Things I Love: Withings Steel HR Watch Review

Sooooo today's blog post is a little bit different, but when it comes to things I wear, the watch I wear every single day - and have done for nearly two years now - is easily the thing I get the most questions about or asked for a review of. Whether it's in real life, or on a photo I share on Instagram, I get asked for a review of my Withing Steel HR watch, so I figured it would be a good time to do one.

The reason I mention how long I've had this watch is so that you know I have been using it (every single day) for a long time and I have got to know it very well in both terms of its functions and how good it is at doing them.

Below you'll find out why I chose this watch (over other similar models), what it does, how easy it was to set up, what I like most about the Withings Steel HR watch, and also., what hasn't been exactly perfect.

Now without dragging out this any longer, here's my Withings Steel HR watch review!

An Honest Review of Withings Steel HR Watch

The reason I say honest review is because that is exactly what this is going to be. Super honest, super transparent, super open about what I like about the Withings Steel HR watch, what I don't like, what I've had some small problems with, and why (or rather to whom!) I would recommend this watch.

Putting my money where my mouth is, I have to say that I bought this watch with my own cash back in March 2019 and I haven't worked with Withings ever, nor do I have plans to. I have since bought a replacement charger from them too.

I ordered both my watch and the charger directly from the company to ensure my guarantee would be upheld, and I am really pleased I did this. When I purchased the watch, I believe I bought it for around 170 Euros and that included an extra free strap. (They are currently available for 180 Euros, or more if you want the Sport version, if you want additional fitness tracking features..)

I am not being paid to write this review, nor have I ever been contacted by Withings in relation to sharing my review of the Steel HR watch. If this changes following the review, I will update the following disclosure accordingly!

DISCLOSURE: That said, this post does contain affiliate links, which means I make a little money if you do go ahead and make a purchase from Withings - which I recommend you do if you are going to get this watch (rather than a third party) because one of the reasons I like this watch is because the company have offered great customer service. But more about that later on...

About Withings HR Steel Watch

If you're interested, I thought it would be cool to give a little background into the company behind Withings Steel HR watches (and other models of Withings smartwatches), and also below there's a little explanation of how I got to know the brand.

Firstly, Withings is pronounced as With-Things, which I didn't actually know until I wrote this review! The company began in 2008 in France and their first product was a the connected body scale, which launched in 2009. They moved into other kinds of body and baby monitors. Their first smartwatch was released in 2013 and was called Pulse O2, and if you Google images of it, it really doesn't look dissimilar from the FitBits and Apple Watches you can buy now.

Withings' so-called hybrid smartwatch, the Steel HR watch, was first released in 2019 and so I must have got mine quite soon after it came out, which is quite unusual for me - I'm not generally an early adopter of things! Withings, as a company, has undergone a number of acquisitions over the last decade and for a while it was owned by Nokia and the watches were re-branded during this time. Since 2018, however, they were bought back by one of the original founders, and operations and productions have been based in France since that time.

I first saw a Withings Steel HR watch in quite strange circumstances. It was during a meeting to sell our old apartment! One of the buyers was wearing a smart looking watch and I noticed now and again that one of the dials on the watch face would light up. I liked how clean the design was - subtle, sleek and both smart and stylish - I was curious about that small digital dial that was flashing up notifications. I also liked that it was a unisex-looking watch.

I can't remember exactly how I found out that it was a Withings Steel HR watch, but I can't remember it being that difficult once I did a bit of Googling. I then discovered it was a smartwatch and that the company, Withings, had other more affordable models, many without digital interfaces, but the one that I liked the best, remained the one I had seen originally on our house buyer's wrist - the Withings Steel HR watch.

I had actually been looking for a smartwatch/watch with fitness tracker and GPS functions for a short while as I had started to get active again since giving birth around 4-5 months previously. I also didn't like how much I looked at my phone to check the time; when you are breastfeeding you check the time MANY times a day, and I would inevitably get sucked into opening a few apps and scrolling around which I just didn't want to do. So, I had already decided to try and find a smartwatch to solve both of these problem!

They have a number of different models, and they seem to offer both a budget option for those wanting a simple smartwatch, and a stylish option for those wanting a smartwatch that doesn't look like a smartwatch, i.e. it looks more like a "traditional" analogue watch.

Why I Chose the Withings Steel HR Watch

To get to the heart of this review of my Withings Steel HR watch it's important to know what I wanted it to do.

Primarily, wanted a watch that told the time, and had some fitness tracker abilities. Almost of equal importance was that I wanted a watch that looked good, could be worn all day (so for work, for exercise, in the shower etc) and be smart enough for going out too.

Following this, I was looking for the best watch that could be worn while swimming - with some fitness tracking ability - as that's one of the sports I like to do, and having GPS functions as part of the fitness tracking was a big nice to have. I was initially keen to get a smartwatch/fitness tracker that also let me track my steps, but after further research into this, this was less of a priority and more of a nice-to-have. 

Price-wise, I was happy to pay more than 100 Euros but didn't want to go too far over 200 Euros, and if I did, I wanted to make sure that it came with a long guarantee and that there were plenty of good reviews of the watch.

In the end I went with Withings Steel HR over other models, like the equivalent FitBit smartwatch, because it did the two most important things I wanted, and it also satisfied the other "nice to have" features and functions I was looking for. I also liked that I could change the straps (so change the watch's appearance if I wanted). And yes, I appreciated that it came with a 2-year warranty, and that there were plenty of good (as in helpful, but yes also, majority of them are also positive!) reviews of the Withings Steel HR watch on the Internet (not just on the Withings website, FYI!). It also had the GPS function, heartbeat monitor, and a fairly user-friendly looking app for reviewing all my data.

As for the price tag, I have to say that I can't remember exactly how much it was but I believe it was between 150 - 200 Euros (I am guessing 170 Euros). I'm fairly confident it wasn't more than 200 Euros as that was my price limit (and I rarely go above my limit!) and that seems in line with the current price of the Withings Steel HR watch now. I think when I bought mine I got a free strap, so I ordered it with a gold metallic band strap, and with silicone black strap. My watch has a gold face, but there are a number of different face designs you can choose from.

Withings Steel HR Watch Review

I found the set-up of the watch pretty easy. It charged quickly, and I was able to download the app for my phone, sync it all up via Bluetooth (which is how the watch communicates) and had it on my wrist tracking my steps and activity within a few hours (which was mostly wait time for the charge). I got the watch with two straps and I started off with the black silicone strap, which I found comfortable and functional. I also really liked the way it looked. I'm not a dainty-watch or jewellery kind of person, so I like that it has a unisex style.

When I use it for fitness tracking, I find it really easy to get started and I find it pretty accurate at tracking my runs, walks bike rides, and swimming sessions. It's also been pretty good at tracking general exercise or workouts, but it does sometimes drop the heart-rate tracking, and so I don't often get a very accurate reading. Occasionally, the GPS has let me down when on a run or a long walk (most often by placing me on the other side of a river and so giving an off measurement of distance) but this isn't a crucial measurement for me as I usually run the same routes so I know how far I have gone.

I do use the steps tracker feature by setting myself a daily goal, but I don't go out of my way to try and achieve this goal every single day. Instead I use it like a guide to figuring out if I've moved enough over the course of a week or so, which can sometimes (ahem, very often!) influence how my mental health and mood is.

As with nearly all fitness trackers, from what I've heard at least, it will not track steps when you are pushing a buggy or something else. In other words, it measures steps by the movement of your arm. When I was first wearing this watch I was pushing a buggy A LOT - like multiple times a day - so I would miss readings of steps on those walks, which was a little frustrating. I got around this by tracking my walking, or by simply pushing the buggy with one hand and letting the arm wearing the watch move! But this is a little annoying if you are looking at getting this because tracking steps is important. It's possible other smartwatches have better technology for getting around this, and I am aware that some other devices can be quickly and easily separated from their straps and carried in clothing or shoes and therefore track steps more effectively, and this isn't an option with Withings Steel HR unless you take the straps off manually. Or you can simply tuck the watch as is in a pocket and do it that way, but obviously this is a clumsy solution to the problem.

I only really check the Healthmate app on my phone after a run or fitness session, and I am mostly only interested in the distance and heartbeat, but I appreciate that it also tracks incline, calories burnt and shows me the route too. The thing I like about the heartbeat tracking too is that it tells me for how long I'm in a Moderate, Intense or Peak zone in terms of an elevated heart rate during fitness. This has helped me compare runs and exercise and see what pushes me, and what doesn't!

When I first got the watch and set it up to sync with my phone, I was able to have it connect with Bluetooth whenever I switched my phone's Bluetooth on, and this meant that it would receive notifications on the small digital dial. These included a new alert when I received an email, and it also notified me when I got a new Whatsapp message, and would even let me read the first line or two of the message as it tracked through my digital dial. I would only really use this feature when I was doing exercise, on a walk (and listening to music on my Bluetooth headphones) or had my phone in a bag but I was waiting on an important message or email. It was useful, but not something I would have bought the watch for. It also drained the battery quite a lot, and sometimes was annoying during my runs or other exercise because I actually didn't want to be interrupted or notified of emails and messages.

However, earlier this year, after I did an update for the watch (which thankfully doesn't happen very often - as a side note this would be a big negative for me!), this stopped working and I've never been able to get a phone notification on my Withings Steel HR watch since. I have no idea why this stopped working, but in all honestly, I haven't looked into because I don't miss it that much, and I have just been too busy. I also find that the battery lasts on average a day or two longer now so that's more convenient for me.

The watch holds its charge really well and on average I charge it every 20-30 days. If I do a lot of tracking and exercise (which you have to manually set off) then the battery goes a lot quicker. The good thing is that it is very quick to charge and will go from 0% to 100% in maybe 3-4 hours, so even if you only have 10 minutes you can add a little charge to your watch that will see you through to the end of the day if needs be. The watch has its own little USB dock-charger so you do need to have the correct charger with you (and so it is a bit of a pain when you lose it - like I did!). 

I bought my Withings Steel HR watch directly from Withings and I am really glad I did. Not only because I have peace of mind that my guarantee will be honoured, but also the service has been brilliant from start to finish. Over the last 19 months I have had to contact them only a few times. Once to order a new charger as I lost my original one, and then secondly to re-boot my watch after it stopped working randomly - more about the latter below! Each communication has been excellent, prompt and when an error was made with the replacement charger order, it was resolved very quickly and at no extra cost to myself.

So yes, my watch stopped working randomly around the end of this summer, so after 18 months of regular use. I think it was caused by a combination of a dead battery and a run of hot weather in which I did a lot of swimming, however, I have no proof of this. All that happened was that the watch stopped telling the time and I couldn't get it to charge and get going again. I followed these instructions and it got going again instantly, so while it wasn't ideal that it stopped working, I find it reassuring that it began working again without too much drama, just a little patience!

The Best Bits About My Withings Steel HR Watch

Here's a quick summary of the things I love most about my Withings Steel HR smartwatch:

  • It looks great. As I opened this post with, I get A LOT of compliments and questions about this watch. People really do want to know more about it (like I did when I first saw it!) and it's probably my ego, but I quite like that. I also like how I can change the straps (both my black silicone one and my gold band style strap are very comfortable, if a little fiddly to change) although I don't do this very often (because I'm lazy, not because it's a design fault!).
  • It does what it's supposed to. Or rather, it does what I want it to, which is tell the time, track my movement/steps, and act as a fitness tracker when I do other forms of exercise, including monitoring heart beat. That wasn't essential for me, but I do like having it now as I can see how "intense" my workouts are. The fact it also has GPS, can help tracks sleep and has some other sports-related smartwatch functions are great and nice to have, but weren't essential to me. I
  • It's waterproof! I LOVE that I can wear this watch all day and not think twice about getting it wet. I also love that I can wear it swimming because that is one of the sports I like to do so it's cool to track my swimming sessions. It's fair to say that I have tested the waterproof function of my Withings Steel HR watch MANY times and it's still going strong.
  • The battery lasts a really long time. And it charges very quickly too. I am all for devices that don't need charging every single night, or indeed that don't take all night to charge, so these are two big plus points for the Withings Steel HR watch!
  • The customer service is excellent! As I mention above I have found my (admittedly limited) interactions with Withings super easy and accommodating. I am a big fan of companies that solve problems quickly and at no extra cost (money or time-wise) to the customer. That is essentially what keeps me loyal.
  • Value for money. I really like how it's a high quality product with a price tag that reflects the quality you get, AND I like how there are other more affordable options available for those who want the same style but maybe don't require the digital dial.
  • There are also more expensive options with a newer technology called the ScanWatch which apparently can track more of your "vitals" to better understand and improve your health and fitness. ScanWatches still look just like my own watch so if you want the style of an analogue watch but more technology with it, a Withings ScanWatch may well be the model for you.

The Not-So-Best Bits About My Withings Steel HR Watch

These are some of the things that haven't been exactly perfect. For me, they're not deal-breakers, but they might be for you and it's important I share so that this review is honest and transparent.

  • As I mentioned above, earlier this year, after I'd had the watch over a year, it "died" and didn't come back to life until I did a re-boot. Again, as I write above this was easily done by following a few simple instructions. The only annoying thing was having to wait 24 hours as part of the process.
  • The second most annoying thing about this watch, which could be a deal-breaker for some people is that the minute-hand lags behind a little bit. This means the analogue time on the watch face that shows the time now shows the time about 3-4 minutes behind. This is a little annoying, and when I first noticed it (possibly about 6 months after I got the watch) it was a real pain in the backsidebut now I know it, I am used to it and if I want the most accurate time I just tap the button to see the digital time reading.
  • As I mention above too, my email, SMS and WhatsApp messages no longer show up as notifications on my watch since the last update which was maybe 6-8 months ago. I do believe I could fix this if I looked into it but as yet haven't because I quite like not having them.
  • My watch face is now quite scratched and this is partly because of a design feature. The casing is curved and so sticks out a bit and for this reason - and the fact I wear it all the time and am a busy mum of two young kids - it got scratched quite quickly. It currently has one or two big scratches and a handful of other
  • Again, repeating what I said above, I'm not always sure how accurate the GPS is. It has occasionally jumped off the course, but again, this is not a big deal to me as I know the running routes I use but I can imagine if I were to run elsewhere or on new routes this would be something that would need to work consistently.
  • It also doesn't track my steps if I'm pushing a buggy, which is a little annoying, BUT this would be the case with all smartwatches).
  • For this reason, I sometimes wish I could take the chip out like you can with a FitBit (and put it in a pocket or shoe for example) but you can easily enough take the watch face off the straps (although you do need a tool to do this) and carry it however you choose.

Should You Get a Withings Steel HR Watch?

To summarise, the Withings Steel HR watch is great if you are looking for a smartwatch with some basic fitness tracking features (including GPS and heart rate tracking) AND you would prefer such a watch to look like a "normal" watch rather than an all-singing, all-dancing, drone-launching-and-tracking device.

If you are wanting a smartwatch that has more health- and fitness-tracking functions, but still looks smart and stylish (and like an analogue watch) then you may want to look at the Withings ScanWatch.

If you have any questions about this review of the Withings Steel HR watch, let me know, and if you'd like to save or share this post, here's an image you can pin:

Frances M. Thompson

Londoner turned wanderer, Frankie is an author, freelance writer and blogger. Currently based in Amsterdam, Frankie was nomadic for two years before starting a family with her Australian partner. Frankie is the author of three short story collections, and is a freelance writer for travel and creative brands. In 2017, she launched WriteNOW Cards, affirmation cards for writers that help build a productive and positive writing practice. When not writing contemporary fiction, Frankie shops for vintage clothes, dances to 70s disco music and chases her two young sons around Amsterdam.
Find Frankie on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+.

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