Swimmers Buying Guide: 5 Things to Consider When Buying a Swimming Watch

Date Posted:7 March 2016 


5 Things to Consider When Buying a Swimming Watch

A swimming watch is a necessary tool for swimmers who would like to measure their performance while training. The common swim metrics you would want to know is your swim distance, pace, stroke type identification, stroke count, and swimming efficiency (swolf). Like any other sports instruments, choosing the best swimming watch depends on what features you want it to have as well how much you’re willing to spend for it. 

If you’re out in the market for a swimming watch, here are the five things you need to consider.

  1. Where do you usually swim?
  2. Do you plan to use it for activities other than swimming?
  3. Would you like to track your heart rate while swimming?
  4. Do you like to pair it with your smartphone to receive notifications?
  5. How would prefer to transfer your swimming data?

1.) Where do you usually swim?

Pool Only
If you'll only be using the watch in a pool, the following watches would be great. These swim watches use an internal accelerometer instead of GPS to determine your stroke type, and lengths/laps. When you use these watches in swim mode, you will need to specify the pool length you’ll be training on.

Garmin Swim TomTom Spark
Garmin Swim TomTom Spark TomTom Multisport
Garmin vivoactive TomTom Spark Cardio
Garmin vivoactive TomTom Spark Cardio TomTom Multisport Cardio
Garmin vivoactive HR black regular    
Garmin vivoactive HR    

 

Pool and Open Water
If you’ll be using the watch in both pool and openwater, you will need a watch that has GPS. The following multisport watches use GPS technology to determine your pace, distance and location while out swimming in large bodies of water like rivers, lakes, and oceans. These watches are usually recommended for triathletes.

 
Garmin Forerunner 920XT Garmin fenix 3  

 

Suunto Ambit3 Sport Suunto Ambit3 Peak Suunto Ambit3 Vertical

 

2.) Do you plan to use it for activities other than swimming?

Swimming Only
The Garmin Swim watch is one of the best watch designed exclusively for swimming. This means that it satisfies most swimmers’ required comfort, accuracy, user-friendliness and the value of information. You can also set the Garmin Swim to regular watch mode so you can use it as your daily watch.

Swimming and other sports
In addition to swim mode, the following multisport GPS watches can be used for running, cycling, and other sports. 

Swimming and daily activity tracking
The multisport GPS watches below can be used for different sports such as running and biking, and can also monitor your daily steps, distance, calories, and sleep.

3.) Would you like to track your heart rate while swimming?

While the TomTom Spark Cardio and Multisport Cardio have a built-in heart rate monitor, this feature is disabled when them in swimming mode. If you want to track your heart rate while swimming, you would need to use swim watches which can be paired with a compatible chest-strap that can track your heart rate underwater. Below are a few of them.

Garmin Forerunner 920XT and fenix 3 can be paired with the HRM-Tri or HRM-Swim.   Suunto Ambit3 SportAmbit3 Peak, and Ambit3 Vertical can be paired with the Suunto Smart Sensor.
Garmin HRM-Tri and Garmin HRM-Swim            Suunto Smart Belt

 

4.) Do you like to pair it with your smartphone to receive notifications?

The watches below lets you receive email, text and other alerts when paired with a compatible smartphone.

5.) How would prefer to transfer your swimming data?

Transferring your swim data should be quick and easy. The swim watches below allow you to wirelessly transfer your swim data from your watch to your computer with either via ANT+ connectivity, USB, Bluetooth Smart, or Wifi.

ANT+® wireless technology

USB or Bluetooth Smart

USB, Bluetooth Smart, or WiFi

Physical Specifications Comparison

Model

Display resolution, WxH

Weight

Battery life

Water rating

Garmin Swim

55 x 31 pixels

1.4 oz (40.0 g)

1 year - CR2032 (user replaceable)

5 ATM

Garmin vivoactive

205 x 148 pixels

38.0 g (1.34 oz)

Up to 3 weeks (10 hours in GPS mode)

5 ATM

Garmin vivoactive HR 205 x 148 pixels Regular bands: 47.6 g; X-large bands: 48.2 g Up to 8 days in smartwatch mode (with 24/7 heart rate monitoring, no GPS), up to 13 hours in GPS mode 5 ATM

Garmin Forerunner 920XT

205 x 148 pixels

2.1 oz (61 g)

Up to 40 hours in UltraTrac mode; up to 24 hours in training mode; up to 4 months in watch mode

5 ATM

Garmin fenix 3

218 x 218 pixels

Silver/Dark: 2.9 oz (82 g)

Up to 50 hours in UltraTrac mode; up to 20 hours in GPS training mode; up to 6 weeks in watch mode

10 ATM

Suunto Ambit3 Sport

128 x 128 pixels

80 g (Coral); 86 g (Sapphire)

14 days (15h battery with 5 sec-GPS accuracy)

5 ATM

Suunto Ambit3 Peak

128 x 128 pixels

89 g (Black); 92 g (Sapphire)

30 days (30h battery with 5 sec-GPS accuracy)

10 ATM

Suunto Ambit3 Vertical

128 x 128 pixels

74 g

14 days (15h battery with 5 sec-GPS accuracy)

10 ATM

TomTom Spark

144 x 168 pixels

49 g

Activity tracking: up to 3 weeks, GPS: up to 11 hours

5 ATM

TomTom Spark Cardio

144 x 168 pixels

50 g

Activity tracking: up to 3 weeks, GPS: up to 11 hours, GPS + Heart Rate: up to 9 hours

5 ATM

TomTom Multisport

144 x 168 pixels

50 g

Up to 10 hours (GPS Mode)

5 ATM

TomTom Multisport Cardio

144 x 168 pixels

63 g

Up to 8 hours (GPS+HR), up to 10 hours (GPS)

5 ATM

 

Which swimming watch do you think is suited for your needs? Please comment below.

If you're looking for a GPS watch for a certain sport, feel free to check out these buying guides:

Top Four Ways How Activity Trackers Can Improve Your Fitness


Comments (1)

Watches for swim training

14 August 2016
From the comments in the article above, is the Tom Tom Spark cardio not suitable for both pool and open water swim training? I am a bit confused since this watch has GPS capabilities. I wear glasses and like the large image size on this watch.

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