best garmin watches for swiming

Best Garmin Watches for Swimming 2019

For those who are serious about swimming, it might have felt like technology was treading water but over the past few years, a number of fitness watches have come to market that are not only waterproof but can track your swimming abilities too. And, whilst there still isn’t a great deal of choice, Garmin currently lead the way in terms of aquatic functionality.

Our pick of the best Garmin swimming watches 2019:

From the pool to open water, when you make a splash you want to feel confident that your watch is capturing your every lap, stroke and distance covered. Below are our top recommendations for the best Garmin swimming watches 2019.

Which Garmin watches are good for swimming?

In addition to those highlighted above, Garmin have a host of watches of varying budgets and swim tracking capabilities that are perfect for assisting your aquatic endeavours. From the Forerunner 945 to Forerunner 645, Forerunner 245, Descent MK1, Forerunner 735 XT, Instinct, Tactix Charlie and Fenix 5 Series, these multisport watches offer something for everyone.

The health benefits of swimming

As your heads bobs underwater and you suck in your breath, your body is starting to work hard. Swimming (whether it is indoors or out) is great for all round fitness and wellbeing as it takes your heart rate up and your stress levels down.

A low impact sport, swimming exercises the heart and lungs and is great for building endurance, muscle strength, and cardiovascular fitness.

What to look for in a swimming watch

Whether you are on terra firma or water bound, there are watches that can track your every move. So, the first question you need to ask is, what will you be using this watch for? Swim-specific watches are often geared more towards the pool, as they have stroke detection, stroke length and lap and stroke count.

GPS and Multisport watches, however, are better suited for open water enthusiasts and triathletes as have the ability to measure your overall distance in miles or kilometres. They can also track speed or pace in open water with some watches even accurately tracking your heart rate.

A good swim watch should give you goals to work towards such as interval or rep training, and provide you with data to measure, track and compare.

Finally, as you thrash your arm through the water, you need to feel that the watch on your wrist is both comfortable and secure and if it is something that you keep on both day and night that it can transition stylishly from the pool to the bar. 

What does Swolf mean?

Swolf is a score that measures your swimming efficiency. This calculation takes into consideration the number of strokes you need to complete a length and adds it to the time taken to swim each length. The lower your overall score, the more efficient you are.

How waterproof is my watch?

Whereas the majority of technology uses an IP rating system to certify whether or not it is water resistance, most fitness trackers come with an ATM rating.

ATM stands for Atmospheres and indicates just how much atmospheric pressure the watch can withstand whilst underwater. 1 ATM is the level of pressure in the atmosphere at sea level, so a 5 ATM rating means that the watch can be used at depths of up to 50 metres. This would make them efficient to use for swimming and snorkelling but not for deep water activity such as scuba diving.

Best swim watches to buy in 2019

Whether you just enjoy a few leisurely laps of the pool, are a serious swimmer or are training for a triathlon, it’s all too easy to blow your budget on fancy features you may not even need. Below we give you the low down on our favorite Garmin swim watches for 2019, guiding you through the different functionalities to ensure that you get more bang for your buck.

Garmin Forerunner 935 – best multisport swimming watch

This watch measures laps, distance, intervals, stroke type, drills, heart rate, pace and stride. But what we particularly love about it, is its ability to take data on all areas of your workout in order to maximise your overall performance – both in and out of the pool.

Not only able to track the swimming essentials such as lap length and distance covered, it can also identify the specific type of stroke used and you can keep an eye on your swim efficiency by using your SWOLF score.

The Garmin Forerunner 935 comes with built in activity profiles for both pool and open water swimming, allowing you to create your own workouts and training plans – although you can also download sessions via Garmin Connect. There are also time and distance alerts, a countdown clock, rest timers and open-water swim metrics.

Unfortunately, this watch does not come with a built in heart rate monitor that can be used in water, although you can pair it will other devices for more insights. This watch is an expensive purchase but is a winner for triathletes and multi-sport enthusiasts alike.

Key features include:

  • Waterproof rating 5 ATM
  • GPS
  • Advanced swim metrics – lengths, distance, stroke count/rate, calories
  • Stroke type detection
  • Swim efficiency (SWOLF)
  • Drill logging
  • Pool swim workouts
  • Open water metrics – distance, pace, stroke count/rate, stroke distance, calories
  • Heart rate analysis when paired with HRM-Tri and HRM-Swim

Fenix 5 Plus – best for swimming data and insights

The Fenix 5 Plus has modes for pool and open-water swimming, along with a multisport mode for when you’re planning on undertaking different activities back-to-back, such as a triathlon. On top of all the standard swimming metrics, there are also a number of special preloaded activity profiles.

This watch is way more than a swim watch, in terms of advanced tracking abilities for hiking, cycling, and running and it comes with a host of smart phone technology including contactless payment. If number crunching is your thing, then the Fenix 5 Plus has more data and insights to enhance and perfect your performance than you could every wish for!

Just like the Forerunner 935 above, although this watch does come equipped with a built in heart rate monitor, it is disabled during swimming so does require an additional waterproof chest-strap sensor to link it too.

Key features include:

  • Waterproof rating 10 ATM
  • GPS
  • Advanced swim metrics – lengths, distance, stroke count/rate, calories
  • Stroke type detection
  • Swim efficiency (SWOLF)
  • Drill logging
  • Pool swim workouts
  • Open water metrics – distance, pace, stroke count/rate, stroke distance, calories
  • Heart rate analysis when paired with HRM-Tri and HRM-Swim

Vivoactive 3 – best priced swimming watch

The Vivoactive 3 is more compact than its Garmin counterparts, but what it lacks in stature it more than makes up for in swimming functionality, making this feature-rich smartwatch great for serious swimmers and lackadaisical lappers alike.

Waterproof for up to 50 meters, it is great for regular pool use where you can check your stats on the large display screen to see your pace, stroke rate and SWOLF score in the Garmin Connect app. It can measure your oxygen capacity and includes a stress factor feature.

The Vivoactive 3 doesn’t support open-water swimming or recognise stroke type, and the optical heart rate tracker is disabled when in the water

Key features include:

  • Waterproof rating 5 ATM
  • GPS
  • Swim metrics – lengths, distance, stroke count/rate, calories
  • Stroke type detection
  • Swim efficiency (SWOLF)

Conclusion

When looking for a good swimming watch, it is important to fully understand how and when you are likely to use it. For everyday pool swimming or training I can’t recommend the Vivoactive 3 highly enough. This small watch houses a host of features that can provide you with plenty of data on which to log and improve your performance.

If you are a triathlete, then typically you will be look for a watch that offers you as many features as possible in order to track a number of different disciplines – but these watches do not come cheap. The cost is certainly warranted for the Forerunner 935 and the Fenix 5 plus though, as both these watches come with extensive feature lists and can accurately record your activity both in the pool and in open water.