It's tough. It's rugged. It offers unique features for surfers and skiers. The question is whether this is still a good watch worth buying at the price?
I have a knack for breaking stuff. I always have. I’m tough on gear, sports equipment, my cars, electronics… everything. Stuff just breaks.
My tendency for breaking stuff gets me excited about Nixon’s “The Mission” smartwatch. I don’t think I’m ever breaking this thing.
I have a couple of young boys who also break stuff. When they want to play with daddy’s watch, I hand them this puppy.
This year I’m very excited because we’ve enrolled our oldest in ski lessons at a local hill. With him starting skiing, I’ll get a lot more opportunity to get out on the slopes. I can’t wait. This watch will definitely be my skiing companion. In fact, it’ll be my go-to water sport and outdoor adventure watch because I don’t think I could break it if I tried.
The Mission by Nixon is “built tough”. It’s a beast of the smartwatch. It’s for outdoor enthusiasts and extreme sports. While I haven’t tried, I suspect this thing could handle some serious blows. This is for the rugged outdoor adventurist.
What it lacks in style, it makes up for in toughness and some pretty cool unique features which it makes it the go-to smartwatch for a good number of outdoor activities (which I’ll get into in this review).
That said, battery life is disappointing. Also, I’ve read about various sensors that provide more functionality but I’ve not discovered them on the watch so basically, I have a very tough, waterproof standard Android Wear watch that gives me snow/surf info but dies inside of 24 hours.
Here’s the review outline.
What you get
You get the watch and USB charger and a pretty cool case. Check it out:
How I tested this watch
I bought it for starters.
I set it up with Android Wear and my usual batch of apps.
While it’s too big for everyday wear, I wore it on the slopes and in the shower. I used it extensively for everyday use but found the battery really didn’t last long enough to be a functional day-to-day friendly watch.
Currently, this is my go-to skiing, sledding, and swimming smartwatch.
Overall I like this watch for select activities where there’s a good chance I’ll get wet and/or banged up.
Anything involving water, this sucker goes on my wrist. While other smartwatches claim to be waterproof, this one definitely is up to 100 meters. What bolsters my confidence in being so waterproof is its patent-pending mic lock down mechanism.
There’s a strong locking cover over the mic which totally keeps water out of the guts.
Here’s are photos:
Nixon Mission Video Overview
- Operating System: Android Wear. There’s a Nixion Mission app you can also install for additional functionality (i.e. choose to ski and surf spots to monitor).
- Waterproof: Yes. 10 ATM (to 100 meters).
- Compatible with iPhone and Android phones.
- Case: 48 mm
- Watch strap: 23 mm dual-layer silicone.
- Stainless steel bezel.
Setting it up
It’s easy to set up.
I synced it with the Android Wear app.
I also downloaded the Nixon Mission app and synced that.
I then downloaded the surf and ski trace apps.
Boom, I was done.
Since it’s Android Wear, set up is pretty easy.
With this watch, you can swap out the bands and the bezel with a myriad of colors.
- 12 bezels to choose from.
- Many bands to choose from.
- You can also customize the back with various artwork and/or text.
- Watch face: You can customize the background, hand colors, digit colors, and subdials.
- The number of combinations is a lot.
Like most smartwatches, you can choose from a number of watch faces as well.
As a sporty watch, you can really brighten it up with bright colors or keep it plain and simple. I went with all black, but if inclined, I could get some colorful bands and/or bezels.
After my black one broke, I bought the orange Nixon. Here it is.
Aside from all the customization, what about the design as a whole? What do I think?
I think it’s okay. It’s a bit big, but that’s typical of smartwatches, especially one with such a large bezel that helps protect the face.
It has a rugged look, which works for outdoor pursuits. However, it’s not all that stylish for anywhere else.
Because this much more a utilitarian watch than a fashion statement, I think one’s style opinion isn’t all that important. This is a watch you buy for functionality and durability; not style.
The silicone button fits in the strap band hole.
Solid buckle. The entire 23 mm strap is sturdy.
Strap secured together properly.
The band is a two-layer silicone band. It’s tough. I both like and dislike this band.
- Silicone is good for activity and it’s comfortable.
- The band connects / locks together so that it’s very unlikely this watch will fall off your wrist.
- Because it has a locking knob, it’s difficult to put on and take off. I think overall, the locking mechanism is a net positive because given it’s for activity, it’s good to ensure it doesn’t fall off.
- Not interchangeable with other brands: I love Fossil and Samsung Gear watches because the straps can easily be changed. They have this simple pin system that makes changing straps a breeze. While you can get different band colors via Nixon, you need a screwdriver to remove the band and you can only wear bands by Nixon.
For a large watch, it’s comfortable.
One aspect I really like is that it’s designed so that when I flex my hand upward, the watch case doesn’t jam into it. Unlike most other smartwatches (most watches generally), this watch stays put on the wrist and doesn’t feel like I’m going to pop the case from the strap.
Also, it looks heavier than it is. Yes, it’s large, but it’s not terribly heavy. It doesn’t get in the way of rigorous activity.
This watch loses marks with the display. I have a few problems with the display, which are:
- Not very bright/crisp: Compared to my Fossil Q Wander and Samsung Gear S3, this display isn’t all that crisp/bright.
- The watch face smudges easily. Frankly, this is an issue for many smartwatches including Fossil Q, Tag Heuer, and Michael Kors smartwatches.
- It’s not outstanding in direct sunlight.
Let me put the battery life per charge into perspective. Today, I arrived in my office at 7:15 am. The watch was fully charged at that time. Currently, it’s 1:35 pm and the battery is down to 55%. That means the watch has blown through nearly 50% of its charge in 5 1/4 hours. It’ll likely be done by this evening.
Granted I’ve been using and playing around with the watch extensively. However, this is unacceptable.
As far as I’m concerned, a smartwatch should last a full 2 days. I say a full 2 days so that you can wear it and be certain it’ll last through a long 18 hour day.
If not 2 days, it should have a rapid charge feature like the ZenWatch 3 which charges up to 60% in 15 minutes. This way you can quickly breathe life back into the watch.
The charger, on the other hand, is pretty good. It attaches magnetically and it attaches fairly forcefully so that it won’t readily fall off. It’s certainly not as cool as the Samsung S3 charger, but it’s decent. It’s certainly better than the Fossil Q charger.
Here’s are pictures of the charger and the watch attached to the charger:
One thing I look for when reviewing smartwatches is any unique or distinguishing features that set it apart from other smartwatches (other than the design).
While some smartwatches don’t really offer anything unique, Nixon’s Mission actually does. While it’s not earth-shattering, it does have some unique features. They are:
- Locking cover over the mic.
- Surf and snow conditions app integration.
- Surf and ski performance app integration (speed, duration, and more with the surf trace and ski trace apps.
- Waterproof to 100 meters. While other smartwatches are waterproof, it’s not common for one to be waterproof to 100 meters.
The watch has a large, sturdy “home” button on the right. This is nothing new; most smartwatches have at least one button that takes you directly to the home screen (i.e. the clock).
Despite the button, most navigation is via swiping. The swiping options and gestures are the same as on other Android Wear watches.
- Swipe right to the center to access the apps.
- Swipe top to the center for additional settings.
- Essentially most navigation is via swiping the screen.
Swipe quality is just okay. It’s no Samsung S3. It sticks here and there requiring swiping two or more times to complete navigation into the next screen. Moreover, overall, I prefer the Samsung Gear app over Android Wear. Gear is more reliable than Wear. For example, I never have email issues with Gear but sometimes it crashes in Wear.
Also, the smudgy nature of the screen I think impedes swipe quality and accuracy. The smudge is a thin film of oils from touching it which impedes swiping.
For some reason, the ZenWatch 3 and Samsung S3 doesn’t suffer smudges at all.
Also, and I think Android Wear would be smart to incorporate this into its settings, and that is being able to adjust swipe sensitivity. Gear S3 can do this which is awesome… in fact, it can increase sensitivity to a level so you can swipe it with gloves.
You’d think a watch designed for skiing and outdoors would include such a feature.
The more I use smartwatches, the more I appreciate the speed with respect to navigation, opening apps, and overall response quickness.
Generally, I find Android Wear watches to be a bit slower than other watches, namely Apple and Samsung, both of which use different operating systems.
Now, this Android Wear issue could be the fact I have quite a few apps running on my watches. I do this to really test them. I also do this because I like a variety of functionality. I don’t buy these just for health tracking. I buy them for text messaging, viewing my calendar, receiving emails, health tracking, calculator, and several other functions.
In addition to my fleet of Wear apps, I also have the ski/surf trace apps as well as Nixon’s Mission app. This adds to the burden.
Nevertheless, my S3 is loaded to the hilt with apps and it’s lightning-fast, so it says something about Wear.
Despite my overall speed issues, it’s certainly not a dealbreaker. Wear works and it definitely has its advantages over Samsung Gear. I love the fact Wear is widely used and so all my watches are set up in much the same way… all syncing to my Google Fit account. The Mission is no exception here.
The main competition for this watch are:
- Garmin Fenix 3 HR
- Casio WSD smartwatches
- Samsung Gear S3 Frontier
I don’t really need to tell you this, but in case you skipped down to this section, I added it for convenience.
The main use/target users for this smartwatch are surfers and skiers.
Nixon’s Mission app offers key information for ski hills and surf spots. It’s actually really cool because it auto-populates options near you. We have many ski areas and they all showed up. Now I’ll always know how the conditions are.
Same thing with surfing although I don’t live all that close to any hot surf spots (but sure wish I did.
Moreover, the watch easily integrates with ski trace app which tracks the following:
Surf trace tracks the following:
- Number of waves
- speed (very interesting)
- ride distance
- ride time
- cutback angle
Here’s a series of photos showcasing the unique apps, info, and data collection for skiers and surfers:
Access The Mission App
Surf Spot Conditions
Surf Spot Conditions (On Mobile Phone)
Ski Conditions (On Mobile Phone)
Finally, as mentioned before, this is one tough watch ideal for high-speed, rugged activities where the watch will likely be smashed against the rock, surfboard, barnacles, tree trunks, etc.
How Tough is It?
I can attest that this watch is TOUGH. I banged it up pretty bad and it hung in there until finally, it did break. The breaking point was well beyond any other smartwatch (I don’t go out and intentionally break smartwatches, but in this case, I gave it a run for its money because I’m fascinated by how solidly it’s built… more solid than any other smartwatch I own including the Casio WSD F10.
Anyway, Nixon did break. The screen cracked and the case snapped. Check it out.
Because I like this watch so much for outdoor pursuits, I went out and bought a new one… this time an orange one (because I can swap out the black bezel and strap from my broken Nixon. Here’s my new Nixon:
It’s priced around $480 USD (at the time this review was first published. Please note pricing may change. We provide pricing info to give you a ballpark figure of what to expect).
This is almost $200 more than the Samsung Gear S3, which doesn’t make sense. It costs more than Casio but not by much. However, the Mission’s $480 or thereabouts is much less than the Garmin Fenix 3.
I’m not a daily skier or surfer so I don’t need that info so badly that makes $480 worth it. However, I can’t speak for avid skiers and surfers. I think the one thing that really drags down the “is it worth it at this price” is the short battery life per charge. If this thing would last 2 to 4 days, it would be a much better value.
Pros and Cons (Nutshell)
- Built tough.
- Great ski/surf info and tracking.
- Waterproof to 100 m.
- Comfortable (surprisingly so).
- Plenty of color/style customization.
- Can’t make phone calls.
- Short battery duration per charge.
- Not a very bright display.
It’s a tough one. Here’s my verdict:
If you really want the surf or ski tracking data such as speed, waves, vertical, distance, etc. (click here for the tracking details), then this watch is worth getting because these are the unique offerings.
OR, if you dive deeper than 50 meters, this is a good watch because there aren’t many smartwatches that are designed for deeper than 50 meters… although other than being waterproof to 100 meters there aren’t any other special features that make this an exceptionally good dive watch.
OR, if you break stuff worse than me and you’re concerned about smashing a less sturdy watch to pieces, this could be a good solution for you since it’s one tough watch.
Other than that, the cons really do outweigh the pros.