Diesel On Full Guard

Depending on who you talk to, the smartwatch war is all but over, and Apple won. Google's Android Wear initiative tried to take down the Apple Watch a few years back but didn't make much of a dent.

Google has since gone back to the drawing board, renamed its smartwatch platform 'Wear OS' and has enlisted the assistance of brands like TAG Heuer, Hugo Boss and Fossil, to give consumers something that even Apple's product can't manage: a sense of real fashion.

The Wear OS range is populated by smartwatches that don't actually look like smartwatches, which – Google hopes – will make them a more mainstream proposition. Diesel is also joining the Wear OS party and is perhaps one of the most important allies Google has in the next phase of the wearables war.

Its Diesel On Full Guard timepiece is therefore one of the key Wear OS devices on the market right now – but does it have the functionality to match those devilishly good looks, especially at the lofty price of $325/£329 (around AU$435)?

Design and comfort

  • Metal casing with water and dust resistance
  • Leather or metal replaceable strap

As is the case with many of the watches running the second generation of Google's wearable operating system, the Diesel On Full Guard has a round face and looks like a 'normal' watch you'd find in your local jewellers.

It's quite chunky and is fashioned predominantly from metal; the strap is leather (although a metal alternative is also available for $25/£20 more) and the only part of the watch that is plastic is a panel on the back, via which the watch's battery is topped-up using the supplied charging pad.

On the right-hand side of the watch you'll find a rotating crown which can be used to scroll through menus; a short press opens up the main Wear OS menu, while a long press triggers Google Assistant. Two more buttons – situated above and below the crown – grant access to common shortcuts and suggested actions, such as checking the weather and browsing suggested apps to download.

The black strap supplied with our review model is made from genuine leather and, as you might expect, shows signs of wear quite quickly; creases appear after a day of use, which is pretty normal for this kind of watch. The straps have a quick-release mechanism which means they're easy to remove and replace.

Given its large size and hefty weight, the Diesel On Full Guard can be slightly uncomfortable, especially if you have slender wrists. The metal frame does have a tendency to dig into the skin as you move your hand, so you might want to try it on for size before making a purchase.

While it's not being marketed as a fitness watch, the Diesel On Full Guard is pretty robust – it has water and dust resistance and is capable of withstanding a fair degree of punishment.

However, given its status as a fashion accessory – and the fact that there's a leather strap that can pick up marks and scuffs – we imagine most people will wear this on a night out on the town rather than on a demanding hiking adventure.

Screen

  • 1.4-inch AMOLED panel with 454 x 454 resolution
  • Diesel dials can be edited and saved

If you've been following Google's smartphone OS since day one then you'll no doubt recall the Moto 360, which was unique for its circular display. However, to fit in the ambient light sensor Motorola had to include a black slot which gave rise to the term 'flat tire' – today, it might have been referred to as a 'notch', like that seen on the iPhone X.

Mercifully, the days of the 'flat tire' are behind us and the Diesel On Full Guard showcases a beautifully complete circular dial. This 1.4-inch AMOLED panel has a resolution of 454 x 454 pixels and is bright, punchy and easy to read in practically all conditions.

While the bulk of Wear OS is consistent across all of the various devices, Diesel has attempted to stamp its mark on this particular watch by including some exclusive – and customizable – watch faces.

Interestingly, the company has decided to make these faces look like they do on its other (non-smart) watches, right down to the ability to add a special holographic-style effect which changes color when you tilt the watch; this mimics the sheen used on Diesel's standard timepieces and looks really effective.

As well as toggling this effect on and off, you can alter other elements of the face and then save your configuration. You can also download additional faces from the Google Play store, or even use one of the default Wear OS ones, if Diesel's offerings are a little too fancy for your liking.

Specs, features and performance

  • Snapdragon 2100 CPU running at 1.2Ghz with 512MB RAM
  • 4GB of storage
  • Latest version of Google's Wear OS

The first generation of Android Wear watches were hamstrung by poor performance due the lackluster specifications; the end result was an OS which felt sluggish and often unresponsive.

Thankfully, the current Wear OS range doesn't suffer from this problem, and the Diesel On Full Guard is snappy and responds instantly to your inputs. This is down to the Snapdragon 2100 chipset beating at the heart of the watch, which is aided by 512MB of RAM.

However, while navigating around the Wear OS interface is a relatively quick affair, there are moments when the watch pauses for a second before loading an app or dropping you into the next menu. It's not a deal-breaker, but it can become annoying, especially when you're in a hurry.

While it has a premium price tag, the Diesel On Full Guard lacks NFC, so you won't be able to use it to make contactless payments via Google Pay – a real oversight if you ask us, given that such functionality is available on many similarly-priced rivals.

One of the reasons Google dropped the 'Android' from 'Android Wear' is because it wants to make this line of wearables platform agnostic; like other Wear OS devices, the Diesel On Full Guard works with both Android and iOS.

You have access to slightly fewer apps when using an iPhone, but the process for connecting is largely the same. The only issue we encountered was that when paired with an iPhone, the watch would sometimes fail to automatically reconnect after losing its link.

Apps and fitness tracking

  • No GPS or heart rate monitor included
  • Comes with Google and Diesel fitness apps

Like all Wear OS devices, the Diesel On Full Guard connects to your Android or iOS smartphone via a dedicated application. Certain apps transfer their functions to the watch; you can have Google Translate on your wrist ready to interpret any foreign language, or you can install Google Play Music and control your audio library from your watch face.

Diesel has also installed some of its own apps, although they're rather hit-and-miss. 'Dial Effects' is an app which, once enabled, overlays visual effects on the watch face which end up being an irritation more than anything else; for example, 'Activity Mode' covers the face with dust which is slowly removed the more exercise you do, while 'Weather Mode' shows things like rain and lightning, depending on the local conditions.

Diesel T-ON-I is a more ambitious undertaking, and essentially takes core information like the weather, your appointments and the number of steps you've taken and presents them with occasionally witty messages.

While the design of the interface is nice and it makes the Diesel On Full Guard stand apart from other Wear OS devices, this is ultimately nothing more than needless duplication of content and if you want to rely on it fully you'll need to painstakingly disable all of the other elements of the Wear OS system which already report on this kind of data – otherwise you'll have notifications hitting you from all directions.

Like a great many Wear OS watches, the Diesel On Full Guard isn't being positioned as a fitness tracker – it's aimed at fashion-conscious consumers first and foremost. While Google Fit comes pre-loaded and will track your various physical activities, it's totally dependent on your phone's GPS tech, as the watch itself lacks this capability.

There's also no heart rate monitor, which again limits the Diesel On Full Guard's appeal to serious fitness fanatics. The absence of such features is puzzling when you consider that watches like the Amazfit Bip – which costs a tiny fraction of what Diesel is asking for its device – has both GPS and a heart rate monitor.

As well as Google Fit, you can install various fitness trackers and other applications from the Google Play Store.

Battery life

  • 370mAh battery
  • Daily charges are necessary
  • Magnetic charging plate can slip off

Stamina has long been the Achilles' heel of smartwatches, and sadly the Diesel On Full Guard does nothing to change this sorry state of affairs. The most you can reasonably expect to get out of a single charge is 24 hours, and if you're using the watch a lot then you can expect a much lower figure than that.

You'll need to charge the watch at least once a day, a process which takes much longer than it should do – a full charge is around two hours. 

The bundled magnetic charging pad is also a let-down, as it often slips off the back of the watch during use; you'll need to make sure you lay it down on a completely flat surface where it won't get knocked.

Verdict

There's no denying that the Diesel On Full Guard looks the part, and is sure to appeal to existing fans of the brand as well as those who value aesthetic charm above all else.

It also benefits from the enhanced power of Wear OS, Google's smartwatch operating system – it's smoother, more versatile and offers both Android and iOS support. It's just a shame that there aren't more dedicated apps for the platform.

However, there are some unfortunate shortcomings to note. The lack of GPS and NFC is a real shame, especially when you consider the price point. Battery life is also decidedly average – you'll need to charge this at least once a day, and the charging time is pretty lengthy.

Of course, not everybody wants a super-sporty smartwatch or fitness tracker, and the Diesel Full On Guard isn't all that expensive when you compare it to a typical 'traditional' fashion timepiece.

Who's this for?

It might sound like an obvious answer, but the Diesel On Full Guard is clearly aimed at existing Diesel fans.

The company has maintained design connections with its existing line of watches – right down to replicating the attractive color-change dial effect using the motion-sensing tech inside the watch – and AMOLED display aside, you'd be forgiven for assuming this is just a typical watch (something which, in all fairness, could be said of many of the new Wear OS devices).

If you're a fitness enthusiast though then this perhaps isn't for you; there's no built-in GPS or heart rate monitor, which rather limits the Diesel On Full Guard's suitability when it comes to keeping tabs on your daily activity regime.

Should you buy it?

If you're after a smartwatch to rival the likes of the Apple Watch 3, then the Diesel On Full Guard is tricky to recommend; it's lacking in key features – such as GPS and NFC – and can't match Apple's device when it comes to fitness functionality.

However, if you want a smartwatch which looks like a fashionable timepiece, then the purchasing decision is a little easier to justify; Diesel's designer watches are already quite pricey. It's just a shame that the battery life is so disappointing, and the Wear OS software is still so limited in terms of app support.

First reviewed: May 2018

The Diesel On is far from a perfect smartwatch, so you might want to consider one of these instead:

LG Watch Sport

One of the leading Wear OS devices right now, the LG Watch Sport has powerful specs and can even make calls via its own SIM card – assuming you're in the US, anyway. It's quite expensive though and suffers from poor battery life, like the Diesel On Full Guard.

Read our full LG Watch Sport review

Apple Watch 3

Apple's the market leader in the smartwatch sector and with good reason – its flagship device is head and shoulders above its rivals. However, by focusing on iOS so strongly the company runs the risk of losing out on customers; Google's Wear OS provides support for both iPhone and Android users, to its credit.

Read our full Apple Watch 3 review

LG Watch Style

Cheaper than the LG Watch Sport and not quite as feature-rich, this Wear OS device is a good option if you don't fancy spending loads of money on Diesel's offering – just don't expect to dazzle your mates with this on your wrist.

Read our full LG Watch Style review

Damien McFerran
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