It’s really tricky to find a smart watch not made in China. Of course, it’s not even worth asking about the 800-pound Gorilla in the room. All Apple watches are manufactured in China. As I mentioned on my post about smartphones, there’s been a lot of chatter about its suppliers Luxshare Precision Industry and Foxconn moving to Vietnam. But Apple is lost—while Foxconn is a Taiwanese company, Luxshare is based in China, so even if they do move production to Vietnam they will still funnel millions of dollars into the coffers of the CCP. Apple is asshoe.
FitBit hasn’t done much better. They pioneered the smart watch industry years before Apple, but like Apple they went all-in on China manufacturing. Back in 2019 there was a lot of press about how FitBit was moving out of China to get around the 2018 tariffs, but all of that quieted down when smart watches were quietly removed from the list of products that imposed tariffs. I’m guessing that FitBit can probably thank Apple for their lobbying.
Suunto is a company based out of Finland that produces great watches, some of them in Finland itself. But it was sold to China-owned Anta Sports in 2019, only to be re-sold to Chinese technology company Liesheng in 2022. Some Suunto watches are still made in Finland, but a good portion of the profits and all of the corporate taxes go to fund the CCP. No thank you.
It’s depressing to look at other smart watch makers. Polar makes everything in China, as does Coros. Even the $2000 TAG Heuer Connected Watch is, unbelievably, made in China.
But surprisingly, there are options, which I’ll detail below.
Best Smart Watches Not Made in China
As I write this in late 2023, Apple has announced that it was suspending sales of its high-end Apple Watches because it was found guilty of infringing on patents by a company called Masimo. Specifically, Masimo had patented the technology for pulse oximetry (measuring the level of oxygen in your blood).
In a particularly sleazy move, Apple poached a number of top executives and more than a dozen employees prior to introducing pulse oximetry into its watches in 2020. If you recall, that was just around the time that blood oxygen levels were in the news.
Rather than offering to license Masimo or acquire its technology, Apple simply stole it. Worse, it’s now using its lobbyists in Washington to try to pressure the Biden administration into overturning the International Trade Commission’s ruling (something they’d managed to do in 2013 when Apple violated one of Samsung’s patents). It reminds me of how Amazon simply copied (stole?) ideas from air quality monitor companies to sell its own branded product.
Here’s the thing about Masimo. They’re not a company that engages in patent trolling. They legitimately invented this and other technology and use it to produce medical devices that hospitals and healthcare providers depend on.
Their first foray into the consumer market was the Masimo W1 Medical Watch. I just called them and confirmed that it’s made in the USA in their Irvine, California headquarters. When I look at similar devices like their
If you’re looking for a smartwatch that lets you view your photos, and listen to music, and track your workouts, this probably isn’t the watch for you. But if you primarily need a smart watch that you can wear through the day (and night) that provides the most accurate read on your health, including statistics like hydration index (are you dehydrated), oxygen level, pulse rate AND heart rate (tracked separately), breaths per minute, and steps, there isn’t a better watch you can buy, and even after stealing a lot of its technology Apple doesn’t even come close given Masimo’s years of experience in the medical devices space. In fact, unlike the Apple Watch, the W1 has received FDA approval as a medical device.
You can buy it from Amazon. The price on Amazon includes the $499 for the watch and the $189 for a 1-year subscription to Masimo’s “Personal SafetyNet Service” that helps to analyze and keep track of your health trends.
Just as you won’t be able to find a new Samsung smartphone made out of China, you won’t find a Galaxy Watch made in China either. These are being made in Vietnam.
As with the Apple watch, these comes in two sizes, a 40mm and a 44mm face. Samsung’s site has a pretty good breakdown of its features, which includes fitness tracking, sleep coaching, and wellness insights. Its health features are comparable to Apple’s, including the ability to measure heart rhythm, fall detection, and workout features that track heart rate zones. I actually love the round bezel vs. the rectangular one, as you can make your watch look like…a watch.
3. Most Smartwatches / Fitness Trackers from Garmin
This is a brand I was surprised to see on this list. But sure enough, the majority of Garmin watches are made in the USA (in Kansas and Oregon) or in Taiwan (in Zhongli, Xizhi, Xinshi, and Linkou). There is a manufacturing facility in China, but word is that it doesn’t account for a lot of their production. Let’s hope it stays that way.
Garmin is well known among athletes, be it professional athletes, distance runners, triathletes, hikers, and those of us doing everyday workouts. They did a nice job of replicating and in some cases outdoing some of the training and workout features of FitBit and Apple. Lots of folks use it as their personal trainer.
To a newcomer to Garmin, the model names can be downright confusing. I counted 39 different names on their site! But luckily, there are a number of reviews on the Web that can help you pinpoint the perfect one for you.
Garmin Venu 2 – This is the one that TechRadar and The Verge name as their #1 pick. It’s $450 and has features that a much more expensive Apple Watch doesn’t have, including up to 9 days of battery life. It allows you to use your watch as a microphone and speaker to take calls or talk to your digital assistant via Bluetooth. It’s the most stylish model which balances fitness tracking and everyday use.
Garmin Forerunner 265 – Tom’s Guide names this one their #1 overall pick for Garmin watches, and it’s a perennial entry on Wirecutter’s best of list. It features up to 13 days of battery life, an AMOLED display, GPS, and music.
Garmin Epix Pro – ZDNet named this watch as their overall best pick. At $900 this watch doesn’t come cheap, but you do get what you pay for, including an AMOLED display, an LED flashlight, and high-end materials including glass and titanium. It’s a good watch to get for a serious athlete.
Be sure to check out this tool on Garmin’s site that can help you find the right model for you.
Garmin watches are exceptional for their durability and their functionality, but some people complain that unlike an Apple or Google watch, you can’t download apps onto the watch. Honestly, I think these complaints aren’t valid; you really don’t need to use more than a handful of apps on your watch, and those come included. (In fact, downloading a bunch of apps you don’t need just makes performance and battery power worse).
Because Garmin does have that one manufacturing plant in China, you’ll want to double-check before you buy it. I linked to Garmin’s site above, but these watches are available at retailers like Amazon and Walmart.
The Pixel Watch is of course Google’s own attempt to compete in the Smart Watch market.
A lot of people may not realize that In early 2021 Google acquired FitBit. They wasted no time in building all the best things from FitBit into their Pixel Watch. As with Samsung and Apple Watches, Pixel Watches have heart rate sensors, blood oxygen levels, and fall detection. They add some innovations like a body temperature monitor. And of course, it integrates with Google Wallet and Calendar.
The reviews of the first Pixel Watch weren’t stellar, but they’ve clearly improved with the Pixel Watch 2. It is maddening that they seem to go out of their way to avoid saying where they’re made, but most reports on the Internet say that their boxes clearly say that the watch is made in Vietnam (cheaper components like the band and charger are made in China, but it’s difficult to avoid that these days).
Unfortunately these seem like the only options right now. And forget about any smartwatches under $50; those are long lost to China.
Do you know of other smart watches that have avoided the China trap? Let us know in the comments!
- smart watches