Seems the question of watches for swimming is a bit of a hot topic in the swimming world lately. I’ve seen multiple facebook threads about it, and had some questions on Twitter recently.

I’m a bit of a gadget tragic, so it was bound to happen sooner or later that I’d jump on the bandwagon.

I went through a bit of process of research before I bought a swim watch, and realised there are really a few different categories of  options for what you can look at. I thought I’d share my criteria, my thought processes and my decision here as a start. The jury is still out on what I ended up with, so I’ll follow up soon with a review.

The first style you can go with is an all-purpose waterproof sports watch. The advantages here are that these have been around for ages, and there are heaps of different styles to choose from at a pretty low price point. They generally have a stopwatch so you can independently check your race times (and know what they are before the results are published). Depending on how fancy your watch is, it may also have some internal memory to help with recording laps and reviewing them later. At the really fancy end of the range, you can connect these with a computer to review the data (and help with things like pacing). Coach Zoe’s analysis of her pacing progress was done on one of these…a Timex if I’m not mistaken.

Next is a purpose-specific swim watch. These are fairly new to the market and there’s pretty much only 2 brands I’m aware of in this market – Garmin and Swimovate. They have some pretty nifty features like being able to tell what stroke you’re doing, counting your laps, and calculating your stroke rate and swimming efficiency. Pretty awesome for pool swimmers and for ocean swimmers if they’re doing pool sessions.

The third category is to go with something with GPS so you can map your swim, see how far you swam, how straight you swam, and what pace at different points in the swim. There’s nothing swimming specific out there that does the GPS tracking, so you end up having to repurpose a run watch (important note – must be waterproof!). The trade-off is that these are really not set up for lap timing, so that makes them pretty useless in the pool unless you’re straight up using it as a stopwatch to time something like a time trial. Again, Garmin seems to be the big market leader in this space, but a few other brands seem to be catching up fast.

The big daddy of them all is the Triathlon watch. These will look after your lap timing needs and have a GPS, and are also useful if you ride a bike. There are only two real problems with this type of watch – The price is usually substantially more than what you’ll pay for any of the previous options, and the devices themselves tend to be pretty massive. The size isn’t much of a problem when you’re training and racing, but they look a bit full-on and are quite heavy compared with a regular watch.

So what did I go with?

I went with the Garmin Forerunner 10, the Garmin entry level running watch which is waterproof to 50m. I got it on sale, but even full price it’s still very reasonable at around $US129. The reasoning was that at this point in the year I’m more interested in tracking my races than my training, and at the price I paid I could afford to buy this plus a dedicated swim watch for less than the cost of a Tri watch.

So what do I think of it? Well, let’s just say it hasn’t been entirely smooth sailing. You can watch this space for a full review soon.

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