If you have a smartwatch, chances are you’re fairly protective of it, preventing it from getting too wet, too beat up, or too knocked around. After all, a smartwatch is little more than a computer on your wrist that costs several hundred dollars. But the new Nixon Mission, a $400 Android Wear smartwatch that’s available for preorder starting today and will be shipping on October 10th, is designed to get wet and get knocked around and keep on going.
With its rugged design, the Mission is specifically built with surfers and snowboarders in mind — Nixon’s core demographic — and can provide alerts to surf and snow conditions and even track sessions. This isn’t the smartwatch you wear to the boardroom or out on a date — this is the watch you put on when you’re headed to the break to get pitted or getting on a helicopter to shred some gnar.
As a result, the Mission is a big, chunky, beast of a watch. Perhaps the best word to describe it is "aggro" — it pairs better with a faded Volcom shirt and boardshorts than with denim and gingham. There’s a polycarbonate frame; stainless steel bezel and case back; and Gorilla Glass over its 1.39-inch, 400 x 400 pixel, fully circular touchscreen display with ambient light sensor. It is water resistant to 100 meters — the longest of any Android Wear smartwatch — and is shockproof to take knocks and bangs. Nixon says the touchscreen even works when it’s wet, so you can use the watch’s smart features when you’re in the ocean. The Mission is significantly thicker than most smartwatches (which are notorious for already being thicker than a lot of watch-wearers prefer) and its 48mm case diameter means the watch might look fairly silly on someone with small wrists.
Along with the rugged-looking bezel, beefy lugs, and thick rubber strap, the Mission has a system to seal off the microphone port for when the watch is going to be used in the water or snow. You won’t be able to issue voice commands when the microphone port latch is closed, but it allows the watch to attain its 100-meter water-resistant rating.
Inside, the Mission has Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 2100 chipset, and a bevy of sensors: GPS, thermometer, altimeter, barometer, e-compass, gyrometer, accelerometer, and humidity. The 400mAh battery is rated for "more than one day" of use between charges. Nixon has developed new custom watchfaces that can provide information on surf or snow conditions, and you can set up "Shred Alerts" through the Mission smartphone app for when the conditions are ideal at your favorite surf or snowboard spot. In addition, the watch has two apps for tracking surf and snowboard sessions, which pair with the Trace smartphone activity-tracking app and work with the Mission’s standalone GPS for when your phone isn’t around.
I didn't have the opportunity to test the Mission's special features (I don't surf and the average temperature on the East Coast has been over 80 degrees Fahrenheit for the past couple of weeks, so snowboarding was out of the question), but I did wear it in place of my everyday smartwatch for a couple of weeks. The watch, while certainly bigger than I prefer, is designed for a specific aesthetic, and I think it hits its target well. (It's also in line with the aesthetic of the rest of Nixon's watch line.) The display is sharp and readable outdoors, and the automatic brightness control is convenient and rare for a fully circular watch. Otherwise, it's a standard Android Wear watch and does all of the standard Android Wear functions as expected, including providing notifications, controlling music playback, and responding to voice commands.
Nixon is selling the watch with a variety of customization options through its online store, including 12 different bezels, three different body colors, and 24 different colored straps. The case back can also be customized with various logos and inscriptions.
The Mission certainly isn’t designed for everybody, but if you’re looking for something that can track your sessions, count your steps, and do all of the other things smartwatches do, and doesn’t need to be babied, it’s certainly worth your time.