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Best Swimming Watches in 2020

 

I know what you’re thinking. “I’m a runner. Why do I need to know about swimming watches?”

Well, swimming and running have similar benefits to the body. Swimming is far lower-impact than running, making it a great exercise to help you stay fit while recovering from injury, or simply to supplement your regular run training.

If you’re already using swimming as cross training, or are planning to add it to your training plan, adding a swimming watch to your range of gear is a great idea to track your stats.

We’ve reviewed some of the best swimming watches for you to compare, and our favorite is the Garmin Swim 2. It measures your heart rate based on your wrist pulse, as well as specific swimming-related metrics.  It can also be used to track running stats. It’s stylish enough to wear in any situation, as well.

Here are the swim watches we think you should be looking at if you’re planning to buy.

Top 3 Best and Favorites

 

Garmin Swim 2

 

  • Pool mode and open-water modes
  • Can track running and cycling
  • Pairs with compatible smartphones
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Garmin Forerunner 945

 

  • As accurate in water as on land
  • Can download songs to the watch
  • Contactless pay feature
Check Price

 

COROS APEX

 

  • Full operation with a single finger
  • Scratch-resistant
  • Battery life from 35 hours to 30 days
Check Price

Best Overall

1. Garmin Swim 2

The Garmin Swim 2 captures the number one spot for best swimming watch. Garmin is known quantity to most runners, for their multitude of great products. Not many are dedicated swimming items, though, so this is a welcome addition to their repertoire.

First of all, it’s a good-looking watch. It doesn’t look overly sporty, so you can wear it in the pool, at the office, or out to dinner. Whatever you pair it with, it looks stylish.

Secondly, the watch allows for tracking running statistics too. If you’re a casual runner who wants to track time, distance, and heart rate but no more advanced features, then this is the only watch you’ll need.

One of the best things about this swimming watch is that it has dedicated modes for pool and open-water swimming. Not many others do. The famed Garmin GPS comes in very useful for measuring distance when taking a swim in lakes or oceans.

If you’re very into your swimming training and wish to set specific goals, this watch’s advanced features are impressive. Set pacing alerts, log stats for specific swimming drills, and choose from two different rest timers.

As well as swim and run tracking, this watch also offers sleep tracking, calorie counting, and guided breathing exercises, making it one of the most versatile trackers you could choose.


PROS:

  • Pool mode and open-water modes
  • Can track running and cycling too
  • Pairs with compatible smartphones
  • Battery life of between 13 hours and 7 days, depending on mode

CONS:

  • GPS can take some time to sync

Check Price on Amazon

Top Watch for Triathletes

2. Garmin Forerunner 945

Triathletes, this watch will suit you well. It has features suited to both running and swimming, so whether you’re in the middle of a race or simply doing a lot of both sports, you’ll never need to switch watches.

It’s highly customizable, allowing you to set up profiles for any activity (if there isn’t a pre-set already). It measures a multitude of parameters, including maximum oxygen intake, heart rate, blood oxygen level, training load, and the anaerobic and aerobic effects of your training session.

Some great features that will benefit triathletes specifically include onboard maps, incident detection and emergency notifications, and sleep and stress tracking. These are all useful for training leading up to the race, as well as in the moment.

Surprisingly, it seems to be just as accurate in the water as it is on land, making it a gem for those who spend time in/on both.

A couple of finishing touches that we really like include the ability to store music on the watch, and the contactless pay feature, which means there’s no need to carry cash with you on a run.


PROS:

  • As accurate in water as on land
  • Ability to download songs to the watch
  • We like the contactless pay feature
  • Multisport watch that’s great for runners who swim

CONS:

  • It’s easy to accidentally buy the Asian version, which is much more limited – be careful when purchasing!

Check Price on Amazon

Best For Swimming and All Other Activities

3. Garmin fenix 6 Pro

As you can tell, we like Garmin’s products. The fenix 6 Pro is our chosen watch for all-round activities, from swimming to running to more formal activities.

It’s got a sleek, sophisticated design that still manages to bring an element of ruggedness to the wearer. Perfect for a night out, or a day of sports.

Speaking of sports, you can use this watch to measure metrics for just about any sport you wish. It has built-in ski maps, so it’s as good in the cold as it is in the heat.

It has all the premium Garmin features that a sportsperson would want to measure, as well as a unique PacePro feature to help you stay steady and on track.

A nice touch is the sunlight-readable screen. No matter what weather you’re out in, you’ll be able to check your metrics at a glance. The watch face is also 18% larger than other fenix models, making it even easier to check it out while you’re on the go.


PROS:

  • Suitable for just about any sport
  • Advanced training features
  • Special sunlight-readable face
  • Intelligent pace guidance

CONS:

  • The software can be glitchy

Check Price on Amazon

Top Polar Swimming Watch

4. Polar Ignite

If you’re a fan of Polar watches, this one is great for swimmers. It has a sleek, minimalist design that’s available in six colors.

Polar’s heart rate monitoring is said to be super accurate, as they use the latest optical sensors to bring you the best data on-the-go. Some customers have suggested that for best results, you should wear the watch on the outside of the wrist and not the inside.

It’s not as advanced as the best Garmin products when it comes to metrics, but it covers speed, distance, and route with its integrated GPS.

The sleep tracking feature is advanced and a separate function tracks your recovery during the night, giving you valuable insight into your own health and healing.

Other things that get the thumbs-up from us include smart features like receiving texts, calls, and emails, and our favorite, the Polar Fit Spark Daily Training Guide. You’ll have access to coaching to keep you motivated, and workout plans that suit your personal goals.


PROS:

  • We like the Fit Spark Daily Training Guide
  • Wrist-based heart rate measuring
  • Tracks your recovery as you sleep
  • Available in various colors

CONS:

  • Doesn’t seem to be as durable as others
  • Not able to be operated while wearing gloves

Check Price on Amazon

Best Battery Life

5. Coros APEX

Battery life is something that shouldn’t be neglected when shopping for the best swimming watches. The Coros Apex GPS Watch has one of the longest-lasting batteries of all the watches out there, and at a very friendly price.

The battery lasts up to 35 hours in full GPS mode, which is quite a bit longer than most others. On regular mode, you can get up to a full month of use without having to recharge.

It has some cool built-in features, like customized training, calories burned, a heart rate monitor, nutrition alerts, compass, altimeter, and barometer. Being water-resistant up to 100 meters (328 feet) means you can swim all you want with it on your wrist and it should be perfectly safe.

You can also choose between 46mm- and 42mm-diamter models. The difference may not sound like much, but it can make quite a difference on smaller wrists. The one we’re reviewing here is the 46mm, and while the 42mm has the same features, it has slightly less battery life (but still incredible).

Something we like is the fact that the top button doubles as a crown dial that makes it easy to scroll through menus. This feature is particularly useful if you’re wearing gloves and can’t depress a button effectively.


PROS:

  • Battery life from 35 hours to 30 days
  • Full operation with a single finger
  • Sapphire glass face is scratch-resistant
  • Integrates with a multitude of third-party fitness apps

CONS:

  • No music controls

Check Price on Amazon

Best Value/Discontinued Watch

6. Garmin vivoactive 3

If you’re looking for something that’s a little more friendly on the pocket but still packs some premium features, the Garmin vivoactive 3 could be your next piece of gear.

It’s easy to customize the look of this watch to suit you. Just pop into the Connect IQ store to search for widgets, apps, and watch faces to download.

There are almost 20 preloaded apps for a variety of sports, including GPS, running, swimming, and even yoga.

Keep an eye on your VO2 max and track your heart rate variability and stress levels. An added bonus is the Garmin Connect community, which offers the opportunity to meet people with the same interests as you who can help keep you accountable.

Best of all, it comes at a surprisingly decent price!


PROS:

  • Affordable option
  • Very customizable
  • Preloaded sports apps
  • Garmin contactless pay function

CONS:

  • Doesn’t measure as many metrics as more advanced ones

Check Price on Amazon

Top Fitbit Swim Watch

7. Fitbit Ionic

Next to Garmin, Fitbit is the biggest name in fitness tracking. This is their swim watch offering, and if you’re a Fitbit fan and a swimmer, you’ll find it to be a good addition to your gear.

It’s immediately eye-catching due to its unique shape, and comes in three different colors.

Track your pace, time, and distance while in the pool. GPS tracks your route if you prefer lakes or ocean swimming. You’ll also get continuous heart rate monitoring, and insights into your sleep patterns.

As well as tracking your swims and runs, you can pay with your watch using a built-in NFC chip, store up to 3000 songs for easy listening, and access most of your favorite apps right from your watch.


PROS:

  • Well-priced
  • Step-by-step coaching
  • Damage-resistant glass face
  • Easy access to apps

CONS:

  • Not as comprehensive as some when measuring metrics

Check Price on Amazon

Best Small and Lightweight Watch

8. Fitbit Charge 4

Some fitness trackers and swimming watches can get a little chunky, especially for those who have small wrists. The Fitbit Charge 4 is an exception – it’s super small and light, and you’ll hardly notice it on your arm.

It’s water resistant to 50 meters, so you can swim, run, shower, or just do your daily thing with this watch on your wrist.

Aside from keeping an eye on your general heart rate 24/7, it also alerts you when you reach your target heart rate during exercise.

Pick one of the 20 exercise modes depending on your goals, while measuring vital stats including pace, distance, intensity, and sleep quality.

Add the Spotify app control, Fitbit Pay, and smartphone app notifications, and you have the smallest, most lightweight fitness tracker that packs a performance punch.


PROS:

  • Small and inconspicuous design
  • 20 different exercise modes
  • 90-day free trial of Fitbit Premium
  • Water resistant up to 50 meters

CONS:

  • If you don’t cancel your free trial before the 90 days, you’ll automatically be charged

Check Price on Amazon

Chrono Swim Watches

Chrono watches don’t have GPS or other methods to track distance and additional metrics. They are basic stopwatches to accurately time your swim workouts. But these are still good options if you just need something basic and waterproof. The chrono watches we like have extensive lap-memories for pool swimming.

Best Overall Chrono Watch

9. Timex Ironman Sleek 150

If you want a watch that has a stopwatch function along with a variety of metric measurements, the Timex Ironman Sleek 150 wins top spot in our reviews.

You can set two separate times in different time zones, which is great if you travel frequently or have family in another part of the world. The tapscreen is easy to use, but you can use the buttons if you prefer.

The chronograph is a function that most other watches don’t have, and allows you to register laps – perfect for in the pool. Just tap the watch face or press the button to register a lap. You can check out your times on the go without having to stop the timer.

There’s also a pace timer, which is super for cycling or running as it gives a visual and audible indication of whether you’re ahead or behind. This could be difficult when swimming, though, as you may not be able to catch a glimpse or hear the beeps.

Other features include an interval timer, nutrition and hydration reminders, and a variety of alarms.


PROS:

  • Uses tapscreen technology
  • Water resistant to 100 meters
  • Large, easy-to-see display
  • 30-lap stopwatch memory

CONS:

  • Some may find that it’s too big to be comfortable on their wrist
  • Split/lap timing and pace function may be hard to operate while swimming

Check Price on Amazon

Runner-up Chrono Swim Watch

10. Timex Ironman Transit

If the Ironman Sleek 150 doesn’t quite do it for you but you like the idea of a chrono watch, the Ironman Transit could be a better choice for you.

It’s available in men’s and women’s models, although either one would work just as well on the opposite sex. It just depends on personal preference – the women’s is smoother and sleeker, and the men’s is more edgy and rugged.

It has a 100-hour chronograph and a 10-lap memory, as well as a 24-hour countdown timer. You can set two different times in separate time zones if you wish.

This is definitely a simple, to-the-point chrono watch. You won’t find fancy settings or advanced metrics measuring. It’s a watch and a stopwatch in one neat package, and it does that job admirably.


PROS:

  • Men’s and women’s designs
  • Very affordable
  • Not too large on the wrist
  • 100-hour chronograph with 10-lap memory

CONS:

  • No instructions are included, so it can be difficult to figure out how to use

 

FAQs

Here are some answers to questions you may have before deciding on which swimming watch to buy.

What Common Features Are Found on Swimming Watches?

The most basic swimming watches have features that track your time and distance. As the models get more advanced, you may find features like lap counting, stroke counting, and measuring your pace.

How Can You Tell How Waterproof A Watch Is?

Each watch has a waterproof rating, but there are a few different ways of stating it on the specs or packaging. Look for:

IP Ratings

The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) uses something called an Ingress Protection (IP) rating to measure the water-resistance of watches (and various other items).

This rating begins with the letters IP, and is followed by two numbers. The first of those two numbers refers to the item’s resistance to dust. In some cases, there’ll be no first number, but instead an x, e.g. IPx7.

The second number is the item’s resistance to water. The higher the number, the more resistant it is. For example, a rating of 1 is resistant to about 10 minutes of dripping water, such as light rain. A rating of 8 is suitable for prolonged immersion in water (as per manufacturer’s specifications).

ATM

ATM stands for “atmosphere,” and is a measure of pressure. For auquatic purposes, one atmosphere equates to 10 meters. If you see a rating on your watch that says “5 ATM”, it means your watch is water-resistant up to 50 meters.

BAR

It’s possible that you come across a BAR rating, another measure of pressure tolerance, on a watch. This is the European equivalent of ATM. So it’s exactly the same meaning – if your watch says it’s “10 BAR”, that means it’s water-resistant up to 100 meters.

Depth Rating

Some watches simply state their depth rating, such as 50m/165ft. Don’t be fooled by these numbers, though – that doesn’t necessarily mean you can dive to 50 meters with your watch and it will still work. The ratings are theoretical only, so don’t take them exactly at face value. If you are actually considering a watch for serious diving, there are models designed specifically for the technical rigors of that sport.

Here’s a better way of understanding them:

  • 30m – 50m: Light contact with water, such as rain or hand washing
  • 50m – 100m: Suitable for light swimming.
  • 100m – 200m: Suitable for swimming.
  • 200m – 500m: Suitable for watersports.
  • 500m+: Deepwater diving.

Can You Swim With A Fitness Tracker?

This depends on the tracker you choose! If it’s waterproof or water-resistant, then yes. Check the packaging or user manual to find out the waterproof rating before buying.

What are the Benefits of Using a Swimming Watch?

A swimming watch is definitely not a necessity if you’re swimming to improve your fitness or supplement running training.

But if you’re serious about swimming (like you are about running), then a swimming watch will help you:

  • Track your stats.
  • Set better goals.
  • Measure your progress.
  • Plot training programs.
  • Keep you motivated.
The Wired Runner