like a golf app, which can tell you how far your ball is from the hole by simply looking at your wrist.

The smartest time teller for sports also translates foreign languages. All you need to do is talk to it. Like I said earlier, it’s really smart. And the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor is fast. Really fast. It’s also small, so although the watch is bulkier than say, an Apple watch, and it is probably too large for people with small wrists, it doesn’t feel as heavy as many other GPS smartwatches with similar features. I say “similar,” not “the same,” because no other smartwatch compares to this level of durability and weatherproofing.

The watch holds up to 4GB of music, which can be played in the car or with Bluetooth speakers, and volume and playback functions can be controlled at the wrist. Know what can’t be controlled with the watch? The people who wear it. It’s going to attract all sorts of folks, from athletes to tech nerds and more. Nicolas Müller and Todd Richards have helped with field-testing, and I find it reassuring that such badass riders attest to its awesomeness.

Another cool feature, which I use often, is the Mission’s ability to change the face display. Just press a finger on the face for less than a second and swipe sideways to choose whichever face you desire depending on occasion. For workouts, choose the Google Fit Analog or Digital display. For a military-style face, choose Ranger, and for nights on the town, choose Player or Sentry. For snow and surf reports, choose The Mission, or The Mission Pro when paired with the Android Wear app. The Mission option also displays battery level without having to swipe–although swiping is pretty effortless.

I’ve found the watch to last about three days without Bluetooth, but I have yet to test it in extreme cold. It needs to be paired with a phone for full functionality, but will still navigate, play music, and track activities through standalone GPS. By turning off Bluetooth I’ve saved a lot of battery when anticipating multiple days without charging. A longer lasting battery would be nice but I’m still impressed with all it’s capable of on a single charge. It charges via USB, so I plug it in overnight or while driving, sometimes even while working at my desk.

Waterproof to 100 meters, the Nixon Mission is ideal for snowboarding and surfing.
Waterproof to 100 meters, the Nixon Mission is ideal for snowboarding and surfing.

All this talk of the Android Wear app might have you thinking the Mission doesn’t work with iPhones. Think again. iPhones can download Android Wear, and after the holiday season (exact date TBD) the Android Wear 2.0 app will bring iPhone users up to the same pace as current Android users. I use an iPhone so I’ve been missing out on some features but for now, it’s still the coolest thing to touch my wrist since the last time I was in a snowstorm.

The watch is on pre-order until the October 10th release date and costs $400. That’s about $100 more than the Apple Watch, but the Apple Watch isn’t a rugged sports watch with a solid stainless steel bezel and Gorilla Glass crystal face. Casio also makes a smartwatch for sports, but it can’t go as deep under water or connect to Bluetooth or Wi-Fi like the Mission can. Neither look as good, either, in my opinion.

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