Activities | Triathletes and Swimming


These watches need one capability: be waterproof. While every GPS watch can withstand rain and sweat, only certain models are waterproof enough to make swimming feasible.

One thing to note: GPS signals aren’t strong enough to be picked up underwater. This means unless you utilize the bathing cap method (i.e. stick the watch in the back of your swim cap where it’s less prone to be obstructed by water), these watches are nothing more than glorified stopwatches. Still, if you swim often, it’s a nice perk to take your GPS watch in the water with you.

Advanced Swimmers

As GPS watch makers have become savvier to the needs of swimmers, one watch – Garmin’s Forerunner 910xt – uses an accelerometer to more accurately measure swimming metrics.

When swimming outdoors with these watches, the accelerometer is combined with any GPS signals it picks up (i.e. when your wrist is above the water mid-stroke) to better gauge distance and speed. Indoors, the accelerometer automatically counts strokes and laps. By setting pool length on the watch, distance and speed are calculated.

In addition, the accelerometer will identify – with varying degrees of accuracy – your swim stroke.


These watches are very similar to the advanced and expert cyclist watches in that they have quick-release mounts, compatible bike accessories, custom bike settings, and lots of customizable data fields. They are also – wait for it – waterproof!

One more feature common to these watches is multi-sport. This quickly transitions the watch from one activity to another, meaning that with the touch of a button the data fields will change to what’s appropriate for that activity. A simple example is when transitioning from biking to running. The display will change speed from miles per hour (biking) to minutes per mile (running). But since these watches are extremely customizable, you can adjust the fields to whatever you prefer.