Prepping for a triathlon demands extensive training and discipline to achieve your goals. As you engage in your fitness routine, sports, and scheduled activities, it is inevitably vital to monitor your performance, training stats, and other fundamental metrics to determine whether you’re essentially geared up for the triathlon or not. The best triathlon watch is all you need.
Triathlon is a sequential race of three different kinds of sports. It can actually be comprised of any form of sports, but the most common is the combination of swimming, cycling, and running. Depending on the type, each category in this multisport race requires a specific distance that a triathlete has to accomplish.
Therefore, if you’re participating in a triathlon, you really have to gear yourself up with the best equipment that can precisely track all the aspects of your performance and help you achieve your goals both in training and right on the day of the triathlon. But how does a triathlon watch differ from a running watch? How does it really work and what should you consider prior to your purchase?
To answer all these queries, I’ve made thorough research across a vast collection of triathlon watches in this in-depth buying guide and have narrowed them down into a list of 7. Go ahead and keep reading!
- 1 Benefits of Using a Triathlon Watch
- 2 7 Best Triathlon Watches Reviews 2020
- 2.1 1. The Ultimate Tri Watch and Power Beast: Garmin Fenix 5
- 2.2 2. The Stress and Fitness Tracker: Garmin Vivoactive 3
- 2.3 3. The Efficient Heart Rate and Triathlon Tracker: POLAR VANTAGE V
- 2.4 4. The Triathlon Topnotcher and Wifi Geek: Garmin Forerunner 935
- 2.5 5. The Weather Guide and Battery Champ : SUUNTO Ambit3 Peak
- 2.6 6. The Lightweight Triathlon Essential: Garmin Forerunner 735XT
- 2.7 7. The Budget-friendly and Smart Triathlon Watch: POLAR V800
- 3 How to Choose the Best Triathlon Watch
- 4 Frequently Asked Questions
- 5 Wrapping It Up
Benefits of Using a Triathlon Watch
Keeping track of your fitness goals and training plays a significant role in your efficiency and overall performance for the triathlon, especially if it is your first time to participate in. There is a wide range of fitness trackers and devices alike that support this type of program.
However, some of these watches or devices fall short of the essential features and thus, can’t provide comprehensive data. That’s when triathlon watches take the spotlight; they are intricately programmed to provide vital details about the sport you’re engaging in and advanced performance metrics.
How does it work, then? What are the benefits of using a triathlon watch?
- It can track your distance/speed and pace
- It can track stroke counts, stroke style, and lap counters
- It has the ability to measure your heart rate at the wrist while swimming
Cycling or Biking
- It measures the heart rate at the wrist
- It can track lap times, speed, average speed, and cadence
- It can track your running distance and you can also customize whether you want it in miles or kilometers
- It can count the number of laps
- It can also measure your wrist heart rate while running
- It has a built-in GPS that helps you locate your routes and directions
These are just some of the features you can take advantage of when using a triathlon watch. But do know that the features may still vary from one brand to another. Some features may not be available on certain models or basic designs like wrist heart rate monitor.
In addition, modern innovations also allow you to integrate your smartphone with your triathlon watch that enables smart notifications and music. Apart from the usual sports metrics, a tri watch can also track stress, sleep rate, number of calories burned, and number of steps.
Some triathletes also find the recovery time useful, a feature that can determine when you should go for a break and when you can push yourself hard again for another workout. This helps prevent injuries and muscle tension.
With all these amazing features, you’ll be able to track your performance and goals in every single sport in triathlon. During training, you can also evaluate your performance and determine if you are making any fundamental progress or if you need to improve in a particular field. It works as your handy training buddy that assists you all throughout your fitness program and triathlon event.
7 Best Triathlon Watches Reviews 2020
1. The Ultimate Tri Watch and Power Beast: Garmin Fenix 5
There’s actually a lot to know about the Fenix 5 that you can use to analyze your stats and overall performance in every field in triathlon. It has stunning features for the GPS-based distance, time, and pace, and running dynamics.
The stride length in real time also allows you to know what distance your foot makes between ground contacts and hence, keep up with a faster pace and prevent injuries while you run. Fenix 5 also tracks cadence or the number of steps in real time and the lactate threshold that detects where the muscle strain or fatigue usually takes place.
For the cycling profile, this triathlon watch keeps a tab on the courses, bike lap, lap maximum power, speed, and cadence with sensor support so you can identify your low and high points when biking.
Whether it’s for pre-triathlon training or the actual event, these promising elements function with time and distance alerts and the alarm goes off to let you know if you’ve reached your goals.
You’ll also have comprehensive data to analyze when you get into the swimming profile; it shows pool and open water swim metrics that track stroke count or rate, length, distance, pace, stroke distance, calories, and even your heart when you swim and also during rests and interval sessions.
But probably one of its bests is the battery life that can run up to 24 hours for the GPS mode and up to 2 weeks for the Smartwatch function. Definitely a power beast to keep up on your stride!
- In-depth triathlon monitoring
- Excellent battery life
- Smartphone compatibility
- Multisport feature
- Efficient wrist heart rate checker (includes swimming)
- Great value for price and topnotch features
- QuickFit band compatibility (quick release)
- Looks a bit bulky
- Heavier compared to other Garmin triathlon watches
2. The Stress and Fitness Tracker: Garmin Vivoactive 3
The Vivoactive 3 showcases Garmin’s unique technology revamp and offers a ton of features that can satisfy a triathlete’s needs. As you get into the swimming phase in triathlon, the Vivoactive 3 works to track stroke counts and lap counts. It also has a function where you can check your heart rate while swimming.
Whether you’re on the triathlon event or just ramping up your performance prior to triathlon, this interactive watch makes precise counts and readings that will help you evaluate your performance and achieve your goals.
It also tracks distance, pace, cadence, and the heart rate when you’re running. And with the multisport feature, it’s easy to transition from one sport to another and let you immerse in a healthy and fun active lifestyle. You can also use it for cycling or biking and track the distance/speed, average speed, and split times.
The stress tracker is another unique feature. I actually haven’t come across many watches with a feature like this but I think it’s very useful. It helps you identify which circumstances or situations that can trigger those stress spikes!
The battery life lasts up to 13 hours on GPS mode and up to 7 days for the smartwatch mode. It’s great for endurance races such as triathlon or pre-triathlon workouts for long distances and hours. It connects with your smartphone for smart notifications, music streaming, and to share performance stats to the online community like Garmin Connect and LiveStream to compete and interact with your fellow athletes!
- Great battery life
- Stress tracker and wellness monitoring
- Tracks wrist heart rate
- Quick-release band
- Interactive tri watch with smart features
- Multisport feature
- Some issues in playing music
- The watch face looks a little big
3. The Efficient Heart Rate and Triathlon Tracker: POLAR VANTAGE V
When you’re running, cycling, and swimming, checking your heart rate time to time is beneficial to your health, allowing you to monitor your condition prior to or during the triathlon. To support this, Polar Vantage V is innovatively designed with the upgraded tech tweak that delivers precise heart rate at the wrist.
The heart rate monitoring is definitely one of its highlights. But Vantage V also ramps up the performance metrics for swimming and cycling. It keeps a tab on open water and pool activities such as stroke counts, swimming style, distance, pace, and rest times. You can use the multisport feature to switch between these tri sports and other preloaded sports.
It detects and evaluates your running power for a more in-depth overview of your running vigor. And if you’re going to train for the triathlon, you can customize your sessions and schedule training to help you achieve your goals and be fully equipped for the event!
Vantage V keeps up with the other high-end and multifunctional watches on the market and all these superb features can maximize your performance and also optimize training sessions, particularly in long-distance running and cycling.
You can opt for recovery mode to help you analyze your workout and determine when you can back to training and when you should go for a rest. With this comprehensive training and recovery data, you can get yourself physically fit and free from injuries right before the event.
It also has a decent battery life that can last up to 40 hours on heart rate or GPS mode.
- Excellent heart rate monitoring accuracy
- Can track heart rate while swimming
- Great battery life
- Comprehensive data for running power
- Reliable training assistant
- Recovery and training mode
- Feels a little heavy
4. The Triathlon Topnotcher and Wifi Geek: Garmin Forerunner 935
The Forerunner 935 probably sums up everything you look for a triathlon watch – reliable and excellent fitness and race tracker that wraps up the fundamental elements for swimming, cycling, and running.
When you opt for the swimming profile, Forerunner 935 tracks pool and open water swim metrics such as stroke counts, calories, lengths, distance, pace, and stroke distance. It also checks your heart rate while you’re swimming and evaluate interval and session stats every time you rest.
It gives you a vast overview of your swimming style and performance and hence, helps you identify if you’re close to your goals or if you need to push harder. For the running profile, it also tracks the cadence, distance, and with a compatible accessory, can track the running dynamics, stride length, and where your muscles usually strain or tire out.
With just one quick push, you can transition from different preloaded sports and activities. It also works on cycling, golfing, and many outdoor sports and activities. It has the patented QuickFit band that detaches the watch quickly and easily so you can mount it on the handlebar while cycling.
Forerunner 935 actually has similarities with Fenix 5, but only more expensive due to some modifications. It is much lighter without compromising the features and comprehensive data. It has dropped the stainless steel accents on the Bezel and strap materials to make it very wearable during the race and training sessions.
These exceptional features are also paired with a great battery life that can last up to 24 hours for GPS mode, 60 hours without the wrist heart rate, and up to 2 weeks for the Smartwatch mode. It is highly interactive and connects with your Smartphone to access music, notifications, and share activity uploads through Garmin Connect.
- Similar features with Fenix 5 but much lighter
- Great battery life
- Tracks heart rate even while swimming
- Multisport feature
- Excellent tracker for running dynamics
- Smartphone compatibility
- QuickFit band (quick-release)
- Some flaking issues with the plastic coating on the HR sensors
5. The Weather Guide and Battery Champ : SUUNTO Ambit3 Peak
Suunto Ambit3 Peak is innovated with exceptional features that spruce up your triathlon race with up-to-date storm alerts and weather shifts through its built-in barometer. It can also provide accurate measurements and altitude of your elevation, especially when you’re going for rough terrains or running through the mountains.
I personally think this kind of feature has its merits when engaging in triathlon, so you’ll know if the trail you’re taking is safe or if there’s an upcoming storm while you’re swimming out in the open waters.
With an excellent battery life of 30 days for in time mode and up to 30 hours for GPS or training mode, you can keep up with the race without breaking your stride. The Suunto Ambit3 can track the running pace, average speed in real time, and cadence. You can also choose if you want the reading in kilometers or miles.
When you get into cycling, it informs you about your speed, average speed, bike laps, maximum lap power, and the aerodynamic drag that you can download from the Suunto app. While in swimming, you can benefit from the heart rate, pool and open water metrics like lap, pace, distance, stroke rate, counts, and stroke type.
Besides the smart notifications for calls and messages, this watch also integrates with Wifi that allows you to connect with social media to upload and share your performance metrics and moves.
You can also take advantage of the benefits from their sports services such as Strava, Endomondo, Relive, and TrainingPeaks that can help you improve your training for the triathlon. Truly, it is a smart companion that makes every move count!
- Excellent battery life
- Easy to operate
- Underwater heart rate checker
- Connects online to share performance data and online interaction
- Reliable and in-depth metrics
- Barometric guide for weather changes and storm alerts
- Provides reading for running metrics in kilometers or miles
- Multisport feature
- Feels heavy and looks bulky
6. The Lightweight Triathlon Essential: Garmin Forerunner 735XT
Another Garmin triathlon watch that takes a spot on our list is the Forerunner 735XT. Looking at its features and specs, you can say it’s a simpler version of the Forerunner 935. It is lighter, smaller, but packed with essential features that make up a reliable and excellent triathlon watch.
The 735XT is more focused on the triathlon metrics like swimming, cycling, and running without the additional outdoor activity and sports profiles. Just like the 935, it excels in tracking the courses, bike laps, maximum lap power, speed, and cadence through a sensor support.
It also provides the same readings for swimming and running. You can also track your heart rate so you can engage in the race at ease and in the best condition. The heart rate tracker also works when you’re underwater, whether open water or pool.
If you’re going to use it to work out and schedule training sessions, it has a recovery mode that can analyze every stat and track your recovery so you can push yourself to the edge again next time.
Besides the recovery tracker, this triathlon watch can also provide thorough and reliable navigation features. It can relay routes, direction, and paths that you can definitely use when you go outdoors for your training sessions and workouts.
When it comes to battery life, 735XT has a lower a rate but enough to keep you in the race. It can run up to 14 hours on GPS mode and up to 11 days for the Smartwatch mode.
- Cheaper compared to other Garmin triathlon watches
- Lightweight and smaller screen size
- Excellent triathlon readings just like the Forerunner 935
- Underwater heart rate monitor
- Recovery mode
- Great battery life
- Smartphone compatibility
- Simpler version with essential features
- No quick release
- Fewer options for outdoor recreation features and no outdoor profiles
7. The Budget-friendly and Smart Triathlon Watch: POLAR V800
If you are all into the essentials of a triathlon watch, you can consider the Polar V800. It’s actually a few years old but its great features do not fall behind the upgraded triathlon watches today. It provides comprehensive data that tracks speed, distance, and cadence during cycling and running phases. It has a decent battery life of 13 hours on GPS mode.
For the swimming metrics, you can evaluate your performance by tracking the distance, pace, stroke counts, speed, and rest times. Besides its benefit in the triathlon event, you can take advantage of these features when you’re training prior to the event to identify which style or pace elevates your performance. It’s available for pool and open water swimming.
Programmed with a heart rate sensor, you can monitor your heart rate during the race or even when you’re swimming. While training, you can use the Recovery Status which has the capability to merge the training load and the activity stat for the past 24 hours and therefore, can avoid straining or overtraining or under training your body.
Aside from these superb features, this GPS triathlon watch also has a multisport feature where you can transition between outdoor sports and activities for the instant analysis. It shifts swiftly and seamlessly and does not interrupt your current reading.
Polar V800 is also a contender in terms of 3rd party compatibility features. You can keep track of your training sessions or daily activities through compatible services such as Strava, TrainingPeaks, Google Fit, MapMyFitness, MyFitnessPal, and AppleHealth Kit.
- Comprehensive data for triathlon profiles
- Multisport feature with seamless transitioning
- Heart rate sensor
- 3rd party compatibility
- Decent battery life
- Recovery status to prevent under or over training
- No quick release
How to Choose the Best Triathlon Watch
Many modern designs of triathlon watches are programmed with a built-in GPS. It is an essential feature that helps athletes to track and locate directions, paths, and different courses and hence, allowing you to check and calculate your total distance, motion, and speed.
Some watches are based on satellites and therefore, provide global navigational guide while there are designs that are required to be integrated with a smartphone for it to fully function.
Wifi or Bluetooth connection can also be an advantage if you want to keep track of your notifications on the smartphone, particularly messages and calls. Some triathlon watches are also integrated with a Wifi connection where you can upload and share your performance metrics and progress to an exclusive online community and social media.
For triathlon watches that have smart features, it is important to know whether they are compatible with your device, such as smartphone, or not. Being able to integrate with your phone opens up a ton of advantages where you can get notified whenever you have new messages, mails or upcoming calls while training. It can also be useful for some watches that require a device connection to activate GPS.
If you want to enjoy working out and training while reveling in some good music, the teaming up with your device can provide synchronization to the music list on your phone. Some designs can even access and sync with your Spotify music playlist.
Performance Monitoring and Accuracy
Probably the most important feature you should never brush off and miss is the performance monitoring and accuracy. This includes the performance metrics for running, cycling, and swimming or other sports you’re engaged in. Triathlon watches that are programmed with activity profiles should have efficiency in this feature as well.
For an enhanced training program, many tri watches are engineered with advanced performance dynamics that efficiently track the distance, pace or speed, and time. Certain designs can even track your calories to make sure you’re getting the best out of your training.
You may also find heart rate sensors useful where you can monitor your heart rate at the wrist when working out or even swimming. You’ll be able to determine whether you’re in the good condition to go hard on your training and workouts or not.
Since you’ll be wearing it for long hours, it is best to settle on a tri watch that can ensure long-lasting battery life. Some can last for days or weeks before you can have them recharged. Other brands have exceptional battery life, although not rechargeable, that can last for years.
Training and Recovery Stats
Tracking your recovery stats helps you to get back on track after exhausting training. It evaluates your performance and activities 24/7 and helps you to recognize the value of taking breaks or rests in between training sessions.
You’ll also be able to know whether you’re overdoing a certain training or workout or you need to give it a little boost. In this way, you can prevent injuries and other health issues; you can feel fully rejuvenated for the next training.
It is the ability to switch between sport and activity profiles for the instant analysis of your performance during the race or while training. It is a useful feature during a triathlon that allows you to switch between swimming, cycling, and running without interrupting the current and previous readings and can be reviewed for later.
Tracking your swimming metrics would be a whole lot easier if the tri watch is waterproof and it should be. You can use it efficiently on open waters or swimming pools to track your performance and progress.
These triathlon wrist watches should be comfortable enough when worn. There are many designs that are structured with a stainless steel frame and durable bands to ensure a quality that can last for years. But no matter what design you opt for, make sure it doesn’t feel too tight or too loose but rather snug and comfortable on your wrist when you run, swim, or whatever activities you have to do.
Quick Release Bands
Quick release bands allow the watch to easily detach from its strap so you can mount it on a handlebar and view your readings easily while cycling or biking. Catching up on your readings and viewing them from time to time while the watch is worn on your wrist can be pretty difficult and dangerous. That’s why many prefer the quick release feature, although this can only be available on specific models.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the essential features of a triathlon watch?
The GPS, fitness tracker or the performance metrics (swimming, running, cycling), and waterproofing are probably the essential features your tri watch should have. You need a GPS or navigational aid to track your routes or locations while the fitness tracker keeps tabs on your performance metrics such as speed, distance, pace, and time; these are very important.
But, of course, every design has its respective features and it all depends on your preference on which features you should settle for. Some may find smart notifications, heart rate sensor, Wifi connection, and device compatibility advanced but significant in their training.
What is the battery life of a triathlon watch?
It actually depends on the brand, but the average design should have at least a few days before it wears out and be up for recharging. There are units that have rechargeable batteries, but other brands have great battery life and can only be replaced after many years of use.
How much do they usually cost? Are they expensive?
The basic designs usually cost around $100 and below while those that have smart and advanced features come with a higher cost. It can be as cheap as $150 and as expensive as $800. Sometimes, they cost a lot higher due to the brand and additional features.
What are the differences between a triathlon watch and a running watch?
A running watch is basically about running metrics. It is programmed with a sole purpose – to measure and track your progress and stats in running such as distance, pace, and time. On the other hand, a triathlon watch provides performance metrics for three major triathlon sports – running, cycling, and swimming.
In addition, a running watch can either be waterproof or not while triathlon watches are and should be waterproof as swimming is a major part of the sport.
Wrapping It Up
When it comes down to choosing the best triathlon watch, it truly is a tough call. The watches mentioned on the list have their respective features that can make a reliable fitness buddy and triathlon coach. But with all these amazing picks, I found the Garmin Fenix 5 the best among the others.
I was actually contemplating between the Fenix 5 and Forerunner 935, but I’ve noticed that gap is just by a hair. They have exceptional battery life, in-depth navigational guide, and track the progress and performance metrics for triathlon efficiently and right on the dot. The only significant difference is probably the weight. Forerunner 935 is much lighter.
However, Fenix 5 is much more affordable but you can already take advantage of its smart features and advanced training programs. On the other hand, you can also pick out the watch that suits your preferences and needs. Just take note of the vital features so you can efficiently keep track of your training and workouts. Should you have any concerns or questions, share them through the comment box below!