At a glance, Triathlon watches may resemble traditional smartwatches or basic health-oriented wearables. But once you start digging into the features they offer, you’ll realize that there are some specialized qualities that make them worth a look for serious athletes. Subjecting yourself to triathlon training is a serious commitment. These watches can make the process of getting your mind, body, and soul into peak conditions significantly easier.
If you want to be the best, you’ll have to invest in the best. That is why we’ve highlighted 10 different triathlon watch models in this review. Each of these highlighted watches is a true contender for the best triathlon watch of 2020. Keep reading to learn more about what you should look for in an athletic watch.
- The 11 Best Triathlon Watches
- 1. Garmin Forerunner 35 Watch
- 2. Garmin Fenix 5 Plus
- 3. Timex Ironman 10 Watch
- 4. Garmin Forerunner 935
- 5. Garmin Vívoactive 3
- 6. Coros Pace GPS Multisport Watch
- 7. Timex Ironman Classic 30 Watch
- 8. Polar M430 GPS Running Watch
- 9. Amazfit Stratos Multisport Smartwatch
- 10. TomTom Runner GPS Watch
- 11. Garmin Forerunner 735XT
- Triathlon Watch Buying Guide
The 11 Best Triathlon Watches
1. Garmin Forerunner 35 Watch
Garmin makes some of the best athletic watches around. However, their commitment to quality often comes with a price tag that is worth hundreds of dollars. The Garmin Forerunner 35 triathlon watch trims down the price while still offering the fundamentals that make Garmin watches so high-quality. It's an all day activity tracker that provides 24/7 heart rate monitoring, activity tracking milestones, and smart notifications.
In terms of features, this triathlon watch is one of the most baseline units you could expect. It covers the fundamentals without managing to really stand out in quality. But that's overlooking the primary reason for buying a Garmin watch in the first place: the unparalleled quality of their GPS tracking technology. The features available may be basic, but the Forerunner 35 watch gives you access to some of the best and most accurate pace trackers to monitor your training peaks whether you're running, swimming or riding a bike.
2. Garmin Fenix 5 Plus
The Fenix 5 Plus is Garmin's sports car equivalent to the economical Forerunner 35 watch. The $700 asking price for this triathlon GPS watch is no small chunk of change. However, if you want the best triathlon watch available today, you are sure to find this watch at the top of the list.
It is a multisport watch that is rugged enough to survive just about any disaster. Every variant of this top runner watch is constructed from either diamond-like carbon or stainless steel. The important components embedded inside the watch are made from titanium.
That's not all. The real stars of the show are the range of tri features. This watch comes with a multi-satellite interface that provides you with accurate mapping even when a running GPS alone isn't up to the task. And to make things better, this triathlon watch includes a gyroscope, compass, and barometric altimeter. If you're looking to do your training out in the wild, the Fenix 5x watch can serve essentially as a singular survival tool kit.
3. Timex Ironman 10 Watch
The Timex Iron Man watch is one of the oldest and most respected triathlon watches around. And Timex seems to be operating under the principle that if it's not broken there's no need to fix it with their Essential model. While it doesn't offer features like swimming, cycling, and sports modes, or heart rate monitors, it does cover all the fundamentals for an easy $30 buy in.
This isn't a GPS watch. Instead, it's an effective, basic sports stopwatch that also includes an alarm and countdown timer. It can even withstand water, up to a hundred meters. The entire face is luminous to make reading it in the dark easy. Its simple design also makes it incredibly easy to operate. It won't meet the needs of serious tech geeks, but it gets the fundamentals right with a high level of accuracy and manages to do so at a cheap price point.
4. Garmin Forerunner 935
The Forerunner 935 is one of the Garmin triathlon watches that was built off the fundamentals of the entry level Forerunner 35 watch. Bringing in a whole host of GPS modes for cycling and running, it still manages to retail for $200 less than the Fenix 5 Plus. The Garmin 935 may not be as appealingly built for rough and tumble outdoor use as the Fenix 5, but it comes with its own distinct advantages. One of them is the fact that it's significantly more lightweight. The less bulky frame lets it fit more comfortably on your wrist and serve as an all purpose health wearable even when you're out of training.
However, when you are looking to improve your form, you'll find some top notch metric tracking tied to the multisport GPS. Detailed dynamics are catered towards cycling, swimming, and running. It also includes a compass, altimeter, and barometer just like the Fenix. Its biggest strength is the training evaluation that lets you know whether you're over or under performing.
5. Garmin Vívoactive 3
The next in our extensive selection of the best Garmin triathlon watch review is the Garmin vivoactive. A top pick sports watch that comfortably occupies the mid-range market for Garmin, this device provides some tremendous value for under $200. As with all Garmin watches, the incredibly high level of accuracy that comes from the GPS signal is a pretty appealing prospect. Garmin is undoubtedly the industry leader in this regard. However, the Vivoactive HR monitoring is also quite good with its highly accurate built in sensors.
The Chroma display on the Garmin vivoactive is bright and easy to read. And the touchscreen interface is also simple to navigate. The vivoactive 3 makes the most of its integration with the Garmin Connect app, allowing you to make incredibly detailed training session plans and upload them to your watch for a more customized training experience. It also comes with over 10 sports apps out of the box. This is a very smart feature that more water-proof GPS watches could benefit from.
6. Coros Pace GPS Multisport Watch
It's understandable if you don't recognize the Coros name, but their Apex GPS triathlon watch is worth paying attention to, which is why we have included it in this review of the best multi-sport watches. The Coros Pace is a dedicated wearable that exclusively focuses on training modes. While the general health features here can't always keep up with the competition, the training features are top notch. If you want to use your watch exclusively as a triathlon training aid, you won't find significantly better options at such a reasonable price.
With its lightweight frame, large and bright display, and easy to navigate interface, the Coros Pace was primarily built for the needs of triathlon athletes. Dedicated sports profiles are available for running, swimming, and cycling with separate profiles for indoors and outdoors. Rather than packing in dozens of different profiles, they've clearly focused on getting the three fundamentals of the triathlon right, thereby offering you the best feature set that's more deep than it is wide.
7. Timex Ironman Classic 30 Watch
As with the 10 model, the incredibly low price tag and stripped down sensibilities of the Iron Man Classic 30 are its biggest selling point. You're basically getting the same thing here: basic lap tracking, stopwatch features, and reliable timekeeping. But this Timex Ironman is sleek too. It shares the same light up display you'd find in the 10 Elite model and an almost identical price point.
The biggest difference here is the style. Timex Ironman Classic 30 triathlon watch is a little chunkier and looks a bit more like a traditional digital watch. However, that works to its advantage when trying to navigate the five buttons that control the interface. The screen may be small, but it can record a decent amount of information, and operating it will quickly become second nature. It also offers tracking for 30 laps as opposed to the 10 offered by its counterpart.
8. Polar M430 GPS Running Watch
Polar offers some great watches ranging from the Polar Vantage to the Polar v800. The Polar M430 listed here is one of the coolest triathlon watches around specifically because it distinctly prioritizes functionality over aesthetics. That's not to say it's a bad looking watch. The slim and streamlined design is clearly built in a way that makes comfort in high energy situations the number one concern. It's a clever choice that doesn't leave a lot of room for navigating the various features. Polar, however, smartly sidesteps the problem by transferring most of the navigation features to the compatible phone and desktop apps.
And while that means that you'll need to be tethered to your phone for setup, it provides a lot of functions without having to overcrowd the face of your watch. Automatic lapping is built in along with exercise profiles for cycling, running, and many common activities. You have a lot of control in how you customize your training plans as well.
9. Amazfit Stratos Multisport Smartwatch
The Amazfit Stratos comes with a price tag of less than $200. It's not the most feature rich triathlon watch in our buying guide, but it's easily one of the best HR watches in terms of sheer value. Reliable GPS and a truly deep bench of fitness tracking metrics are accompanied by general quality of life features such as music streaming through your phone's Bluetooth connection. It can even store music locally so you can un-tether it from your phone entirely. It's a borderline premium feature set for a mid-range price.
This triathlon watch offers tracking for a ton of different exercises right out of the box. You also have a huge amount of leverage in customizing specific workout plans to your needs. That's a big deal considering how grueling and personal a triathlete's fitness plan can be. It can also sync up with a variety of different Bluetooth accessories to supercharge your metric tracking.
10. TomTom Runner GPS Watch
TomTom may not be as prominent a name as they once were, but they've found a new life by adapting their smart GPS technology for the needs of athletes. The TomTom Runner is one of their first entries in the market, and while they're clearly still getting their bearings, it's still a reliable standby that covers all the essentials. It's a triathlon watch with simple graphical and navigational interfaces, which can actually be an asset when you're in the middle of a strenuous run.
The TomTom Runner sports a sleek design that's built to be aerodynamic and comfortable. And the super thin face blends seamlessly into the band itself. Triangulated satellite technology goes beyond simple GPS, and it's capable of working as an indoor and outdoor tracker. There's plenty of motivation as you can strive to beat your best with the embedded race and goal settings. The heart rate monitor keeps you safe by ensuring that you stay within safe boundaries.
11. Garmin Forerunner 735XT
Up next on our best triathlon watch Garmin forerunner review is the Garmin Forerunner 735XT. This watch is the Goldilocks of the company's product line. It offers an expansive list of running, cycling, and swim tracking features while still maintaining a decent price tag. This triathlon watch even manages to pack in most of the features you'd expect to find in a more general smartwatch like smart notifications and music streaming.
Garmin's best and biggest appeal may be the quality of their GPS mode and their generally high-end heart rate technology, but it is also noteworthy to mention how good their Bluetooth smart features function. Garmin Connect allows you to automatically upload all of your data, make the most of real time tracking, and perform in-depth analysis of your results over time. Garmin has also included more complicated health tracking features like lactate thresholds and VO2 max estimates.
Triathlon Watch Buying Guide
There’s a line between triathlon watches and more generic smartwatches. In particular, it can be hard to distinguish between them and general fitness trackers. There’s a lot of crossover in our guide to the best fitness watches of 2020. You should check that out if you’re looking for some more options.
The biggest thing that’s included in triathlon watches are dedicated exercise tracking modes that allows them to serve functionally as running, swimming, and cycling watches. Beyond that, the features and designs can be fairly flexible. We’ll cover the most important things you should look out for in a triathlon watch below.
If you’re planning on using a fitness tracker for triathlon training, the ability to take it underwater is a necessity. That’s why all of the watches we feature offer some level of waterproofing. You’ll find models that can go to depths of 50 meters or 100 meters (200 meters is rare and usually reserved for watches built for diving). It’s important to note that this does not refer to the actual depth the watches can go below water surface, but rather to the level of pressure they can resist.
So what does this mean in practice? If you’re planning on just using your watch for swimming laps, a water resistance of 50 meters will be suitable for your needs. These watches are designed to be worn in the shower and used when swimming in shallow depths. But you may not want to wear it out on the ocean. A water resistance of one hundred meters is what you want to look for if you want to be extra safe or engage in more rigorous swimming. These watches are designed to be used while snorkeling and is more appropriate for swimming outside the pool.
Most triathlon watches have two listings for battery life. In our specs, the first number listed refers to the maximum battery life when GPS is enabled, and it is measured in hours. The second is what you can expect from your watch when the GPS is turned off. Most triathletes will only be using their GPS when they’re actively training, so both of these numbers are important.
In either case, you should be able to get enough out of your watch by charging it once an evening. Most watches allow even less than that thereby allowing those with more modest training schedules to hypothetically only charge their multi sport watch every few days. How important a long battery life will matter to you will depend on your training regimen and how frustrated you are by the need to plug your watch into a charger.
GPS vs. GLONASS vs. BDS
With the exception of the Iron Man models, all of the watches on our list come with GPS functionality. However, a few expensive models extend their capabilities with the inclusion of GLONASS and BDS technologies. GPS is a great way to track your positioning, but it requires four satellites to triangulate to provide accurate results. If one or more of these satellites are blocked, it can produce inaccurate metrics.
BDS and GLONASS carry out the same functionality as GPS. But while the GPS is developed by the United States DoD and makes use of a few dozen proprietary satellites, GLONASS and BDS serve as the equivalent services engineered by Russia and China respectively. If your watch offers more than just GPS, it’s known as a global navigation satellite system (GNSS), and it has a lot more flexibility when operating in remote locations. A GNSS enabled device will automatically pick up the satellites with the best coverage to provide you with the most precise results available.
Having a diversified GNSS built into your watch can be a huge benefit when you’re traveling abroad, but it can also be useful when wandering into remote areas within the United States. More satellites means more coverage, and that’s especially useful if you plan on venturing out into the wilderness or going on long journeys where directional navigation is more crucial.
There’s no question that a triathlon watch is something of an investment, but if you’re planning on running a triathlon, you’re already planning on investing a lot of time and energy into the prospect. A good triathlon watch can help you supercharge your training and make sure that your process is healthy. We hope you find what you’re looking for, and we recommend you check out our guide to the best smartwatches of 2020 if you want a review on something that’s less focused on training. Quite a few of them offer decent fitness features.