Lots of fitness watches claim to be suitable for swimmers, but very few live up to this claim. This is because some ‘swimming watches’ are vulnerable to water damage. Also, whilst most swimming watches can record open water swims, few can record lane swims.
Having said that, there are some great swimming watches out there. And, if you want to improve your performance, it’s worth investing in one. For more in-depth information of what makes a swimming watch different, read our guide.
What are the benefits of swimming watches?
If you’re new to fitness tracking, you might be wondering what the point of a swimming watch is. Well, a good one can:
- Track lengths – When swimming in a pool, it’s easy to lose count of how many lengths you’ve swum, so length tracking is handy.
- Length-by-length data – The ability to differentiate lap data, for example, which lap you swam the fastest.
- Technique monitoring – Some of the more sophisticated watches will analyse your swimming technique. It will tell you if your stroke rate is too fast, slow, or optimum.
- Share your data – You can share and compare your fitness data with others. Swimming is a lone sport, so sharing your data can be motivational. It can also help you to build a supportive community.
So, whether you’re a doggy paddler or the next Michael Phelps, here are 4 swimming watches that will help you reach your goals.
1. Garmin Swim 2
Specifically designed for swimming and open water activities, the Garmin Swim is an excellent choice. Track your swim with GPS and measure your heart rate, even underwater. It comes with all the usual activity tracking features of a Garmin watch and is fit for many other sports activities.
For the pool, it can record your distance, pace and stroke efficiency. It can also help with your swimming drills. The Garmin Swim 2 is designed for swimming and is lightweight, luminous and easy to work in the water. It could give you real-time pacing alerts while swimming. You can read our full review of the Garmin Swim 2 here.
GPS mode allows up to 13 hours combined with heart rate measuring. Otherwise, it could last for up to 72 hours in pool mode and 72 hours with standard mode.
- Designed for swimming
- Lightweight – Only 36g
- 5 ATM
- Sunlight visible
- Slightly more expensive than other models at $249
- Not necessarily a diving watch
- No touch functions
2. Samsung Gear Fit 2 (Pro)
This is a versatile fitness tracker that is great for measuring swims. It is reliably water-resistant so there’s little chance of water damage (as long as you stick to surface swimming).
This watch can track lane swims as well as open water swims. It’s also compatible with Speedo Swim; an App that offers training plans, community support and swimming tips! One of the best things is that you can see your data in real-time (i.e. laps swam), which can be really motivating. *Update – November 2020 – The Speedo On app may no longer by compatible with this watch, please ensure you thoroughly research the apps available before making your purchase.
- Water-resistant up to 50 meters (though it is marketed for surface swimming and light snorkelling only)
- Smartphone notifications
- Built-in GPS – so great for Triathlons
- Slim and discreet design
- 4gb storage for music
- Battery life is 1-2 days – some comparable devices last up to 5 days.
- It struggles to detect stair climbing (may not be an issue if you are only using it for swimming)
3. Garmin Forerunner 935/945
The Garmin Forerunner 935 (or the newer 945) is an activity tracker that does it all. Though not specifically a swimming watch, many people prefer it to the Garmin Swim watch because it can do so much more. For example, it can track running, walking, hiking, and swimming, to name but a few sports.
If you enjoy open swimming, you’ll really appreciate this watch because the in-built GPS and compass are useful for navigation.
Like many other swimming watches, it struggles to capture your heart rate whilst swimming. However, you can purchase a Garmin accessory which will accurately measure your heart rate whilst swimming.
- It’s a multisport activity tracker
- Water-resistant up to 165 feet – but cannot be used for scuba diving or snorkelling
- It provides advanced output data for swimming, running, and cycling – great for triathletes!
- There may be some accuracy issues when measuring pool lengths – though these issues seem to have been resolved since the last update
- A masculine design so probably not the best fitness tracker for women
4. Fitbit Charge 3 and 4
The only downside to the Charge 3 is that it doesn’t show your data in real-time. You’ll have to dry off before you can see how many lengths you’ve swum. If you can live without this feature, the 3 is great value for money. The Charge 4 does offer real-time tracking and has GPS.
- It’s very affordable, especially compared to other swimming watches
- It’s a multisport activity tracker (though not as sophisticated as the Garmin Forerunner 945)
- Offers detailed swim technique insights via the Fitbit App
- 7+ days battery life
- Slim design
- It’s not an open water swimming watch
- It doesn’t offer real-time updates, which is disappointing to some
Check out the Fitbit Versa 3 as a smart alternative.
5. Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR
This device is excellent for tracking swims, cycles, runs, hikes, etc. It’s very lightweight, so it won’t slow you down. It’s argued that the design is a little masculine but this purely down to taste. It is also resistant to 100 meters, which is unique for a swimming watch! You can read our full review of the Suunto Spartan here.
- Precision is second to none
- Inbuilt GPS so it can track a variety of activities
- Good for pool and open water swimming
- Extremely lightweight so it won’t get in the way of your front crawl
- 10 hours of battery life when in training mode. If battery life is your priority, choose the Fitbit Charge 3 instead.
Choosing a swimming watch
So, there you have four of the best swimming watches for 2020. On balance, the Fitbit Charge 4 is probably the favourite. Not only does it offer great value for money, but it also encourages you to focus and improve. The Suunto Spartan Trainer is precise and the Garmin Swim 2 is an excellent choice for the pros.
As always, know what features you are looking for before you make a purchase. To help you decide, you could read our guide on how to find a great watch for swimming and a few more swimming watch alternatives.
Although the swimming watches mentioned in this article are water-resistant, they are not waterproof. None of these would be suitable for diving. If you want a watch that’s suitable for swimming and diving, look for a dedicated scuba diving watch instead.
Last Updated on January 18, 2021
A highly experienced writer, with expertise in health and technology.
Rachael had a masters degree in psychology (with distinction) and a bachelors degree in English literature (with first-class honours) from reputable UK universities. Rachael has worked for two years as a research associate and reporter for a high-profile UK media company.