How to Choose the Best Sports Watch
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How to Choose the Best Sports Watch

by Darren Round on Mar 17, 2023

Introduction

Whether you are an elite athlete, a fitness enthusiast, or just starting on your fitness journey, a sports watch can be an essential tool to help you track and achieve your fitness goals. With so many sports watches available on the market today, it can be overwhelming to choose the right one that fits your needs and budget.

Making an informed decision can be a critical factor in achieving your fitness goals. A sports watch can track your heart rate, calories burned, steps taken, distance travelled, and so many other metrics. It can also help you monitor your progress, set goals, and motivate you to reach new fitness heights. Additionally, some sports watches have features like GPS, music control, and smartphone notifications that can enhance your workout and day to day experience.

There are several factors to consider when choosing a sports watch, such as the type of fitness goal you have, the features you need, your budget, and the style and design you prefer. In this article, we will provide you with a comprehensive guide to help you choose the right sports watch for you. We'll cover the different factors to consider and provide you with examples of sports watches that excel in each area.

 

Determine Your Fitness Goals

Before you start researching sports watches, it's essential to determine your fitness goals and think about the activities you would like to measure. Different goals and activities require different features in a sports watch. For example, if your goal is to improve your running time, you will want a sports watch with GPS and a heart rate monitor to track your speed, distance, and heart rate. If you're into going to the gym, you might want a sports watch that tracks your reps and sets and provides you with data on your muscle activation.

The other consideration is how in depth you would like the information. For example, an uncomplicated entry level running watch will give all of the essenatials like heart rate, distance, pace and speed. Whereas a high end running watch will provide a myriad of information like running power, ground contact time, cadence, stride length and the list goes on.

Here are some common activities and the features to look for in a sports watch:

Running 

Look for a sports watch at a minimum with GPS, heart rate monitor, speed and distance tracking features. If you would like more advanced data, look for watches with that include interval training, running dynamics and running power for example. 

I would recommend the Forerunner 55 as a simple and an easy to use running watch. In the middle I would recommend the Forerunner 255 and 256  Instinct 2 Series, Polar Pacer Pro and at the upper end the Polar Vantage V2, Garmin Forerunner 955 and 965 or any watch over $1,000.

Cycling

Look for a sports watch with GPS, cycling apps, and cadence tracking features. A cycling computer with these features may also be an option.

Swimming

Look for a sports watch with swim tracking features and water resistance up to at least 50 meters. There are many watches that will handle pool swimming. If however you swim in the ocean look for a watch built for open water swimming like the Garmin Swim 2, Forerunner 745, 955 and 956 or Instinct 2 Series. The Fenix 7 Series watches are also highly recommended.

Triathlon

Look for a sports watch with multi-sport tracking features that can track all three disciplines of triathlon and open water swimming like the Forerunner 745, Forerunner 955 or Forerunner 965 or Fenix 7.

Golf

If you plan on playing golf, look for a sports watch that offers golf-specific features like GPS tracking for golf courses, shot tracking, yardage and scorekeeping. There are many watches with varying degrees or golf tracking.  Many of the Garmin $1000 plus watches have all the features and 40,000+ golf courses preloaded.  You may not want to turn Pro so the Garmin Venu Series watches and Instinct 2 Series watches also have good golf apps. 

Gym

Look for a sports watch with strength training tracking and/or cardio features and data on the various activities in the gym. Many of the watches also include Yoga and Pilates activities as well and many pieces of equipment like treadmill, rower and stair climbers.  Most of the watches have some level of gym and fitness equipment capabilities. Check the watch has your favourite pieces of equipment on it.

Hiking

If you plan on hiking, look for a sports watch with GPS tracking, a barometric altimeter, a compass and back to start. Some watches may also have pre-loaded hiking maps or trail databases. If you are going off the grid you may however consider a handled device that has maps and Inreach, Garmin’ satellite commutation technology for emergencies and keeping in touch with family and friends.  This would be a great feature for Garmin to add to the high-end watches.

With so many different sports and activities that can be tracked by some of today’s sports watches from Skiing to kiteboarding to Pickleball there is likely a watch for your sport. Before buying, be sure to confirm the watch has what you need.  This is an important step in choosing the right sports watch. It helps you narrow down your options and choose a watch that fits your specific needs. In the next section, we'll look at the features to consider when choosing a sports watch.

 

Features to Consider

Once you have determined your fitness goals and likely activities it's time to look at the features. Here are some of the most common features to look for:

GPS

If you need to track your distance and route during outdoor activities like running, hiking, or cycling, a sports watch with GPS is essential. GPS allows you to track your location, distance travelled, and pace in real-time. If you are often in more challenging environments look for watch with multiple satellite connections such as GPS, GLONASS and Galileo.

Heart Rate Monitor

A heart rate monitor can help you track your intensity during workouts and ensure you are staying in your target heart rate zone. Most  sports watches have optical heart rate monitors these days that measure your heart rate through your wrist. You can also pair a chest strap like a Garmin HRM pro for a more accurate measurement.

Activity Tracking

Most sports watches can track your steps, calories burned, and distance travelled throughout the day. This feature can help you stay motivated and reach your daily activity goals. Sleep monitoring is also included in most sports watch and fitness trackers. You’ll get a breakdown of your sleep stages and an overall sleep score.

Battery Life

The battery life of a sports watch is important, especially if you plan to use it for long-distance activities. Look for watches with a good battery life for GPS tracking and other intensive features. Some watches now include Solar charging watch faces which greatly extend the battery life using the suns energy. 

Smartphone Compatibility

Most sports watches can connect to your smartphone to receive notifications, control music, and track your workouts in more detail. Look for watches that are compatible with your smartphone and the apps you use. Most watches are compatible with iOS and Android.  

Music

Some sports watches also include music storge so you can download your favourite tunes form Spotify, Deezer or Amazon music (subscription may be required) and leave your phone at home. Your watch pairs with your Bluetooth headphones so you can listen on the run etc. Before buying a watch make sure this feature is included if this is something you want.

Mapping

Some of the high end watches sports watch have inbuilt mapping with turn by turn navigation so you can follow a course or look for where you are going or home to get home.  

Water Resistance

If you plan to use your sports watch for swimming or other water-based activities, make sure it has a high level of water resistance. Look for watches that will withstand your intended activity.

Here are Garmin’s Water Rating Definitions. Note though that even if you watch is above the rated depth, water may still get in if its subjected an activity that creates a pressure higher than the depth rating e.g. high speed water sports.

 

Water Rating

Definition

Suitable

IP65

Withstands ingress of dust (dust-tight); vacuum must be applied. Protected against low-pressure jets of water. Water projected at all angles through a 6.3 mm nozzle at a flow rate of 12.5 litres/min at a pressure of 30 kN/m2 for 3 minutes at a distance of 3 meters

light spray, rain, outdoor use in moderate sea conditions

IP67

Dust tight. Withstands ingress of dust with vacuum applied. Withstands incidental exposure to water of up to 1 meter for up to 30 minutes

splashes, rain or snow, dusty environments, showering

IPX6

Protected against powerful jets of water. Water projected at all angles through a 12.5 mm nozzle at a flow rate of 100 litres/min at a pressure of 100 kN/m2 for 3 minutes from a distance of 3 meters

heavy spray, driving rain, boat washing, outdoor use in rough sea conditions

IPX7

Withstands incidental exposure to water of up to 1 meter for up to 30 minutes

splashes, rain or snow, showering

IPX8

Can be submerged to greater than 1 meter with the exact depth to be defined by the manufacturer. The depth is uniquely defined for each product and can be found on the product page

Temporary submersion

1 ATM

Withstands pressures equivalent to a depth of 10 meters

splashes, rain or snow, showering

3 ATM

Withstands pressures equivalent to a depth of 30 meters

splashes, rain or snow, showering, jumping into water

5 ATM, Swim

Withstands pressures equivalent to a depth of 50 meters

splashes, rain or snow, showering, swimming, diving into water, snorkelling

10 ATM

Withstands pressures equivalent to a depth of 100 meters

splashes, rain or snow, showering, swimming, diving into water, snorkelling, high-speed water sports

Dive (up to stated depth in meters) )

Tested to engineering standard EN13319 for dive compliance

Scuba diving, snorkelling, and high-speed water sports

 

Consider which of these features are important to you based on your fitness goals and choose a sports watch that offers the features you need. Make a checklist and confirm the watch has what you need before placing an order. In the next section, we'll look at the style and design of sports watches.

 

Style and Design

While the features of a sports watch are important, so is its style and design. A sports watch should not only meet your fitness needs but also fit your personal style. Here are some factors to consider when it comes to the style and design of a sports watch:

Size and Weight

Make sure the watch is comfortable to wear and not too bulky. A watch that is too heavy or too large can be distracting during workouts.

Display

The display should be easy to read in any lighting conditions. Consider the size of the display and whether it shows the information you need at a glance. Does the watch have an always on display or only comes only with a hand gesture or tap? If it the display is not always on look for one that at least can have it always on during a timed activity.

Watch Strap

The strap should be comfortable and secure, with options for adjusting the fit to your wrist size. Some watches come with interchangeable straps, so you can switch up the style based on your outfit or activity. Smaller watches tend to have shorter bands. Measure your wrist circumference and check it will fit. If you would like a smaller watch face but need a bigger band see if you can buy longer bands before making a final decision.

Colour

While colour may not affect the functionality of the watch, it can make a difference in how well it fits with your personal style. Choose a colour that matches your style or one that you simply like.

Durability

Look for a sports watch that matches the wear and tear of your expected daily use. If for example you work in an office, bump and drops and less likely but if your watch is going to exposed to these events then look for watches with scratch-resistant Sapphire screens and sturdy materilas. A screen protector may also be a good investment.

Brand

Some people may prefer a particular brand based on their personal preferences or previous experiences. Look for brands with a reputation for high-quality sports watches and excellent customer service like Garmin and Polar.

Consider these factors when choosing the style and design of your sports watch. A watch that meets your fitness needs and matches your personal style can make working out more enjoyable and motivate you to achieve your fitness goals. In the next section, we'll look at some tips for purchasing a sports watch.

 

Tips for Purchasing a Sports Watch

Now that you have a better understanding of the factors to consider when choosing a sports watch, here are some tips to keep in mind when making your purchase:

Set a budget

Sports watches can range in price from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. Determine how much you are willing to spend and stick to your budget.

Research different models

Look for sports watches that fit your budget and offer the features and style you are looking for. Read reviews from other users and watch experts to get an idea of the quality and reliability of each model. Use Sports Watches Australia’s watch comparison engine to compare the sports watches.

Size and weight

Before making a purchase consider the weight and size of the watch.

Check the return policy

Make sure the retailer has a return policy in case you change your mind or doesn’t fit properly. In most cases its fine to carefully unpackage a watch and try it on but don’t remove the watch face protectors or turn it on.

Consider warranties and repairs

Look for watches that come with a warranty policy in case the watch stops working. For example, Garmin offer a 1-year Manufacturer’s Warranty, Polar offers a 2 year Manufacturer’s Warranty as does G-Shock Australia.

Buy from a reputable retailer

Purchase your sports watch from a reputable retailer that offers high-quality products and excellent customer service. Look for retailers with a good reputation for sports watches and fitness equipment. Also look for an authorised Australian Reseller. There are many retailers offering international models in Australia.

By following these tips, you can ensure that you choose a sports watch that meets your needs and fits your budget. A high-quality sports watch can be an essential tool in reaching your fitness goals and staying motivated during workouts.

 

Conclusion

In conclusion, choosing the right sports watch for your fitness goals requires careful consideration of several factors, including the features, style, and budget. A sports watch can be an essential tool for tracking your progress, monitoring your workouts, and staying motivated. Whether you are a casual runner or a professional athlete, a sports watch can help you achieve your fitness goals.

When choosing a sports watch, consider the features that are most important to you, such as GPS tracking, heart rate monitoring, and music storage. Also, pay attention to the style and design of the watch to make sure it fits your personal style and is comfortable to wear during workouts. Finally, make sure to research different models, set a budget, and purchase from a reputable retailer.

By following these guidelines, you can choose a sports watch that meets your needs and enhances your fitness journey. A high-quality sports watch can be a valuable investment in your health and fitness and can help you stay on track with your goals.

Sports Watches Australia is an authorised reseller of the products on the website and are all sourced from the official Australian distributors. All products come with the manufactures warranty. If you have any questions about choosing the right watch, give us a call on 03 9646 6867.

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