A decade ago, sports watches could only offer time and a heart rate reading.
There were no additional features, nothing fancy. However, modern triathlon watches are now built with cutting edge technology and a range of incredible features that all serve to enhance your performance.
Leading this development is Garmin, one of the most reputable brands in the sports watch and smartwatch market.
To put it simply, if you’re training for a triathlon, you can’t go wrong with one of Garmin’s high-quality products on your wrist.
Whether it’s VO2 max tracking or storage to play your favorite albums, Garmin are unrivalled in designing high-end multisport watches.
Training is key for triathlons, and with a Garmin watch to help assist and track your progress, your training will be smarter and better.
There are however, a number of Garmin watches to choose from, all with different qualities, so picking the right one to suit your individual needs can become a little overwhelming.
So, to make things easier for you, I’ve done some of the hard work. Below you’ll find a selection of five of the best all-round Garmin watches for triathlon on the market.
I’ve also put together a handy buyer’s guide to further remove any confusion when selecting the best watch for you.
OUR TOP PICK
The first watch on this list is the Fenix 6 Pro. If you have the budget for a slightly more expensive product that guarantees high performance, this could be a great multisport watch for you.
Firstly, it’s fit for use with a rugged, sophisticated design that’s durable for just about any activity.
The battery life can last for up to 10 hours of intense use, but if you need it for longer expeditions, there are battery saver modes that allow the watch to last for up to 48 days.
In terms of features, the Fenix 6 Pro comes equipped with an enhanced heart rate sensor and a Pulse Ox monitoring system which helps to keep an eye on blood oxygen levels.
In addition to this, the watch also features PacePro technology which offers grade-adjusted pace guidance throughout your activity, as well as altitude-adjusted VO2 max and training status estimates.
All in all, this is a powerful watch, designed for all-day wearability, that is perfectly suited for your triathlon needs.
- Pulse Ox monitoring system is handy for looking at your sleeping pattern and altitude, so ideal for triathlons and events that include a significant amount of elevation.
- Preloaded TOPO maps help with navigation and preparing your routes.
- PacePro technology helps you keep on track with grade-adjusted pace guidance.
- The always-on 1.3” display is easy to read and aesthetically pleasing.
- Excellent battery life, with battery saver modes that last up to 48 days.
- Expensive, so may not be the best option for those working to a tight budget.
- GPS connectivity isn’t as good as some of the other models.
Garmin’s Forerunner 935 is a great watch for evaluating your training status so you know whether you’re overtraining, undertraining, or doing just the right amount.
It also has premium GPS and can monitor your heart rate whilst you work out which is great for keeping track of your BPM and the amount of calories burnt.
This product is equipped with a built-in barometer, with an altimeter and electronic compass helping you to keep track of your altitude and bearings.
This is well-suited for triathletes who often tackle routes with significant elevation.
Weighing at just 49 grams, the Forerunner 935 is one the lightest options on this list and ideal for athletes who prefer something lightweight and comfortable on their wrist.
It also has smartphone compatibility with iPhone, Windows and Android, so you can connect the watch to your smartphone if you want to check your messages or receive notifications about the latest sports scores.
- Super lightweight and comfortable at only 49 grams.
- Provides elevation changes with its built-in barometer to help track your bearings.
- Advanced running and multisport features with premium GPS.
- Useful smartphone compatibility with iPhone, Android and Windows.
- The live heart rate monitor can sometimes lag a little.
The next watch on the list is the Forerunner 735XT. This multisport GPS watch, like most Forerunner models, has a wrist-based heart rate which allows you to run freer on race day.
It’s also shock-resistant and has a battery life of up to 11 days.
The watch provides advanced dynamics for running, cycling and swimming making it suitable for athletes of all ability levels.
It also comes equipped with additional features including ground contact time balance, stride length and vertical ratio.
This detailed information is great if you’re a triathlete that likes to really delve into specific statistics.
Another valuable string to the bow of the Forerunner 735XT is the fact that it offers a VO2 max estimate, as well as a race predictor and recovery advisor.
If you decide to use the watch with a chest strap heart rate monitor, you can also track your lactate threshold.
Finally, it’s worth noting some of the connectivity features provided by the watch. These include smart notifications, automatic uploads to Garmin Connect, and live tracking.
If you wish to personalize your watch face, you can also do this via the Connect IQ store.
- Well-suited to both amateur and professional triathletes with advanced dynamics for running, cycling and swimming.
- Good durability, with shock-resistance and long-lasting battery life.
- Impressive selection of connectivity features including automatic uploads to Garmin Connect.
- Watch provides VO2 max estimate and lactate threshold which is great for tracking efficiency of performance.
- Many users have reported that the display can be difficult to see in certain lighting.
Garmin’s Forerunner 945 takes the 935 and dials up the functionality and features. It’s thin, lightweight and has an excellent battery life.
In fact, it has many of the same features as the Fenix 6 Pro - except it’s cheaper.
As for sports, the Forerunner 945 does pretty much everything. It comes equipped with full color, preloaded maps which help to guide you, ensuring you never get lost.
This is ideal for triathlons, where you typically cover a lot of distance. Heart rate tracking, sleep tracking, and VO2 max tracking are all also included.
If you’re into your music, this watch can store up to 1,000 songs, so you’ll easily be able to stream your favorite albums and podcasts straight into your Bluetooth headphones.
Gone are the days when you had to bring your iPod along!
Another really useful feature of the Forerunner 945 is the incident detection system.
This tracks your real-time location during certain activities and can send out emergency alerts to your contacts should you get into an accident.
- Large storage for up to 1,000 songs and the ability to download playlists from Spotify and Amazon.
- Performance monitoring features such as VO2 max tracking.
- Full color, onboard maps help to guide you on your activities.
- The incident detection system can alert your contacts in the case of an emergency.
- Battery life lasts up to 10 hours in GPS mode and 2 weeks in smartwatch mode.
- If you use all of the watch’s functionality, battery life will be tested.
- Accuracy of navigation may be a little inaccurate.
The Forerunner 745 provides most of the functionality of the 945, but for a little less money.
It’s sleeker and smaller, so for some triathletes who prefer a more lightweight watch, this could be a great option.
Like the 945, this watch offers a music mode so you’ll be able to access your songs directly from the watch.
The battery life lasts for around 7 days, so not quite as good as the 945, but still a good enough time for most users.
The Forerunner 745 weighs 47 grams so is super-lightweight and ideal for athletes who prioritize comfort and prefer a more subtle watch.
It also provides all the features that most Garmin watches now offer, including sleep tracking, VO2 max and heart rate.
During your workout, this watch will provide you with training guidance, as well as monitoring your average speed and heart rate to predict what your finishing pace and time will be.
Some athletes find this a little unnerving, but it’s an impressive feature nevertheless.
- On-device daily workout suggestions and training guidance based on your current training load and VO2 max.
- Large music storage is ideal for athletes who like to listen to their favorite artists and podcasts whilst they run and cycle.
- Weighing only 47 grams, this product is both lightweight and comfortable.
- With 1 week of battery life in smartwatch mode and 6 hours in GPS mode with music, you’ll be able to make it through some of your longest races.
- Watch comes equipped with Garmin Pay so you can make contactless payments on the go.
- Garmin is constantly bringing out new models and this one is on its way out. Despite this, it’s still very advanced.
Best Garmin Triathlon Watch Buying Guide
When it comes to finding the best Garmin watch for triathlons, there are a few things you need to take into consideration in order to get the best-suited watch for your individual needs.
Below, I’ll take a look at some of these important factors.
You won’t need every single feature to be top of the range, but the more features the watch includes, the more you’ll ultimately get out of it.
Hopefully giving an extra little thought to these factors will help steer you towards the perfect option, saving you both time and effort in the long run.
The most important feature you’ll need in a triathlon watch is its multi-sport functionality. In other words, the ability to quickly change from one sport to another.
Most Garmin watches can make this transition with a single push of a button which is great when you’re quickly changing from swimming to cycling or cycling to running.
One of the key qualities of a multi-sport watch which is essential for triathletes is the change of display on the watch face after transition.
This will automatically change to your specific sport after you press the button. For example, the speed that’s displayed will quickly change from miles per hour to minutes per mile when switching from cycling to running.
Watches that don’t come with multi-sport functionality aren’t as suitable for triathletes, so should be avoided.
It’s worth noting that there are workarounds for watches that don’t have this feature, however, they’re often time-consuming and cumbersome, so not really worth considering.
Watches that are quick and easy to release are hugely beneficial for triathletes, especially when wearing a wetsuit.
A quick release will help you to quickly move the watch from your wrist to a handlebar mount on your bike.
If however, you don’t mind having your watch on your wrist as you cycle, this feature isn’t too much of a big deal.
If you want an efficient triathlon watch, it’ll need to have GPS capability. Quite simply, if it doesn’t, it isn’t really worth buying. Whether a sports watch has GPS or not is a good way to judge its general competency.
All the Garmin models on the above list are equipped with high level GPS, which track your movements, your speed and your time. If you’re serious about your training, GPS capability is a must-have.
As with all watches, battery life is a key determining factor. There’s nothing worse than a watch that dies halfway through a training workout, or even worse, a race.
If you’re planning on competing in longer events such as the full Ironman, then a long-lasting battery life is absolutely essential.
The battery life of Garmin watches are dependent on how hard you use them. That’s why many of the models on this list have different power modes.
The best way to maximize your watch’s battery life is to therefore, keep them on a low power setting for as much of the day as you can, and then really turn them on for your training workouts and events.
If you want to use your watch for storing music, podcasts and audiobooks, as well as your activities, then you’ll need a watch with a high level of storage.
As mentioned earlier, the Garmin Forerunner 945 can store up to 1,000 songs so this is a good benchmark to use when looking for a watch with good storage.
If a watch isn’t water resistant, then it’s not going to be a very effective triathlon watch.
You’ll need your watch to have a good level of water resistance - usually 5 ATM is enough.
It should also be able to track your distance in the water, as well as tracking stroke count or pool laps during training.
The best triathlon watches are compatible with your other essential accessories.
Whether this is connecting your watch to your phone for uploading activities to Garmin Connect, or using Bluetooth sensor heart rate monitors, high levels of connectivity are a really useful feature.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a triathlon watch worth it?
If you’re serious about your triathlon training then yes, absolutely.
They’re a worthwhile investment because not only can they withstand the various demands that come with running, cycling and swimming, but they also provide a host of incredibly important features that will enhance your training, making you a better athlete in the process.
The price of some watches, including the Garmin models, may put some people off, but they’re definitely worth it.
Is Garmin better than Fitbit?
If you take your sport seriously and care about improving your performance, Garmin watches are the natural choice.
They have a much wider range of features and are far superior in most departments when it comes to tracking fitness.
That’s not to disrespect the Fitbit. They’re equally impressive, but just better suited to those more interested in overall health and wellbeing, rather than fitness.
Is there a specific water resistance power that triathlon watches should come with?
Nearly all GPS watches come with some level of water resistant capability. This will vary from watch to watch, but a good water resistance is 5 ATM.
Being water resistant however, doesn’t make watches perfect for all types of water activity. For instance, there are some watches that are only suitable for pool water, not open water.