The worst thing that could happen to you if you are a triathlon athlete is guessing the number of laps you have done of the miles you have run. You don’t want to lose count.
The best way to know how much accuracy you have achieved is to get yourself a sports watch. The best triathlon watch will effectively measure the swimming, running, and biking metrics. But what more do these watches offer and what should you look for to get the perfect one for all your needs?
Best and Most Popular Triathlon GPS Watches of 2020
OUR TOP PICK
|Garmin Forerunner 945|
CHECK BEST PRICE
|Garmin Fenix 6|
CHECK BEST PRICE
Newest Multisport Watch
|Polar Grit X|
CHECK BEST PRICE
BEST VALUE TRIATHLON WATCH
|Garmin Forerunner 935|
CHECK BEST PRICE
BEST SUUNTO TRIATHLON WATCH
|Suunto 9 Baro|
CHECK BEST PRICE
BEST POLAR TRIATHLON WATCH
|Polar Vantage V|
CHECK BEST PRICE
BEST BUDGET TRIATHLON WATCH
|Garmin Forerunner 735XT|
CHECK BEST PRICE
1. Garmin Forerunner 945 – Best All-Around Triathlon Watch
The Garmin 945 is the newest in Garmin’s Forerunner series.
For starters, the Garmin Forerunner 945 has onboard music storage and playback for Spotify users, as a staple for all Garmin athletic watches.
This watch takes it a step further and tracks temperature, altitude, and detailed training plan and focused metrics.
To make the watch even more specialized, it even has Sony GPS chipsets, which gives it longer battery life.
Garmin 935 vs 945
What’s the same and different between these watches?
Here is a short list of what has changed between the Forerunner 935 and Forerunner 945:
- Detailed routable maps wherever you decide to train
- Respiration rate to use when you’re done training
- Garmin ELEVATE optical HR sensor
- Stress tracking
- Heat accumulation for the really hot summer days
- Incident Detection, which notifies someone when you crash
- Respiration Rate used with a chest strap
Here is what didn’t change:
- The 935 and 945 have very similar shell case
- The watches have the same strap
Down to the basics of the watch, it works very similarly to other Garmin products if you used them before.
For those who haven’t, here’s a quick run-down:
- The face of the watch shows key stats from your workout and you can customize what is important for you to see
- All activity is stored to your Garmin Connect account on your smartphone or another device
- The watch does track sleep data automatically and will figure when you typically fall asleep and wake up
- The heart rate monitor tracks you while you’re training and even resting. This can be helpful if you think you are over-training
How the Watch Performs
This watch was definitely made for triathletes or other types of multi-sport athletes.
The watch’s goal is to give you the precise metrics of whatever sport or sports you do that day.
Some sports you pick do have very specific metrics such as running or swimming. While others have simple metrics (rowing or kayaking) so you’ll receive overall metrics.
When you program your watch for biking, for example, and the watch will automatically search for sensors and GPS if you’re outside. You can save and connect multiple sensors and all sports can use them.
When you’re done setting up your watch, just press the start button and it will record, store, and display your records. When you stop your workout, be sure to press the save button! After you press “save”, you’ll see the post-workout screens, which quickly outline your route and high-level stats. To get more detailed stats, you’ll need to scroll to different areas on the screen.
From there, you get into a rabbit hole of different metrics such as your “training effect”, “anaerobic”, “aerobic”, “impacting tempo” and your overall “training status”. You can spend at least five minutes going over these metrics, but just pick a few so you’re not obsessing. After all, no one is the “perfect” athlete.
Of course, all these metrics are automatically synced up to your Garmin Connect account and can be shared if you also use Strava or Training Peaks.
Just to note Garmin cannot keep track of your heart rate while you’re swimming. It’s hard for the device to get an accurate read. Best bet is to buy a heart rate strap and combine the data from the strap and your watch.
The watch does have detailed maps for the region you bought it in. These maps include digital elevation.
For music, you can use either saved MP3 files or offline/playlists from Spotify. You can pair the watch up with headphones via Bluetooth capabilities. Just be sure you can still hear what’s going on around you with music playing!
What Athletes Say
Multi-sport athletes who have bought the watch love it! They say that it’s very thorough and takes metrics that they haven’t even heard of but find helpful. Many, but not all, like that it has some smartphone capabilities such as being able to use it to pay for things. Others just use the athletic features and like it.
I recommend this watch to any multi-sport athlete who wants a very in-depth sports watch. It really does have everything you could want in a watch and more. You can choose what metrics you want it to track so you can focus your training or just go by the factory settings. If you also want an “all-in-one” watch, this one also has smartwatch capabilities. This would eliminate the need for two watches and switch watches when you’re done working out.
2. Garmin Fenix 6 – Best Garmin Multisport Watch
The Fenix 6 series is the newest that Garmin has designed for multisport athletes.
So, what sets this watch apart from previous models?
For starters, this watch series has the most models available compared to others.
The number of watches offered can be overwhelming so here’s how I’ll break it down.
The “base” series (Fenix 6S, 6, 6X) doesn’t have maps, WIFI, and music capabilities. Please be sure to ask what features are used in the basic series so you get the watch that is suited for you.
All the other 6 series watches have all the maps, music, WIFI, and other features that use those basic capabilities.
Garmin Fenix 5 vs Fenix 6
Compared to older series, all models in this series are slimmer and lighter, which serves two purposes.
One, it looks nicer on small wrists and doesn’t look like it’s falling off.
Two, since the watch fits better the HR sensor gives more accurate results.
Since the watch thickness has decreased, there is room for a bigger screen.
If you’ve owned other Garmin products, you can be assured that the “basics” such as user interface, daily steps, and sleep tracking are still incorporated.
The newest “basic” metric is Garmin’s Body Battery, which is related to the sleep tracker. This metric tracks how well your personal battery is doing. For example, it can sense what is degrading your energy and what activities are giving you the best recovery.
Of course, this watch has sports capabilities and works the same way as the other series. This means you’ll be able to track metrics such as altitude acclimation but also use the newest training app – FirstBeat.
Once you’ve selected (up to 7) metrics to track during your workout, you can hit the start button, and you can view your metrics at any point. And, if you are swimming, the watch supports optical heart rate in real time without any heart rate straps.
Of course, if you want to use sensors, the watch supports ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart for that purpose. Please see Garmin’s website for a complete list of standard sensors and accessories the watch supports.
At the end of each workout, you’ll get a summary of your stats and the specific Training Effect details. This shows the anaerobic and aerobic benefits that you “gained” during the workout and which metric is specifically benefited.
The newest features are PacePro for Running and Solar and Power Modes.
The PacePro calculates your split based on your current speed and the course’s elevation you’re running. If you’re using a Pro model, it’s easy to use this feature, just turn it on. On non-pro models, you’ll have to preplan a course on your watch or Garmin app and follow it to get accurate results.
The Power Modes are essentially the same from the older series except for the Solar mode. You’ll notice on the watches there are solar strips built in. This helps give the watch’s battery incremental life between charges.
The GPS accuracy is fairly good and it has excellent coverage in higher elevations and tough weather conditions.
The HR sensory performs average with some lags in specific scenarios such as swimming. Of course, optical HR sensor accuracy varies from person to person. And, the most important piece is the position of the sensor and how it is worn. Read HR sensor reviews with a grain of salt.
I’d recommend this watch to anyone who has had a Garmin device and liked it or those who want one with many capabilities. Garmin is highly rated and the newest series lives up to its reputation. There are many models to choose from in this series so you’ll be sure to find one that matches your specific training and racing needs.
3. Garmin Forerunner 935 – An Ironman’s Best Watch for Triathlon
This particular watch is one of Garmin’s best watch ever released. It is loaded with lots of features unlike any other. The watch features a thin construction, which is lightweight and with its excellent battery life, maximum of 24 hours while using GPS, you can go about your exercise without losing track of the time and the number of laps you have done. All its features are geared towards helping you race, train, and make an analysis of your activities.
The Garmin Forerunner 935 can help you keep track of the distance or speed and the number of strokes while you are swimming. During a run, it gives you an analysis of the cadence, the pace, and the distance covered. Other activities it can help you with include golf, skiing, paddling, course, and cycling. It is compatible with chest-trap HRM and can track your heart rate on the wrist.
Those who cycle are in luck. The watch is compatible with a wide range of biking accessories. It slips out of a wetsuit easily and you can also buy a quick-release kit to help you move it from your hand to the bike. The navigational features, its capability to track steps, and the help it gives you when setting goals, are all additional features that make it stand out.
Better still, you can download data over Wi-Fi or connect to third-party apps to add more fun to your workouts.
If you are a serious athlete and you need a watch that can easily switch between swim, run, and bike, the Garmin Forerunner 935 is your watch. It will let you know if it thinks your exercise is sufficient, or if you are not trying hard enough.
4. Suunto 9 – Best Suunto Watch for Triathlon
The Suunto 9 is designed for long-distance endurance athletes like ultra runners, ultra triathletes, exterior athletes and those participating in multi-day events with over 80 different sports profiles.
The new Suunto 9 has GPS navigation on this device, but one of the highlights features that it has intelligent battery modes to help you manage battery life.
It is water resistant down to 100 meters. It does provide wrist-based heart rate with the latest balance heart rate sensor. Also, it has a very welcome sapphire glass screen.
This multisport watch features Suunto’s Fused Track technology that’s supposed to provide more accuracy for tracks and distance. And it also does provide outdoor specific functions utilizing its barometer (only for Suunto 9 Baro version), which also does provide elevation. But, really, it’s highlight feature is the battery life, with anywhere from 25 to 120 hours of GPS tracking. That battery life is also awesome, but that does come at a cost.
It’s kind of nuts that the Suunto 9 is supposed to get up 120 hours of battery life in its ultra GPS mode, but just know that it does disable wrist heart rate to pull that off. But it does provide two other modes to balance battery life and GPS accuracy, depending on your needs.
And along with that insane battery life, it also does come with smart charging reminders, which will definitely help you make sure that you don’t run out of battery before you finish your epic event.
The design of this watch is very impressive and commands a lot of attention. White version comes with a really nice looking silver stainless steel bezel, a sapphire glass screen, and a glass fiber reinforced polymer body.
The large stainless steel buttons have a smooth finish to them and feel quite nice with a very positive spring. And they do have a lot of throws, which should prevent accidental presses. Along with the three-button interface, there’s also going to be a 320x300 pixel touchscreen, which is nice to see the combination of both interfaces. Being a fitness watch, it locks the touchscreen during activities, but you can enable it in the settings.
On the back of the watch are the balance L heart rate sensor, the magnetic charge, and sync contact points.
The 24 mm straps are removable, but the pins are quite recessed. So it is a little bit challenging to remove them. However, the strap itself is super comfortable. It’s really quite flexible and it’s very soft to the touch.
Colors and Size
The company does offer the Suunto 9 in both black and white, but white does seem like an interesting color option.
It’s definitely not a small watch by any stretch of the imagination and when I first pulled it out of the box, it seemed absolutely gigantic. But if we actually compare this with a Fenix 5X, it’s virtually the exact same size and I think the reason it appears large is the white color and the silver bezel. So the black version will probably appear a little bit smaller. Probably one of those black is slimming, sort of things.
The watch itself is really quite nice and the construction is really solid. It’s definitely not a lite nor a small watch, but this thing has a really burly build, so it should instill confidence for durability.
5. Polar Grit X – Best Polar Outdoor and Multisport Watch
Polar has been around the sports-tech world for quite some time, making some very reliable, external chest, as well as arm heart rate monitors, as well as quite a few wearables. In the last couple of years, they’ve come out with the Vantage series line of multisport watches with the Vantage V, as well as the Vantage M, and they’ve also come out with the more budget-friendly and fitness-focused Polar Ignite.
Polar announced the Grit X in April 2020, which is aimed clearly at the multisport and the outdoor adventure market with some rugged looks, as well as some brand new features that haven’t been seen on Polar devices previously.
Polar Grit X vs Polar Vantage V
The Grit X is going to start at $429, which is actually $70 cheaper than the Vantage V as of today.
Is the Grit X a Vantage V replacement? No, not really. It’s more of a ruggedized Vantage V with a couple of features taken out and a few added in.
Orthostatic test with Recovery Pro, which are available just on the Vantage V and that isn’t available on the Grit X. Basically these two are extremely similar and the Grit X does have multisport and triathlon notes.
On the outside, Polar went with a rugged looking design that focused on durability, being claimed to be built with military grade durability, and they also increased the waterproof rating up to 100 meters from the 50 meters on the Vantage V. And although the Grit X is aimed at durability, it shares nearly the same weight as the Vantage V.
The display has the same full color touchscreen display that protected by gorilla glass. The stainless steel bezel a bit thicker than what you can see on the Vantage V. The bezel attached to the durable metal lugs on the side. The Grit X uses industry standard bands rather than the proprietary ones that are found in the Vantage V.
Polar offers three different watch bands to choose from: a silicone, a textile, and a paracord version. The silicone band, it’s nice and stretchy. It’s very similar to the one that’s found on the Vantage V. The paracord version, it’s nice and attractive. It’s made out of paracord, but it’s not stretchy like the silicone version.
The buttons are round rather than the rounded rectangle that’s found on the Vantage V and they have a great deal of texture to them. Polar also made an improvement on the button feel where it’s more positive than the sort of squishy feel that the Vantage M had and slightly less stiff than the Vantage V.
On the back of the device, the heart rate sensor is the same hardware as the Vantages with nine LEDs, along with skin contact sensors, which are supposed to help with heart rate accuracy. Although it’s the same heart rate sensor hardware, the LEDs are firing in a different pattern on the Grit X. There’s a different algorithm going on here, which is supposed to improve accuracy.
There’s a kind of two components to Hill splitter. There the information that you can see during an activity, as well as the information that it collects after training. While you’re in an activity, the Grit X is able to determine if you’re on a climb, a flat section, or a descent, and this is available on outdoor sport profiles, like trail running, just regular running, cycling, mountain biking, and more.
In terms of how it works, you start climbing up your first hill. It’ll automatically recognize it, and the hill splitter data page will display that you’re going up your first hill. It will also display the current distance traveled on the hill, how much ascent you’ve done so far, as well as your pace.
As things flatten out, it’ll recognize that and show you that you’re on flat terrain. The same thing goes as you’re going downhill. As soon as you start going downhill, it’ll basically recognize it and actually display that on the data page. This process just basically repeats during your activity, and this shows you the number of climbs that you’ve done. Once you’re done with your activity, the Grit X will display the number of climbs, the number of descents, along with the distance that you’ve traveled up, as well as down.
In the Polar Flow app, once you’re done, here’s where you’re going to be able to view a more detailed breakdown about uphills and downhills during an activity, with details on each climb and descent, like the time, the distance, whether it was an, ascent or a descent, as well as the average speed.
The next big feature to come to Grit X is called FuelWise, which allows you to create manual as well as automatic reminders for water, nutrition, gels, and more. In the FuelWise manual, you’ll have options for smart card reminders, manual carb reminders, as well as drink reminders. With smart card reminders, where you first set the estimated duration of your activity, an estimated intensity level for your workout based on your heart rate zones, and your carbs per serving in grams. You’ll be presented with a summary screen of that smart card reminder. And what’s nice is that it’ll adapt the reminders based on your intensity. So if you really go for it on a workout, it’ll give you more reminders.
Another new feature that has been added that kind of relates to the fuel is going to be a new display of your energy used during activity after you’ve completed it. Not only will it show the estimated calories of your workout, but it’ll also show a breakdown of your carbs, proteins, and fats. Within the Polar Flow app, you can see even more detailed information about your energy consumption throughout the workout.
The Grit X is to be able to get 40 hours of battery life with everything enabled at full blast: GPS recordings at one-second intervals, heart rate, basically everything. However, there’s a new power-saving option, where you can customize it, where you can get up to a hundred hours. You’ll be able to access this through the settings menu of activity.
There are three options that you can adjust to get the right blend of battery life:
- You can adjust the GPS recording rate from the default one-second recording intervals to every minute or every two minutes, or you can turn it off completely.
- The next option can be enabling or disabling the wrist-based heart rate sensor.
- A screen saves feature.
Another new feature is a new watch face with a new weather widget. On the watch face itself, it shows the current temperature along with the next couple hours ahead. Also, it shows the current temperature, any rain, wind speed, including the wind direction, humidity, the forecast for the rest of the day, and it displays the weather for the next couple of days ahead with a breakdown on particular portions throughout the day.
Route Guidance and Komoot
The Grit X has route guidance with Komoot. Komoot allows you to create routes using the route planner for sports specific routes. To enable this you’ll link your Komoot account with your Polar Flow account. And then after connecting your accounts, your Komoot routes will automatically be available within Polar Flow. To use these routes, you’ll simply go into the routes option when you go to start an activity. You’ll choose the route and away you go. During the activity, it’ll show you breadcrumb trail lines of your route, and then when you approach an upcoming turn, it’ll display a turn indicator to show you which direction to go.
6. Polar Vantage V – Best Polar Triathlon Watch
This is Polar’s most advanced triathlon watch to date and it includes a very special feature, running power. It feels like it means business. It’s got the same shape and style as the Vantage M, but just a little bit heavier, in a good way. It feels like it’s good quality. It’s got the same features as the Vantage M, but obviously more. It’s been designed for those athletes that are looking for the highest level of performance, perhaps those athletes that are trying to train like the pros.
Looks and Shape
Polar Vantage V have this more sort of traditional wristwatch shape with their circular watch face to them. You could wear these casually, outside of the sporting world, and people wouldn’t actually know that you’re a runner or a triathlete. Unless, of course, you want people to know that.
So what features does it include? It’s got ever so slightly longer battery life in it. It’s got over 40 hours of battery life, which is incredible. It’s obviously got GPS within it, it’s enabled for GPS tracking. It’s also got very accurate barometric measurement. It also features a touchscreen color display, along with five buttons around the side to scroll through the different functions as well. IThe Polar Vantage V includes an optical heart rate sensor, which includes the Precision Prime technology, and then with that, it also has another feature called Recovery Pro. So not only does this device record your training, it also looks at your recovery between each of those sessions, and then gives you feedback and advises you on how to recover better.
Running Power Meter
But the really exciting feature in this device is the running power. This is the world’s first wrist-based running power meter. So we don’t need any other devices to record our running power, as we’ve seen before, and then beam it up to a device. This all happens within this device, by recording a number of different metrics whilst we’re running along and putting it all into this one number. This is quite new and unknown territory for a lot of us out there. It will be very interesting to look at how our power changes between easy running, hard running, how we run off the bike, perhaps when you have your jelly legs, how that power changes. This will become a very valuable data tool.
7. Garmin Marq Athlete
The Garmin Marq Athlete, as the title implies is targeted towards athletes. And it shares these common traits with its Fenix 5 Plus Series:
- Detailed maps for whichever region you bought the watch in
- Offline music and playback storage
- Garmin Pay which works like Apple Pay or Fitbit Pay
- PulseOx SpO2 measurement
- Multiple sports supported through the watch’s metrics
- A full global database of maps for different sports
- Revamped user interface and Garmin Elevate optical HR sensor
- Detection and safety alert
The Basics of the Watch
The watch has a similar button layout to the Fenix series by Garmin. The left up/down buttons scroll through the widgets while the middle button (on the left) accesses the settings.
The upper right button, let’s you select the sport mode and you can also choose to start whatever apps you downloaded on to the watch.
When you select your sport mode, the watch will automatically connect all the relevant sensors and acquire GPS. Some of the metrics on the watch include speed, cadence, power sensors and several more.
On the back of the watch, you have Garmin’s optical heart rate sensor.
Everything that you do on the watch is automatically synced to your Garmin Connect account through Garmin Connect Mobile phone app. Of course, you can check these metrics on Garmin’s website if that’s easier for you.
The Connect account can show you a calendar of your workout whether you manually start the workout or not. For example, you can track your training ride but your commuter rides would be automatically tracked.
Like the previous watch, this one can playback MP3 songs or downloaded songs from Spotify, which is preloaded onto the watch. Of course, once downloaded, all you need is a pair of headphones to connect via Bluetooth.
Be sure that if you use the headphones, you’re not biking or running in heavy traffic areas! That’s an accident just waiting to happen!
Last two basics to touch on are Garmin Pay and notifications.
This watch, like other Garmin watches, have Garmin Pay so you can load your credit or debit card information onto the watch. Then you can use contactless payments at your local grocery store.
Notifications work similarly to smartphone notifications form iOS or Android. You can control these notifications from the notification centers on the watch settings. Note, these notifications are simple in comparison to Apple Watch, but they get the message across to you.
To start, if you look at the face of the watch, you can see two sets of numbers along the top and bottom half of the face.
The top half shows your current VO2Max value and the bottom displays your recovery hours. This can be helpful so you can manage your recovery and high-intensity workouts logically.
A neat feature happens when you hold the start/stop button for a few seconds, the watch will display physiological metrics dashboard. These metrics are supposed to blend your predicted race times and training load metric onto one chart. The predicted race times can be a little amiss since you often do interval training and simple mental math can predict it as well.
If you get your watch to display the widget page, you can see your activity level and metrics for the past month and week. If you click on a specific day within the month or week, a text descriptor will tell you if the training was helpful or not to your goal.
How to Track a Workout
Like it was previously stated, before you start your workout, pick the sport on the watch, and then be sure you press the start button! If you want, you can select any workouts you have created or downloaded from an app.
If you’re outside running or biking, the GPS and maps will automatically pop up.
When you’re done with your workout, you’ll get a clean summary of your metrics and a little drawing of your route. If you want to read more details about a stat, you can “hover” over it and the watch will cycle between a descriptive text and the overview.
After your workout is completely done, the stats will automatically sync with your Garmin Connect account, if you set it up that way. These stats may also be passed along to third parties such as Strava or Training Peaks if you set it up that way.
Athletes who have bought this watch like it just as much as the previous, it has nearly all the same features Garmin 945, but the look is different. All buyers believe the function and usability are about the same. The Garmin 945 does have more metrics then this watch, but it depends on how thoroughly you want to track your workouts.
The only drawback to this watch is the heart rate accuracy. It seems that the weather does affect how well it performs. Many athletes say that when it’s used in chilly or cold weather, it’s harder to get an accurate read.
As for the GPS, many athletes report that “it’s not great but it’s also not bad” and the accuracy is definitely affected by the weather.
I recommend this watch if you want one with similar capabilities as an Apple Watch or a Garmin 945 or Fenix series, but at a lower price point. There’s no need to spend a lot of money on a watch if a different one will do the same job. Just be aware that the GPS and heart rate accuracy is often thrown off by the weather. That shouldn’t be a deterrent but just something to work around if you need the most accurate results from your workouts and races.
The race predictor feature is something I’m not raving about since you can easily calculate it. And interval workouts affect how the watch thinks you’ll perform on race day.
8. Garmin Fenix 5 – Best Garmin Watch for Swimming and Cycling
The Garmin Fenix 5 watches are available in a variety of finishes and colors with more types of accessory bands provided. You can choose to go with a leather or a silicone band. The watch comes with many features including sapphire lens, routable cycling maps, Wi-Fi connection as well as other navigation features. It is water resistant to a depth of up to 100 meters, which is a guarantee of ultimate performance for swimmers.
The watch can make a track of your steps, the oscillations and ratio, sleep, stress test, the length of your strides, lactate threshold and many more. Its built-in navigation sensors include both GLONASS and GPS, which is much more suitable for tracking in environments that are challenging as opposed to the gyroscope, barometric altimeter, compass, and the GPS alone.
You can also view calls, texts, or email notifications on its display. Better still, you can add additional widgets and data. The elevated heart rate monitors will show you how far you are in terms of calories burned as well as quantifying the how intense your workout is.
The Wi-Fi connectivity incorporated into the watch allows you to automatically upload your activity directly to your Garmin connect when you are within the connectivity’s range. With all these features, if your activity includes golf, paddling, running or brisk walking, climbing, skiing, cycling, and hiking, the Garmin Fenix 5 is your watch.
However, if you would like a watch, which is slightly bigger, the Fenix 5X is better with even more features. Another problem with this particular watch is that it doesn’t have music control settings and it isn’t really the best in terms of showing actual maps!
9. Garmin Fenix 5 Plus – Best Multisport GPS Watch with Music
If you are serious about hardcore triathlon training and performance but find it difficult to part you’re your bulky sports watch throughout the day, then perhaps you should consider the Garmin Fenix 5.
The sleek, professional designs make the transition from training to the work day quite natural. There are 3 different options in the glass face, band type, and style, as well as color—so the lengths that someone can go to personalize their Fenix is extensive.
The GPS smartwatch can track heart rate, reveal topographic maps of frequented exercise trails, and play up to 500 songs with offline music support by syncing your music files from your mac or pc. The Bluetooth headsets connectivity for has improved for this series of Fenix, it seems—so there is no need to worry about which wrist you wear the watch, or how long your arms are.
The trendline routing can help you find the most popular trails and courses that have been logged by other Garmin users. Using the various navigation and location tracking features you can feel freer to journey into new territory or just concentrate fully on your stats rather than whether or not you took the wrong turn at that last tree.
Another great feature is that when you find yourself in locations where GPS might not be so accurate—large cities or cavernous valleys, for instance— the Galileo satellite will provide backup support.
If Garmin Pay contactless functionality and being water-rated up to 100 meters was not enough, in the Plus version only, there is a wrist-based sensor called Pulse Ox that approximates the oxygen saturation level in your blood.
For rugged terrain, the ClimbPro feature will determine your current and upcoming climbs, which can also help if you want to know when to lower your workout intensity or push the pace.
The Garmin Fenix 5 Plus allows you to take full control of your training plan.
10. Garmin Forerunner 735xt – Best Triathlon Watch for Beginners
The Garmin Forerunner 735 watch is a hardcore type of triathlon device that packs all the features any sports lover wouldn’t dare miss. You have two buying options; you can buy a standalone unit or a tri-bundle, which includes the advanced HRM Swim and Tri chest straps.
The HRM swim can be used with pool swimming and is chemical resistant. It even comes with suction power to aid in ensuring it stays in place throughout the activity. The Tri bundle turns the Garmin Forerunner 735 into one of the most desirable units with comprehensive tracking packages. This, however, doesn’t mean that the watch isn’t sufficient on its own to carry out all the necessary metrics that a triathlon watch would.
The only problem is that with all its beautiful and advanced features unless you can put them all to use, you have an overkill unit. The Garmin Forerunner 735 comes with an ATM rating, which means it is perfect for swimming and will resist depths of up to 50 meters. The battery use is impressive, but some users wish it could be better. Its GPS feature is highly responsive and is way faster than any other models.
So, who exactly is the watch for? The watch is suitable for you if you actively engage in running, cycling, and swimming. The running mode gives you insight and easy access guide on your wrist. For cycling, it is compatible with Vector for easy tracking and measurement. In addition to the three modes, the watch incorporates multi-sport that helps you make a switch between metrics and data screen. This can be done through the push of a single button.
The watch is small, thin, and lightweight, making it easy to remove from a wetsuit easily. As a result, it makes it a perfect watch with a good value for money.
11. Coros Apex – Best Value for Money Triathlon Watch
In 2018, the company came out with its first watched (Coros Pace GPS), which was an “all out” multi-sport sport that mimicked the Garmin Forerunner 735XT. This watch had superior GPS to Garmin, Suunto, and Polar for some users.
Now skip forward to November of last year, and Coros revealed their Apex watch series, which looks like a cross between Garmin Fenix 5 and Polar Vantage. The company also added more training loads related to performance tracking software.
How does this watch stack up to others?
Let’s take a look.
The Watch’s Basics
The watch comes with its manual and a cable. The cable is only used for charging the watch and if you want to put music on it, you must download it through the app.
Like the other watches reviewed, this one does not have touchscreen capabilities, which rarely work well for endurance sports. Instead, it has one press-able button and one digital crown in the lower and upper right respectively.
The digital crown can be rotated to scroll through the different setting and widget options the watch offers.
On the back of the watch, you’ll find the HR sensor and the charging point.
You can scroll through all the widgets that include basic metrics such as calories to more complex ones (altitude, temperature, GPS).
The last part of the widgets are the notifications, which you can customize to get all or none.
Like other watches, all you need to do before a workout is tap your watch, pick a sport (run, indoor run, bike, indoor bike, pool swim, open water, and triathlon), and the rest is taken care of from there.
Once you press start, the watch will analyze your heart rate and GPS signal.
You also have the option of doing an open-ended activity or interval training. The training modes are set up logically so that you’re trying to meet a specific heart rate goal.
Of course, you can go into your settings and have your watch track distance, pace, cadence.
Before you take off, the watch will warn you if you missed something such as setting the workout or notification settings.
If you like to use sensors, this watch supports any ANT + sensors instead of using Bluetooth Smart sensors.
After the workout, you’ll see your metric on default pages and it will be synced to your phone. And, if you’ve allowed it, the date will be shared with third parties such as Strava and Training Peaks.
What Athletes Say
Athletes who have bought the watch like it because it looks, feels, and runs great. They like the metrics it gives them such as VO2Max, Lactate Threshold, Threshold Pace, and even Stamina Levels. The battery life is outstanding; if used optimally, it can last up to a month before you have to charge it again.
The GPS accuracy was not the best and not the worst. You can depend on it, but it’s nothing special.
I’d recommend this watch to anyone who wants one that is priced lower and still has similar capabilities as a “high-end” watch. The watch works the same as a Garmin, but with some differences discussed above. If you wanted a watch with music and payment options, then this probably isn’t the choice for you.
12. Polar Vantage M – Best Budget Triathlon Watch
This is Polar’s mid-range watch. It’s GPS enabled and it’s designed for multisport, so you can wear this for your triathlon, record your swim, bike and run, all on one device. Polar Vantage M can record up to 130 different sports. This device, in particular, is aimed at those advanced athletes that are goal driven. They’re looking for a good watch but maybe not all the bells and whistles. If you did fancy doing a triathlon, or even an Ironman with this, you could quite happily, and you could be safe in the fact knowing that this has over 30 hours of battery life, going. The buttons have a nice texture to them and the action is quite stiff that the probably won’t result in accidental presses.
This watch comes in two different sizes wristbands. So you’ve got the small to medium size, which you can get with either black or white straps, and then Polar Vantage has the medium to large size, which comes with either the black, white or even red straps. The nice touch is that you can quite quickly and easily just pull the pin and flip straps out, so if you can’t make your mind up, you can just buy different straps without having to replace your watch, and just interchange them.
The optical heart rate sensor
This isn’t anything new, but it is slightly updated in comparison to its predecessor, the Polar M430, but it has been updated quite significantly. It still involves LED sensors in the middle, which detect the blood pressure change and therefore our heart rate, but to improve the accuracy now has these four contact points. So these press up against the skin and it detects how close the skin, or how far away from the skin, the sensor is, and then that will change the accuracy in the reading from the LED sensors.
This device will connect to Polar Flow, which is basically an online training platform from Polar. So every time you finish an activity, a swim, a bike, a run, whatever it is, it will upload to Polar Flow, and you can log it all there, you can view your activities, you can analyze it all. But there’s been some exciting updates to this, so now have Polar’s Training Load Pro. So every time you upload this activity, it will analyze that data, it will look at the load, the stress of that. It will start to learn about you, and it will start to learn about your limits, whether you’re overtraining, or perhaps even under training.
Along with all these updates, Polar have also included Polar Flow for Coaches, for both of the devices, so this allows coaches to design and develop programs for athletes, then upload it to the athlete’s Polar Flow account, that will in turn then sync and upload to their Polar device, and then each morning an athlete will wake up and they can see their training on their watch, and then go ahead, complete those sessions, upload it to their Polar Flow account, and then that will allow their coach to then analyze their data.
Polar Sleep Plus
There have been loads more updates and new features added to these devices, for both running and swimming, but one that has really caught our eyes is to do with sleep, and this is called Polar Sleep Plus. This looks at the timings, the durations and the quality of the athlete’s sleep whilst they’re wearing it in bed, and then it will actually give you recommendations and tell you how to maybe improve your sleep quality.
13. Suunto 5 – Mid-Range Suunto Multisport Watch
The Suunto 5 triathlon watch gives you a long battery life with multiple sport modes, which makes it easy to track your workouts and progress. The watch can also monitor your non-related sports activity such as sleep and stress. This ensures that you recover well.
In short, this sports watch is your loyal and durable training partner for your next big race.
Suunto 5 vs Suunto 3 vs Suunto 9 vs Suunto Spartan Trainer
Compared to the other two series, the Suunto 5 is a mid-price point multisport watch. While the Suunto 3 is your budget and the Suunto 9 the high end.
To be clear, the Suunto 5 is the newest model after the Spartan Trainer, so now we can talk about the new features that come with this watch:
- Better battery life
- Mineral glass screen
- Adaptive training plans and workouts
- Sleep, stress, and body resources metric
- Improved GPS
- Multiple battery modes
Operating the watch is very similar to the Suunto 9 except this one does not have a touch screen. Having said that you can still customize the watch face with the buttons.
You can also scroll through all the workouts and enable metrics with the buttons as well. It takes longer and is more tedious than a touch screen watch. Also note, if you decide to enable 24/7 HR tracking, the watch does use a lot of battery and you’ll have to charge it every day.
If you decide that using buttons takes too long, you can program and customize your watch on the Suunto smartphone app. This can also be done to change sports modes on your watch as well.
Complaints are about the limited capabilities once in sports mode. For example, you can’t edit a current mode. You have to create a new one.
Once the device is set up and programmed the way you want, it works fairly well. After the workout, all your stats are uploaded and synced to Suunto’s Sports Tracker app.
If you have used Movescount platform, there is no way to “move” your stats and data to Suunto’s Sports Tracker app. Perhaps a new watch will fix this glitch. And, this is a big disadvantage for some people.
However, if you use Strava you can sync your watch to that training app.
The other option is to draw your workout on Suunto’s smartphone app, which is truly unique to this company. And, the draw feature is very easy to use.
The most used apps on sports watches are GPS and HR so I’ll talk about how accurate they are.
The GPS is very accurate and is well implemented on the watch. Suunto uses the same Sony GPS chipset as Garmin so you know your workouts will be well tracked on the map.
The HR sensor and metric are where there is a big difference between Garmin and Suunto.
Suunto has quite a few flaws it could improve on.
For example, most users report that the HR takes a few minutes to acclimate whenever you start a new workout and shows inaccurate data. After, it displays and tracks your “normal” metrics.
However, if you want to do more than that, you’ll run into problems.
One user wanted to export his data from his watch to his computer as a GPX file. And, the file displayed incorrect data and this problem isn’t new either.
Another technical bug is importing a workout from Suunto’s traning app to another one. Once imported to a new training app, the workout data doesn’t sync up correctly and again shows incorrect stats and metric readings.
I do not recommend this sports watch to people considering it. There are too many technical glitches that overshadow any features that make it standout. The battery life is not any good if you keep 24/7 tracking on. And, it’s hard to program the watch since it is not touch screen. If Suunto wanted to create a mid-range watch, it needs to compete with others such as Garmin. Right now, it’s not comparable to the other companies. Maybe in a few years when the technical bugs are sorted out.
14. Apple Watch Series 4
But what is different from its predecessors?
For one, the screen size increased significantly and the optical heart rate looks different.
The rest of the section will cover the particulars and help you decide if this watch is for you.
The interface and how you can interact with the watch hasn’t changed since its depute.
The watch has two buttons, which can be pressed to select various modes and confirmations before you start your workout.
In order to install any apps on the watch, you must do it on your iOS device. Unfortunately, you still can’t install apps using the watch itself. You can also configure watch faces, as well as notifications, from your iOS device.
Overall, it’s a good smartwatch, but it has some limits on the fitness side.
For example, it doesn’t track sleeping like most basic fitness watches. But it does track steps, heart rate, and standing time. If you want other metrics to be considered you must change it on your iOS device.
Athletic Usage Details
Like the other watches reviewed, to start a workout, all you need to do is open the Workout app and then select the sport you want to track. After, you can customize the goal of the workout or do an “open goal” workout.
For each workout, you can select what data fields you want to be displayed while you’re sweating it out.
The GPS works when you start your workout and connects to the nearest satellite. If none detected, it just connects to your phone’s GPS.
Once you complete the workout, you’ll get a summary and details on your watch.
Athletes say it’s a good basic fitness watch with limitations. It’s frustrating when the GPS doesn’t work and that the watch can’t download apps. The touchscreen does interfere with certain movements like taking off a wetsuit.
I recommend this watch who want a smartwatch and fitness combined in one. It functions more like a smartwatch with some fitness features. The fitness elements are not extensive, but get the job done. You can buy a watch for the same price and get all the fitness features you need.
15. Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR
The Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR is the best watch for anyone who partakes in most of the outdoor activities that call for distance, speed, and the measuring of the heart rate. It gives other types of sports watches a run for their money, and although its battery can last for only eight hours, it can hold up for most of the activities. The heart rate monitor doesn’t require any chest strap and for a better result, it can be paired with a Bluetooth heart rate sensor.
It features a durable construction of steel bezel, water resistance for up to 100 meters, and a mineral crystal glass. You can, therefore, wear it comfortably for outdoor sports indoor swimming while comfortably getting all the necessary tracks you need to make. Its training insights will give you feedback planning, progression, recovery, as well as the training load.
The watch comes with a built-in GPS and with its basic settings, you can configure the profile settings or the type of activity you want to undertake. Its data, however, the specific data for the fields, screen or the pages must first be done through Suunto’s website. Similar to other types of Spartan watches, the Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR comes with a total of 80 pre-set sports modes. Apart from the GPS navigation, it also has GLONASS to help you on your trails.
What makes the watch stand out is its ability to customize the training metrics to suit personal preferences. With a quick press of a button, you can switch the modes from swim to bike to run. The screen itself is incredibly vivid with a high color display, which is ideal even for use where there is direct sunlight. With all these features, you wouldn’t want to get anything else.
16. Polar V800
Packed with beautiful functions, the Polar V800 comes with a design that makes it one of the high-quality fitness trackers on the market today. The watch is well optimized with multi-sport and it boasts scratch resistant lens with high contrast screen, for better visibility in all lighting conditions. Also incorporated into the watch is a GPS navigation system to help you in your biking or hiking expeditions.
Polar V800 has been equipped with an integrated barometric altimeter, which can track your uphill and downhills when cycling. Together with the GPS system, you get a perfect unit that will track your performance and speed while running or cycling. The watch will effectively count your steps, map your route, and distance among other features.
Other of its greatest selling points include the possession of easily customizable user profiles, for about three triathlon laps and efficiently moves one sport to the next as it beautifully records all of your performances as well as the time it takes you transition from one mode to another. This is an elegant characteristic that makes it an apt workout system and guide for both seasoned and those athletes starting out on tri watches.
Worried that the watch doesn’t have some of the smart features? The Polar V800 comes with an incorporation of a smart Bluetooth H7 heart rate sensor, which promises accuracy in terms of BPM checking as you train or when you are swimming. It is also waterproof for a depth of up to 30 meters. As such, it can perfectly monitor wide range pool activities.
The only limitation you might accord this particular watch is how bulky it seems. It makes its presence conspicuously felt particularly when you wear it while submerged at great depths.
Best Triathlon Watch – Buyer’s Guide
There are many options available for triathlon watch for every type of athlete. What is important to keep in mind is that whichever watch you buy, it should withstand most of the challenges and the elements you face during your workout including water, sweat, and dirt. Also, the watch should optimally meet all other needs it is required to fulfill.
The choice can be overwhelming even for those who have bought them before. Luckily, the following guide will help you make a decision you won’t regret later. Although you might not need all of the features mentioned below, it is worth considering, as the more a watch has, the more you will get out of it. You will have plenty of time to focus on your workout than messing up with the watch.
What is Triathlon and a Watch for Triathlon?
Triathlon is a multiple-stage competition that involves the completion of three progressive and continuous endurance activities. Most prevalently, the sport involves cycling, swimming, and running at short intervals over many distances. Participants of this sport compete for the fastest course time completion as they transition between swimming, running, and cycling.
A tri watch enables you to track your changes and make an analysis of all the physiological processes triathletes go through. It monitors the heart rate, calories, steps, number of laps you have done among others. The watch also helps you make perfect navigations and follow trails while you are hiking, cycling, or skiing. Some will allow you to connect to the internet and synchronize or save your stats and data online.
Things to Consider While Buying Triathlon Watch
This is one of the key features to consider in a triathlon training watch. A watch with this characteristic will make it simple to transition from one activity to another. The watch will allow you to switch modes simply by the push of a button. This transitions it from running to cycling or swimming. How it does this also involves the marking of the split in time as it transitions to another sport. Later on, you can review the information. During the transition, the display also changes to the mode you choose, for example, the changes in speed from miles an hour to miles a minute when you change it from cycling to running.
Other watches do not have this feature and they involve manual stopping of the activity, configuring the settings, and starting a new profile for every transition. These types of watches will waste much of your exercise, they are cumbersome and you will lose the ability to review the whole workout as a single post-race activity.
The quick release is particularly helpful for those who want to move the watch from their wrists to the bike. Not all of the watches available on the market have this feature, and its importance, however, depends entirely on your needs. But you should know that if you actively engage yourself in cycling, this feature is a must-have for better tracking.
If you care less about glancing at your watch on the wrist while you ride, a quick-release feature won’t be such a big deal. The good thing is that you can purchase a foam handlebar mount and strap it on. This might take a bit longer to get it working, but it is worth it.
Every triathlon GPS watches must be waterproof, that is apparent. But is it enough? Some have an ATM rating of a depth of up to 100 meters. However, the watch is no use if it is water resistant, but will not do or achieve much under water. The watch should track the distance, show all the swimming metrics apart from showing you the stroke count. All this can happen while the watch is firmly on your wrists. With a little sophistication, the watches monitor the pool laps, and far from counting your strokes, it can show you the particular type of stroke you are using.
If you are unlucky and you don’t have a watch with swim features or water resistance, but you have GPS, you can put the watch under your swimming cap to get better tracking. This keeps the watch above the water to ensure that the GPS signal is not lost. Normally, when the watch is worn and you submerge yourself in under an inch of water, the GPS is lost.
Another important factor to give a priority is the battery life. Nothing is infuriating more than a triathlon GPS watch that dies on you while you are in the middle of your workouts. Get a watch that comes with sufficient battery life that is longer than your daily exercise routine.
Battery life is particularly important during competitions. If the battery comes with an impressive life, it will enable you to engage in several activities without having to give up in the middle to go and recharge the unit. A flawless session allows you to train more effectively and keep a perfect track of how you are faring on.
Connectivity with Workout Accessories
Compatibility with other fitness accessories is one important consideration that you shouldn’t pass up. Some watches have multi-sport features but aren’t compatible with heart rate monitors, speed sensors, or the cadence. These features are some of the most important in triathlon training watches. Some watches, however, have Bluetooth sensors heart rate monitors that are compatible with other smart devices like phones and tablets.
To keep a complete track of changes in your workouts, calories, and other important metrics, you need a watch that allows you to store everything online. This calls for data connectivity. Some have Wi-Fi connections while others do not. Those that allow internet connectivity will enable you to upload the data to either a fitness app or an online account.
With an online account, you can evaluate your performance and even share most of your achievements with your family members or friends through the social media. Again, this feature is highly dependent on you. It might not be such a great deal if you don’t need it.
Do tri watches have a specific water resistance power?
Most triathlon GPS watches are water resistant. However, it doesn’t mean that they are ideal for all water activities. For example, there are some that are fit for use both in pools and open waters like the Garmin Fenix and Forerunners. On the other hand, others are only compatible for use in pools only.
How long should the battery life last?
Most of the time, this feature is highly dependent on the number of features the watch has as well as how you use it. If a watch can perform multiple functions at the same time, the battery life will only run out faster than if it only does a single function. This is also to say that a watch that has few features will last way longer.
Which type of watch is better suited for measuring speed/pace/cadence?
A good number of these sports watches have this feature. They can perform several functions including monitoring the heart rate, the speed, cadence, pace, strokes in swimming, and steps among others. They can also connect to other fitness applications. Any of these types of triathlon watches will suffice in what you need.
While the options of having the best triathlon GPS watch are almost limitless, none of them are the same. From the above-discussed watches, you can tell that the features are different, but are all tailored towards making your workout a success. One with many features like the Garmin Forerunner 945 is suitable for most activities in comparison with one that has only a few features. This is really best Garmin tri watch.
It is thus mandatory to search for relevant information in terms of what you are looking for. The above guide and review, hopefully, has helped you reached a conclusion in terms of your preferences, the functionality, efficiency, and the type of activity you are engaged in.