MetaWatch's new Meta smartwatches are looking to be the answer to the plastic, nerdy-looking smartwatches that have flooded the market of late. Featuring a design by former Vertu designer Frank Nuovo, the new Meta watches give aesthetics and comfort as much priority as the watch's actual smart functionality.

Though MetaWatch doesn't expect to launch the Meta until later this year, we were able to take a brief look an early prototype device. This particular unit had an aluminum chassis and leather wrist strap, but MetaWatch intends to produce versions with a variety of different materials and finishes.

The signature feature of the Meta is its dual-hinge strap design. The strap's pivot points have been moved closer to the center of the body, which lets the entire watch fit your wrist more comfortably, especially for smaller wrists. Nuovo says it "flows" around your wrist, and though we didn't wear it very long, it certainly felt smaller on our wrist than it would seem from its appearance.

The Meta also has six polished buttons (they were non-functional on the prototype) and a greatly improved display that offers more contrast and is easier to see in a variety of lighting conditions. MetaWatch plans on upgrading the Meta's interface to complement the new hardware design, but the new software was not loaded on the device we looked at.

The Meta looks and feels much more like a quality watch than a gadget you strap to your wrist

Despite it being a very early prototype, the Meta more or less lived up to its promise: it looks and feels much more like a quality watch than a gadget that you strap to your wrist. MetaWatch isn't the only company looking to target this market — the Pebble Steel offers greatly improved design and build quality of its predecessor, for instance — but it does have the design chops and watch experience to come out ahead if it's able to execute on its promises.

We'll reserve final judgement on the Meta until we can see what shipping retail units will look and feel like, but suffice to say, we're liking what's here so far.