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SwimTrek News

Tried & Tested: Swim Watch Buyer’s Guide

By Jack Hudson , 19 October, 2020

3 top brands. 3 leading models. All certified by the SwimTrek tribe...

We wanted to know which swim watch faired best for pool and open water training, and we opted to enlist the support of our SwimTrek community. We found that 3 brands were mentioned more than any others: Garmin, SUUNTO and Apple Watch. But was there a clear favourite model for each?

We asked: you answered…


Garmin

SwimTrek - garmin 735

“As a runner who has found no fault with my [Garmin] Forerunner 935 when it comes to hitting the road, I was surprised to find difficulties when it came to swimming. As I am just starting out in open water swimming I predominantly swim breaststroke and the GPS really struggles to keep a track of me. I’ve found a few ways around it and as soon as I swim front crawl the GPS catches up and records the distance.” @themorningcoffeerun

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A week of NO RUNNING! • Don’t worry this page isn’t about to become a swimming account! I took this week off running following the 112km walking weekend last week. • I’ve substituted the miles on the road with kilometres in the lake with 3.6km in total for the week; which is 2.4km longer than any other week I’ve ever done! • Next week I’ll be back on the pavements, with healed feet and new motivation. Roll on the road! • P.S yes I have noticed how my swimming hat gives me eyebrows for dayyyys 😂 • • #outdoorswimming #2xu #garminswim #lakeswimming #ows #openwaterswimming @2xueurope #swimming #challengeyourself #ukrunchat #ukswimchat #loveopenwaterswimming

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Garmin are one of the biggest names in the world of sport watches. They're built to cater for everyone from experienced athletes to beginners - those who need a sophisticated edge to get ahead and those who're simply starting out and looking for technical reassurance. The Garmin Swim 2 has become a favoured model among regular swimmers, equipped with a wrist-wrapped heart rate monitor and GPS capability. It's designed to endure open water - water-resistant up to 50 metres and able to accurately record distance, stroke and pace...


What did you say?

SwimTrekker Comments
Andrew Eric Gowland "Garmin 920XT, old faithful... cannot beat it. I do not want a smart watch, just a GPS tracker with good battery and reliable data."
Donna Goldberg Vardi "Garmin 735. Simple and good!"
Anne Besser "Garmin 725... GPS in open water/pool sessions just great for SWOLF as well as run and cycle. Love it!"
Diana Teeter "Garmin 935 for pool and open water. I think there is a newer model out now, but this one is good for many other sports also. I use it for swim, bike and run."
Andy Tester "I have been using the Garmin Forerunner 735xt and would highly recommend it. Very accurate open water swim GPS mapping, speed and data. The watch is not to large. Easy to use. Great pool settings again with excellent data screens..."
Nicola Littlewood "Moved from Apple Watch back to Garmin as found the touch screen too fiddly for swimming. [Now] have the 635 Music..."
Virginia Street "I have a Garmin fēnix 5. I love it. Really accurate in the water and great for lots of other activities too..."
Marie-Josée D'Amours "Garmin Swim 2. Best watch so far for OWS. Very accurate."
Gigi McGuire "I love the Garmin 935 for the pool..."
Debs Lund "Garmin 735xt works brilliantly for everything I do, particularly OW swimming."
Tim Yeandle "Garmin Swim 2. It's the first GPS watch I've had, so I can't compare it to other ones. I'm very pleased with it."
Ann-Katrin Stengel "My Garmin fēnix 5S Plus had challenges recording the open water swimming. Compared to the “official distance” (given by the guides...) it recorded wrong distances. I am very disappointed."
Peter Maloney Garmin " 735xt. I have had it for over 2 years and log my open water and pool swims. Have used it on a SwimTrek to map my swims..."

Verdict

Overall, Garmin were a definite favourite among the SwimTrekker tribe. The Garmin 735XT, Swim 2 and 935 received recurring mentions. However, a few swimmers encountered difficulty tracking numerous swims, disappointed by incorrect distance readings or occasional inaccurate tracking. Generally, the consensus is overwhelmingly positive, Garmin swim watches are largely described as reliable, not overly technical and exceptionally versatile. It seems to us that the Garmin 735 has it though - capable of advanced cycling, swimming and running dynamics, with heart rate tracking and easy-to-use connected smart features...

Pros: Designed for open water, good battery life, excellent data capabilities.

Cons: Reports of faulty distance tracking.


Suunto

SwimTrek - suunto watch

“I use a Suunto 9 for all my adventures. Be it land, water, horseback or in the gym. The Suunto 9 has a large screen which means you can easily see your stats and info whilst swimming. The amount of customising you can do means you can have it exactly how you want it. All whilst using one of the best battery lives and most accurate GPS used in a watch.” @jacobtonkin

Suunto are known for their cutting-edge dive watches, though they also specialise in multi-sport watches for extreme and more gentle outdoor activities. The Spartan models are often regarded as functional favourites for hiking, running, cycling and swimming. The designs vary with slight refinements and different specialties. For the most part, however, Suunto models seem to be distinguished by their sophisticated touch screens and long battery life, as well as the more expected additions of wrist-fixed heart rate monitors and built-in GPS.


What did you say?

SwimTrekker Comments
Sarah Louise Brown "I have a Sunnto 5 mid entry sports watch with accurate GPS, distance, stroke rate, heart rate etc. Loads of other features as well. It did take a little while to get used to, but love it now."
Tony Greener "Suunto Spartan Sport - brilliant function, battery, GPS, accuracy."
Keith Lee "2nd gen Apple Watch... touch screen too hard to use when wet + lousy battery life. Might be better now. [I] like my Suunto Spartan Trainer..."

Verdict

In the end, the Suunto flag wasn't mentioned as often as the Garmins, but those who swore by the brand came in strong on its side, describing their various models as highly functional with unmatched GPS, accurate metrics and satisfying battery life. This time, the Suunto Spartan series came out on top, touted as highly functional models with reliable, detailed metrics and superior battery life...

Pros: Great metrics, battery life and integrated GPS capabilities...

Cons: Abundance of features can overcomplicate early use...


Apple Watch

SwimTrek - apple watch

"I just use my Apple Watch. These (above) were my swims captured on my watch on the Emerald Coast SwimTrek a few weeks ago." Vanessa Christou

SwimTrek - vanessa watch map

Apple Watches are ideal for pool training, though also fitted with a few interesting design quirks: the GPS trackers ping a satellite signal every time your arm leaves the water (but won't register underwater), the screen locks when your start a workout (avoiding any disturbances or unintentional touching of the screen) and the heart rate monitor is considered largely ineffectual during longer distance swims. That being said, their models seem to warrant little criticism from those who take them to the water and test their capabilities.

What did you say?

SwimTrekker Comments
Kfir Pravda "I used my Apple Watch when I crossed the Dardanelles last year with Swimtrek, and then switched to Garmin 945 due to its advanced workout settings. Both are great - one as a smart watch with fitness features, and one as a proper sport watch."
Catherine O'Keefe "I also use an Apple Watch. It’s good for laps and OWS, and for all other activities, too."
Bill Korey "Apple Watch is great. Good GPS and can make phone calls and send texts so you don’t need your phone nearby if you have a problem. Maps of your swims are automatically downloaded to your phone."

Verdict

Apple Watch received no complaints from our swimmers - the Series 3-5 emerged as trusted waterproof fitness trackers with a huge variety of third-party apps and easy-to-read metrics for workout assistance. Feedback also suggested Apple models weren't as technical or winningly designed as other brands, but offered reliable tracking of shallower pool and ocean swims...

Pros: Supportive third-party apps and simple watch face functionality with uncomplicated metrics.

Cons: Shorter battery life and less open water friendly.


SwimTrek - calum maclean

Ready to test your new swim watch against the elements? Explore our selection of adventurous swimming holidays here.

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