Many watches claim to be waterproof but only a few are truly fit for swimming. Your favorite timepiece may survive the shower or rain but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a good fit for open water swimming. This is why I’ve decided to make this list of the best swim watch for open water.
Today, we rounded up the watches that you can wear for open water swimming. For this list, we chose the Garmin Forerunner 935 as our top pick due to its wide range of features, superior build quality, and value proposition. Keep reading to see the rest of our recommendations.
Best Swim Watch For Open Water
Advanced running and multisport features, Built-in barometer, altimeter and electronic compass, Advanced dynamics for running, cycling and swimming, Built-in activity profiles
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
GPS, Always-On Retina display, Swimproof, ECG app, Electrical and optical heart sensors, Built-in compass, Emergency SOS, Digital Crown with haptic feedback, 64-bit dual-core processor, W3 Apple wireless chip
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Battery life up to 12 hours, Steel bezel, mineral Crystal Glass, 100 meter water resistance, GPS route navigation, support for over 80 sports, Optical heart rate, Sapphire glass, Triathlon and multisport mode
★ ★ ★ ★ ½
Wrist-based heart rate, Pool swim mode, Built-in GPS, Full-color Garmin chroma display, Auto rest feature, Advanced Swim Features, Turn-based pacing alerts, Up to 7 days battery life in smartwatch mode
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Advanced sensors, Aluminum or stainless steel, Detects a high or a low heart rate, Sleep tracker, 360 x 360 Super AMOLED display, GPS, Bluetooth
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Up to 40 hours of training time with GPS active, Running power from the wrist, Training Load Pro and Recovery Pro, Integrated GPS, Polar Precision Prime sensor fusion technology, Nightly Recharge and Sleep Plus Stages
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Best Swim Watch For Open Water
1. Garmin Forerunner 935
Beast of a Multi-Sport Watch
On top of the training and performance tracking features, the Forerunner 935 also has a healthy offering of dedicated pool smarts. It’s a full-featured triathlon watch, so you can trust that it will serve you well in open waters.
The Forerunner 935 comes with built-in activity profiles both for open water and pool swimming. Through the Garmin Connect app, you can create your own workouts or download pre-made sessions to your watch. Moreover, the watch will automatically detect stroke type along with metrics like lengths, distance, pace, and stroke count. Other advanced features include time and distant alerts, countdown start, and other open-water metrics.
Perhaps the best feature of the Forerunner 935 is the Training Status function which automatically evaluates your recent workouts. There are even numerous performance indicators that will let you know if you’ve had a productive swimming session or not.
Overall, the Garmin Forerunner 935 is one of the best GPS watches I’ve used which makes it a solid option for open water swimmers.
2. Apple Watch Series 5
The world’s most famous smartwatch also happens to be an excellent gadget for open water swimming. The Apple Watch Series 5 is not just a fancy offering from the Cupertino company, it works great for open water swimming as well.
Not Just a Fancy Apple Gadget
Regardless of how you feel about Apple products, the Apple Watch Series 5 is one of the best-looking smartwatches out there. Over the years, the design of the Apple Watch has seen some updates here and there but its overall design has not changed that much – it has become an iconic design.
The Apple Watch comes with an accelerometer and gyroscope, and they’re very accurate. As a result, the watch can recognize which strokes you are doing (backstroke, freestyle, breaststroke) and provide an accurate quantification. The watch will also track other metrics such as the number of meters or yards completed, pool size (if you’re not swimming in open water), total swim time, number of strokes per lap, and many others.
For open water swimming, you have the GPS feature that will tell you position while you’re in the ocean or a lake. However, one of the best functions of Apple Watch is the ability to use third-party apps that can give you more information about your workouts when compared to stock apps.
If you’re going to buy the Apple Watch Series 5 just for swimming, it can be very expensive. Otherwise, it’s a top-notch smartwatch and fitness tracker for everything else.
3. Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR
Excellent GPS Watch for Swimming
The Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR is “everything but the kitchen sink” equivalent of smartwatches. Perhaps the most noteworthy feature of the Spartan Sport Wrist HR is the optical heart rate sensor. I won’t say that the heart rate sensor is 100% accurate but it’s more than good enough considering that you don’t have to use a chest-strap add-on. Suunto did a great job of creating an optical HR sensor for swimming.
The Spartan Sport Wrist HR has a water resistance of 100 m (300 ft) which means that it’s perfect for open water swimming. One of my favorite features of the watch is the heat map. It just makes it a lot easier to find training spots. You can create routes using the Movescount app and the best thing about this is that you can filter by sport. This makes it a breeze to find the right swimming routes.
The Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR isn’t exactly cheap but I’d say the price is more than warranted.
4. Garmin Swim 2
Garmin is one of the biggest manufacturers of sports watches today. When it comes to full-featured sports watches, it’s hard to go wrong with Garmin. The Garmin Swim 2 is no exception. This functionality tracks your heart rate along with your steps taken to provide more accurate data.
Designed for Swimmers
Just by going by the name, you’ll know that the Garmin Swim 2 is a reliable swimming partner. Again, this is not just your standard fitness tracker that you can wear while on the water. The Swim 2 has features that will measure your swimming performance.
The Garmin Swim 2 can measure lap count, recognize all four strokes, and utilizes gamification to motivate to perform better. There’s a SWOLF Scoring feature which is basically a combination of “swimming” and “golf” that combines your stroke rate and overall speed.
One thing that I love about this watch is that it’s quickly usable out of the box. You can simply strap it on and use it right away. With that said, it’s highly recommended that you get the Garmin Connect app to get the most out of your Garmin Swim 2.
Overall, the Garmin Swim 2 is a definite upgrade to the old Swim model which doesn’t even have a GPS function.
5. Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2
Samsung has been killing it when it comes to wearable tech. This is true with their Samsung Gear (old name) and Galaxy Watch lines. The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 is another solid entry from the South Korean tech giant and it’s a pretty good entry for this list of the best swim watch for open water.
Great All-Around Fitness Tracker
With the 5 ATM waterproof rating and the fact that it’s water-sealed, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 is an easy recommendation for swimmers. One neat functionality of the watch is that it allows you to customize the information displayed within the swim tracking screen. This includes your target, pool size, guide frequency, and which data to display.
When in the water, the Galaxy Watch Active2 will disable touch sensitivity so you’ll need to use the physical buttons to navigates. Like the Apple Watch, you can simply press a button to reactivate the touch interface after a swim. It also has an impressive battery life at 3-4 days after charging to the max, even when you use the GPS for swimming in open waters.
Overall, the Galaxy Watch Active2 isn’t as advanced as the other watches on this list but it’s robust enough to be used as a general fitness tracker.
6. Polar Vantage V
The Polar Vantage V has been touted as the “Garmin Killer.” While I can’t claim that yet, Polar did a great job with the Vantage V, especially when it comes to the swim features.
Formidable Rival to Garmin
For starters, I love the design of the Polar Vantage V. The very thin brushed metal looks great and practically disappears when viewed face on. The touchscreen feels intuitive and snappy, and you’ll have no trouble using touch as a primary input.
Like the Suunto Spartan HR, the Vantage V brings heart rate monitoring to the water. Also, the swimming metrics track information like pool size, swimming style, distance, strokes, rest time, and so on. The tracking results are quite satisfactory especially when you use it in conjunction with the Polar Flow app.
Overall, the Polar Vantage V isn’t the cheapest wearable tech out there. However, it’s very polished and can give some Garmin models a run for their money.
Ready for an Open Water Swim?
This concludes our list of the best swim watch for open water. Hopefully, you’ll find something here that will help maximize your training sessions. Stay safe out there!