A great fitness watch for swimming can make an amazing difference as you pursue your fitness goals. Smartwatches can be extremely helpful for swimmers as they can record laps, track your heart rate, count your kicks, and more. Unfortunately, most fitness watches don’t perform as well in swimming, which can ultimately frustrate you. Every year, more watches come out, each claiming to be the industry’s best. All these can be quite confusing if you don’t know what to look for in a fitness watch. So, what is the best watch for swimming? After a week of sleuthing, we are happy to present the best fitness watches for swimming:
- Best Overall: Garmin Swim 2
- Best for Active Wear Fashion: Apple Watch Series 8
- Best for Battery Life: COROS PACE 2 GPS Sport Watch
- Best for Budget Friendly: Fitbit Versa 2 Smartwatch
- Best for Triathletes: Garmin Forerunner 955
Best Overall Fitness Watch for Swimming: Garmin Swim 2
- Up to 7 days of battery life in smartwatch mode
- Records distance, pace, stroke count, and stroke type
- Open-water swim mode
- Includes free online analysis, custom workout creation, storage, and sharing
- Monitors underwater estimated wrist-based heart rate
The Garmin Swim 2 is our choice for the best overall fitness watch for swimming because it has almost all of the tech of the much pricer forerunner 545 but is made specifically for swimmers.
Swim 2 from Garmin is cheaper than other high-end Garmin swim watches, which can set you back several hundred dollars. Some of the amazing features of this watch are the insanely accurate GPS and heart rate monitor and the automatic lap count/rest timer detection without the aid of external buttons.
While Garmin Swim 2 is great, it’s not without fault. Because this watch was specifically made for swimmers, the other workout modes, like running, bicycling, and cardio, don’t function as well as Forerunner 545’s.
That said, The Garmin Swim 2 easily takes the top place as the best fitness watch for swimming overall due to its amazing performance in the water and overall function.
- Fantastic GPS
- Decent Heart Rate Monitor
- Battery: Battery life: 7 days (smartwatch mode), 13 hours (GPS)
- Access to Garmin Connect
- Built For Swimmers
- Can only receive texts
- Not a touchscreen
- Minimal Smart Watch Features
Check out the Garmin Swim 2 on Amazon.
Best for Lifestyle: Apple Watch Series 8
- Available in 41 mm and 45 mm sizes
- Battery lasts up to 18 hours or 36 hours on Low Power Mode
- Health features such as the ECG app, heart rate sensors, and blood-oxygen sensors
- Crash detection feature
- Numerous customization options
The Apple Watch Series 8 is the best choice for those who need a trendy smartwatch to make a fashion statement.
This smartwatch is so accurate that it can count the number of kicks you perform during a swim workout, regardless of stroke style. Apple engineers keep making constant improvements to the software/firmware so it can only get better with time.
Unfortunately, all this tech comes at a steep price, with their most expensive models costing several hundred dollars. This price can be a huge deal breaker for most. But if you have the money and are already part of the Apple ecosystem. Then this watch could be the one for you.
- Amazing Accuracy
- Part of the Apple Ecosystem
- Fantastic GPS
- The screen can be difficult to use in the water
Check out the Apple Watch Series 8 on Amazon.
Best for Long Battery Life: COROS PACE 2 GPS Sport Watch
- From just under 30g with the nylon band, COROS PACE 2 Sport Watch is the lightest GPS watch in the world at its launch
- 30 hours of activity tracking with full GPS, barometer, and heart rate; 20 days of regular use with weekly training and daily sleep & recovery tracking
- Designed to be easy and intuitive to operate with a 2-button layout. The Digital Dial allows you to easily navigate your watch with just one finger so that you can receive less distraction and put your mind on your training.
- Trusted by elite athletes, COROS PACE 2 Running Watch helps you transform data into actionable insights with advanced training solutions like training load trends, recovery timers, training status, workout builders, and a lot more.
- Whether you are exploring the streets of a new city or finding your way back to the parking lot, our navigation tools will help you create new routes and stay on the right path
Coming in for the best smartwatch for swimming with long battery life is the COROS PACE 2 GPS Sport Watch. This smartwatch boasts 20 days of day-to-day use and about 30 hours of GPS battery life.
Coros Pace 2 is perfect for those who always find themselves out of juice before a workout. However, it’s not the cheapest in the market. The good this is it has an amazing battery life and a fantastic GPS, which justifies its price.
However, this price point comes to bite the Coros Pace 2. Because of its amazing price point and battery life, Coros had to make some sacrifices in the overall build quality of the watch. Wearers often report that the Coros Pace 2 has an overall cheap feeling and not an amazing button layout. This can be frustrating when training in the pool and you have to deal with the buttons and UI. If this doesn’t bother you, and the price is right, Coros can be a fantastic watch for you!
- With the clasp, it weighs only 35 grams
- 20 days of normal use, 30 hours of GPS
- Not super accurate heart rate monitor
- Not great buttons
- Watch feels cheap
Check out the COROS PACE 2 GPS Sport Watch on Amazon.
Best Budget Option: Fitbit Versa 2 Smartwatch
Fitbit Versa 2 Smartwatch is a great option for those who need a good all-around smartwatch for everyday use and swimming.
While not challenging some of the more high-end smartwatches on our list, Fitbit Versa 2 is a budget waterproof fitness tracker option that does its job. The Fitbit versa 2 boasts a solid 6+ day battery life for everyday use and swims.
Fitbit Versa 2 is affordable and has many features that can instantly add value to your workouts. Unfortunately, its GPS option only works when connected to a smartphone. This can be a big problem for most open-water athletes, as swimming with your phone is not the most convenient option. Because of this price point, Fitbit Versa 2 remains the most budget-friendly of options on the market.
- Amazon Alexa
- GPS not great
- Feels Cheap
- Not Accurate
Check out the Fitbit Versa 2 Smartwatch on Amazon.
Best for Triathletes: Garmin Forerunner 955
- Built with an always-on, full-color display that’s light on the wrist and easy to read even in direct sunlight
- Up to 15 days of battery life in smartwatch mode
- Features for everything from sleep to training
- Up to 42 hours in GPS mode and up to 80 hours in UltraTrac mode
- Click or swipe through maps and stats with traditional button controls or a new, responsive touchscreen
- Full-color, built-in mapping to keep you on track
- Access multiple global navigation satellite systems, and get access to multiple frequencies sent by navigation satellites for improved accuracy in areas where GNSS signals are reflected, weak, or typically don't penetrate
Topping our list of the best watches for multi-sport/triathletes is the Garmin Forerunner 955, with amazing battery life.
Garmin has made a name for itself in the world of triathlons and ultra runners for its reliability and build quality. You know, when you get a top-of-the-line Garmins model, it’s going to be great.
Tests show the Garmin Forerunner 955 has an impressive battery life of 14 days in smartwatch mode and 16 hours in activity mode. To make things better, the 955 has impressive accuracy for laps counts, stoke style, and SWOLF (a score that measures your swimming efficiency).
One drawback with the Garmin forerunner 955 is its wrist strap/case. The plastic wrap looks cheap and flimsy. Most owners lament that this watch costs a premium yet has a plastic casing.
If you want the “best of the best” smartwatch for multi-sports, and don’t mind the plastic casing, then Garmin Forerunner 955 can be a great option.
- Incredibly accurate with HR and GPS
- An incredible array of features and metrics
- One of the best watches on the market for multi-sport athletes
- Plastic strap and around the bezel
Check out the Garmin Forerunner 955 on Amazon.
How to Pick the Best Smartwatch for Swimming: Step by Step
When choosing a smartwatch for swimming, here are five factors you should consider:
- App support/Customization
Let’s review each in more detail.
For most buyers, smartwatch price is a major buying factor. First, decide what your budget is and the most you can spend. From there, you can sort out which watches would be available.
GPS is not a feature that most indoor swimmers would think about. But, when swimming outdoors/in open water, it is important to track how far you swim and your location. If a GPS is not necessary for the type of swimming, then more inexpensive options of watches open to you that can be a great fit.
Comfort is another crucial consideration, but some swimmers often overlook it. You will be wearing your smartwatch as you train for potentially hours at a time. So, you want something that feels comfortable on your wrist while you put in the work.
Lastly, a lack of app support and customization can be a huge deal breaker for many athletes. If you choose a watch that can’t change its layout and is frustrating to use, or even worse, buggy. You could spend most of your training time worrying about your watch. Before buying, try out a few of the watches you are considering and see how they feel using the interface.
What to Know Before Buying a Fitness Watch for Swimming
One critical question to ask yourself before buying a watch is; what do I need this smartwatch to do? Sure, it might seem like a great idea to buy the Apple Watch 8th gen, but if you only need a watch for tracking your lap times once a week, then it would be a bit of an overkill. Not to mention you would spend a ton of money. Write down your must-haves, and look for watches that deliver on those points in spades.
Using a Fitness Watch for Swimming: What It’s Like
Using a smartwatch for swimming can sometimes be an equally frustrating and rewarding experience. Depending on what kind of smartwatch you use, it can be difficult to use the touch screen or button. Especially if the watch that you have on recommends that you don’t press the buttons underwater, which can be frustrating when you are trying to put in laps and don’t want to stick your hand out every time to count your lap.
Thankfully, tech companies like Garmin and Koros continue developing and producing better and better products that try to solve these issues. If you have a heavier watch, it can take time to adjust your stroke to account for the added weight.
Fitness Watches for Swimming in the News
While tech companies like Garmin, Koros, Samsung, and more have been making impressive leaps when it comes to the technology of waterproof smartwatches, here are some headlines that have caught our eye.
In July 2023, Samsung released an update to the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4. The smartwatch update includes useful features like a QWERTY keyboard and also quicker and convenient ways to call your friends and family from your smartwatch.
Speaking of updates, Samsung isn’t the only one improving upon their smartwatch technology. Garmin released a software upgrade for the Garmin Swim 2. Swimmers will be intrigued to hear that Garmin has added updates that allow the smartwatch to accurately track your swimming strokes. The technology not only takes into account the number of strokes, but also provides helpful tips to improve technique.
Best Watch for Swimming: Looking Forward
Samsung’s newest waterproof smartwatch, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5, has been rumored to hit the shelves sometime around August 2023. Meanwhile, Garmin and Koros continue to release new upgrades on their current models and plan to release new versions of waterproof smartwatches within the upcoming years. Right now, the best watch for swimming overall is the Garmin Swim 2; however, this may change as brands improve upon their smartwatches and release new models.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©iStock.com/Drazen Zigic.