Best Triathlon Watch: Tools for the Elite Athlete

If you are planning on participating in a future triathlon event, it’s safe to say that you are serious about making the most out of your performance. This means that you are determined to stay on top of your performance by keeping track of your swimming, running, and biking metrics.

If this is the case, you definitely need to invest in the best triathlon watch.

Obviously, you can’t just pick a regular sports watch or smartwatch and be done with it. You need a timepiece that can withstand the toughest activities and at the same time, enables you to accurately track your metrics.

Today, we will take a look at some of the best watches that can be used by serious triathletes. For this list, our favorite is the Garmin Forerunner 935 for its lightweight but tough construction, impressive battery life, and a wide range of smart features.

If you’ll keep reading, we have other recommended picks just for you.

Best Triathlon Watch

Key Features

Our Rating

Garmin Forerunner 935 Advanced running and multisport features, Built-in barometer, altimeter and electronic compass, Advanced dynamics for running, cycling and swimming, Built-in activity profiles ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Polar Vantage V Up to 40 hours, Running Power function, Optical heart rate monitor, Training Load Pro, Recovery Pro ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Garmin Fenix 5 Elevate wrist heart rate technology, Fiber-reinforced polymer, GPS and GLONASS satellite reception, 3-axis compass, smart notifications ★ ★ ★ ★ ½
Suunto 9 Intelligent battery modes, Smart reminders, Supports 80+ sports and multisport events, FusedTrack Sensor, 100m water resistance, Average HR during sleep ★ ★ ★ ★
Garmin Forerunner 735XT 24/7 Heart rate monitoring, Built-in activities, Smart notifications, Multisport mode, Step Counter, Advanced Running Dynamics ★ ★ ★ ★
Polar Vantage M Polar Precision Prime heart rate monitor, Changeable wristband, Training Load Pro, Sleep tracking, 100+ sports profiles ★ ★ ★ ★
Suunto Spartan Ultra HR 80 Sport modes, Includes built in altimeter, barometer, compass, GPS, 100 meter water resistance, 26H battery life ★ ★ ★ ★
Polar V800 Built-in GPS, Sport profiles, 30 meter water resistance, Integrated barometer, Smart notifications, Inactivity alerts, 24/7 activity tracking ★ ★ ★ ½

Best Triathlon Watches

1. Garmin Forerunner 935

 

When it comes to GPS watches, Garmin is a brand that’s high on most people’s list – including ours. The Garmin Forerunner 935 is one of the best, if not the best, GPS watches that Garmin has released.

It’s far from an affordable option but it’s definitely a worthy investment for any serious athlete.

An Ironman’s Best Friend

The Forerunner 935 is a premium GPS through and through. The GPS and other navigation features are spot on.

However, the wealth of running and multisport features is what makes the Forerunner 935 a great investment. The watch provides you with the right tools to monitor your performance, training, and recovery. It actually monitors your training and will let you know if you are training productively, peaking or pushing yourself too hard.

 

The 935 also lets you set built-in activity profiles for different activities like running, cycling, hiking, strength training, swimming, and more. For triathletes, switching to another sports profile is as easy as pressing a button. Like all good smartwatches, the 935 syncs with your compatible smartphone that will let you access more training and social features.

If you are a serious athlete, the Forerunner 935 will easily become your best friend. It’s a feature-packed and comfortable triathlon watch that’s definitely worth the price tag.

2. Polar Vantage V

 

The Polar Vantage V is a great looking watch with enough features to impress even the most hardcore athletes.

It looks like the previous Vantage M model but it’s a little bit heavier, and for good reason. The Vantage V comes highly recommended for those who are trying to train at the highest level.

A Fully-Featured Training Tool on Your Wrist

The Polar Vantage V managed to catch my attention because it’s a good-looking, well-designed watch.

Unlike other smartwatches, the Vantage V comes with a circular watch face which means that I can wear them casually without telling the world that you are wearing a fitness device. The buttons are also fairly low-profile so the watch doesn’t look bulky and it doesn’t get caught on pockets, sleeves, etc.

 

One of the best features of the Vantage V is definitely the Running Power function. This gives the user to have another data point which comes in handy for a more accurate training session. I also love the fact that the touchscreen feature can be disabled during training mode. Touch screens are great but they can get rather touchy when training due to factors like sweat, moisture, inadvertent contact, and more.

Overall, the Vantage V is a high-quality fitness watch with amazing features for training at the highest level.

3. Garmin Fenix 5

 

You can’t really make a list of the best triathlon watch without including multiple products from Garmin. The next watch that we have for you is the Garmin Fenix 5.

The Fenix 5 is actually very similar to the Forerunner 935 in terms of features. However, the Fenix 5 has proven to be the tougher watch between the two.

For Athletes of All Levels

The Fenix 5 actually comes in three different versions: 5S, 5, and 5X. Each model comes in a wide range of color options, lens types, and strap options. Aside from the size and weight, the three versions are almost identical except for the 5X (the most expensive model) having the mapping feature.

The Fenix 5 is a top-notch watch and that’s mainly attributed to its wealth of great features. Activity tracking with this watch is a breeze and very accurate. This a full-featured triathlon watch which means that you can use it for swimming both in the pool and open water locations.

 

The watch can be programmed with multiple profiles and you are allowed to switch profiles on the fly. If you have the HRM-Run heart rate monitor (the chest strap add-on), you can track metrics like ground contact time and vertical oscillation.

As mentioned, it’s a heavier, tougher alternative to the Forerunner 935 which makes it more suitable for tougher activities.

4. Suunto 9

 

I am a big fan of the Suunto brand. In fact, one of my favorite pickups lately is the Suunto Traverse Alpha. The brand has a great handle when it comes to sports watches, so it’s not surprising that the Suunto 9 GPS watch has made the list.

Beefy Features with the Bulk

The Suunto 9 is quite similar to Garmin’s Fenix series in the sense that it’s a rather hefty watch that boasts a lot of features. Throw any outdoor activity at it and it will track it. This watch can track over 80+ sports.

The Suunto 9 stands out for having an impressive battery life. Depending on your settings, the watch can last from 25 up to 120 hours between charging. Even when the battery starts to run out during your training, the watch will suggest that you can change settings easily in order to conserve battery.

 

For running, the watch utilizes motion sensor information with GPS technology. This enables the device to conserve battery without sacrificing quality. Swimmers will have no problem wearing this as it can be used for pool and open water swims. Switching between activities is as easy as pressing a button.

If you mind the weight and bulk, this watch might not be for you. This watch definitely has a weight to it. However, the number of great features and impressive battery life make this a solid triathlon watch.

5. Garmin Forerunner 735XT

 

We have yet another candidate from Garmin and it’s the Garmin Forerunner 735XT.

The Forerunner 735XT is very comparable to the 935 except for some key features like the barometric altimeter sensor and golf tracking support. However, it’s a very competent triathlon watch and presents a good alternative if you think that the 935 is too expensive.

A Reliable Multisport Watch With a Learning Curve

Triathlon athletes will surely appreciate the 735XT’s thin and lightweight profile. Whether you are running, cycling, or swimming, the watch feels like it’s barely there.

However, it comes with advanced features that will satisfy any serious athlete.

The Forerunner 735XT is preloaded with profiles for many different activities. It has data support for running, cycling, swimming, hiking, skiing, strength training, paddle sports and cardio. The 735XT features a multisport mode which allows you to track different sports as one activity. You just need to press the lap button to switch to next sport. Battery life is a decent 14 hour with GPS enabled.

 

As stated, there’s a bit of a learning curve to use the 735XT. Working with the five watch buttons can be confusing and learning how to use the watch properly will take some time. I highly recommend you spend some time reading the manual first.

Once you get past the learning curve, the watch offers plenty in terms of customization.

6. Polar Vantage M

 

The Polar Vantage M is highly recommended for athletes who are looking for a mid-range triathlon watch.

The Vantage M looks quite similar to the V but it’s definitely the cheaper option between the two. However, this doesn’t mean that you should skip on the Vantage M as it offers plenty of features for the hardcore athlete.

The Mid-Range Option for Elite Athletes

The Polar M400 and M430 were very popular multisport devices which is why the Vantage M had a lot to live up to. Fortunately, this follow-up by Polar was not a disappointment.

What I love about Polar watches is the comfortable design. The Vantage M is very comfortable and lightweight – you can wear this 24/7 because unlike the heavier Vantage V, you’ll never feel the need to take it off. The Vantage M doesn’t have touchscreen features but has physical buttons instead. Using the physical buttons is fairly straightforward.

 

As for the sports tracking, you can expect the same tracking experience with the Vantage V. The watch supports up to 130 sports profiles and you can load 20 to the watch at any given time. Triathletes will have a lot to love with this watch as it offers the most insightful metrics for running, cycling, and swimming.

However, the Vantage M is strictly for sports tracking and training insights. If you are thinking that this is a potential alternative to the Apple Watch, we have to stop you right there. As far as syncing goes, you are only limited to notification support.

All in all, the Vantage M is an exciting multisport tool that won’t break the bank.

7. Suunto Spartan Ultra HR

 

The Suunto Spartan Ultra HR is a solid go-to option if you think that the Suunto 9 has a crazy price tag.

Despite being the more affordable option to most of the watches on this list, it’s far from a stripped down training tool. In fact, this is one of the best watches for any Ironman participant.

Great Versatility in One Package

As its most basic, the Spartan Ultra HR supports over 80 different activities. Plus, it comes with built-in ABC features and a GPS. For each sport, you can track metrics such as time, distance, pace, and elevation. You are also provided with in-depth data such as peak training effect and workout recovery time.

Since it comes with a GPS, the Spartan Ultra HR will let you map out your paths for a run. For this, you can use Suunto’s Movescount app which enables you to import routes and import a GPS file. There’s even a neat “heat maps” feature where popular routes are shared. With this feature, you may even discover a new or better path for your runs.

 

The Spartan Ultra HR earns decent marks when it comes to accuracy. Recording metrics such as distance and time are often on point. However, the GPS can be slightly spotty at times but nothing major that it becomes unusable. The GPS does considerably drain the battery.

The Spartan Ultra HR is a high-end activity tracker that offers plenty of versatility.

8. Polar V800

The Polar V800 is not exactly a new and shiny model. In fact, it’s certainly the oldest triathlon watch on this list. However, don’t let that discourage you because this watch packs enough oomph that makes it a top choice for athletes.

A Great Watch for Multisport/Endurance Events

When compared against the newer, sleeker models, the V800 is starting to look outdated. The chunky stainless body with rubber straps certainly doesn’t do the watch any favor. However, it more than makes up for its build quality. This is clearly a watch that can take a good deal of punishment.

Although it’s an older model, we’re happy to report that the V800’s GPS is still as zippy as ever and can deliver mapping with good accuracy. One of the best features is the new Running Program. This feature creates programs based on the watch’s coaching features.

This gives you the ability to create more personalized routines.

 

To get the most out of the V800, it’s highly recommended that you use it with the Polar Flow app. However, weirdly enough, you can’t create programs using the mobile app and it must be done using the web app.

Battery life will get you 13 hours of training with GPS enabled and about 50 hours in low power mode.

The V800 is definitely starting to show its age as far as design goes but if you care more about accurate stat tracking and a zippy GPS, it’s a solid all-around choice.

How to Choose the Best Triathlon Watch?

 

Triathlon Watches

As stated earlier, you can’t just choose a sports watch and use it for triathlon training. That’s a surefire way to ruin a perfectly good watch.

Here are the factors that you should consider when buying a triathlon watch.

Multisport

Multisport Watches1

Of course, you want a watch that features a multisport function.

Multisport watches can switch from one sports profile to the next with just a press of a button. For instance, you can easily switch from running to cycling by simply pressing a button. By switching to another sports profile, the information displayed on the screen will be related to that specific sport.

Without a multisport feature, the user will have to manually stop the activity, tinker with the settings, and start a new profile. As you can imagine, this is hardly ideal especially when you’re trying to shave seconds off your performance.

Water Resistance

Since you will be swimming during a triathlon event, it goes without that you need a water resistant watch. However, that might not be enough.

It certainly won’t hurt to get a triathlon watch that can track swimming metrics such as distance, pool laps, stroke count, and more. Swimming watches will typically work in both pools and open-water swims.

Battery Life

Suunto Battery Life

Nothing is more frustrating than running out of battery while you’re in the middle of your triathlon training.

Therefore, you should consider getting a watch with sufficient battery life. Preferably a model that will last longer than your daily exercise routine.

Fortunately, most smartwatches and activity trackers these days have decent battery life at the minimum. It’s still worth considering what sort of event that you are participating in. If you are competing in Ironman, you need a watch that can go for hours without being charged. On the other hand, shorter events like sprint triathlons will only require a watch with decent battery life.

Data Transfer and Connectivity

Suunto Sync

Any serious athlete will review their metrics after every training session.

In this case, you need a watch that can transfer data easily. The watch should feature a painless way to transfer data to a smartphone or computer. This enables you to review your metrics and analyze which areas you need to improve. Or perhaps, you can even share your results via social media.

In terms of connectivity, most smartwatches use Bluetooth or even Wi-Fi. However, there are also models that can only be connected using a physical wire.

Price

Do you go for a watch that’s cheaper but doesn’t have to offer in terms of features? Or do you break the bank and get a deluxe smartwatch with all the bells and whistles? Or maybe, you could settle on a mid-range model that strikes a good balance between the two?

This will all depend on your allocated budget and needs.

If you are a long-time triathlete, you probably have a certain price point in mind. However, for beginners, it might be a good idea to invest in an entry-level to mid-range model and upgrade later.

Frequently Asked Questions

Triathlon Photo

1. How much waterproofing do I need?

When it comes to sports watches, there are varying degrees of “waterproofing.”

For a triathlon, make sure that you get a model with an ATM of 5 or more. However, waterproof capability is not enough. Try finding a watch that measures swimming metrics such as swimming speed and efficiency. Also, watches with swimming features indicate whether they can be used in open water, pool or both.

2. How long should the battery last?

This will depend on the type of activity that you will be doing and how long your usual training session lasts.

Multisport watches with many different features such as GPS will likely run out of juice faster. Fortunately, most modern smartwatches can last from 10 to 20 hours even when in training mode. When checking for battery life, make sure that you read customer reviews and see if the battery life does hold up.

3. Do I need to have a touchscreen watch?

While it’s certainly cool to have, I don’t touchscreen features are a must when it comes to the best triathlon watch.

Don’t get me wrong, touchscreen navigation makes it a breeze to use and navigate the watch. Plus, it’s a bit of a future-proof function since most gadgets are touch-enabled these days. However, touch input can also be a nuisance since you can inadvertently swipe the device during training and stop whatever it is you are tracking.

Final Thoughts

We’ve tried and tested the top triathlon watches in the market and the definite top pick is the Garmin Forerunner 935. It commands a high price tag but it’s definitely worth the investment for any serious athlete.

If you have any questions about triathlon watches in general, feel free to comment down below.

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