Swimming Equipment Open Water Swimming

7 Best Open Water Swim Watches- Track Your Swimming Progress

best open water swimming watches

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Are you looking for a great watch to track your open water swims and provide you with some insightful data that can help you become a better swimmer or triathlete? Well, you’re in luck because in today’s article we’ll be taking a look at the 8 best open water swim watches to monitor your progress in the water.

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Nowadays, there are a ton of watches that claim to be suitable for open water swimming, but in reality very few actually provide accurate results. 

For the most part, companies have mastered watches that can track your lap swimming accurately, but unlike lap swimming, open water swimming requires a bit more technology and software to provide accurate results, with even a lot of expensive and high end watches failing to do this.

You see, unlike lap swimming, which can use simple monitors and sensors to accurately count your distance, pace, stroke rate, and so on within a set pool range, open water watches need to achieve all of this using a GPS since there is no set pool and swim distance.

Now, that’s not really an issue. The problems start to occur when the watch gets dunked under water every 1-2 seconds as you take a stroke since it’ll lose GPS signal in the period that it’s underwater. The watch then has to quickly reconnect to the gps when your hand exits the water again and use algorithmic software in order to provide accurate results.

And as you can guess- a lot of watches simply don’t have the brain power to do this accurately. Sure, most swim watches can track open water swimming, but few do it really accurately. Don’t worry though, I’ve done the research and have put together a list of swimming watches that’ll be able to provide really accurate results when it comes to tracking your open water swims.

What are the best open water swim watches?

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Open water swim watchOpen Water Tracking AccuracyOther CapabilitiesOur RatingView latest price on Amazon
Garmin Swim 2 WatchVery accurate; almost perfectTrack running and cycling; notifications; standard tracking metrics10/10>View latest price.
Apple Watch Series 5Very accurateTrack all sports activities; music; standard tracking metrics; use as a phone10/10>View latest price.
Garmin Forerunner 945 WatchGood; small mistake here and thereMulti-sports watch; music; standard tracking metrics; notifications; advanced metrics9/10>View latest price.
Polar Vantage V WatchGood; small mistake here and thereMulti-sports watch; standard tracking; advanced tracking; notifications9/10>View latest price.
Garmin Fenix 5 Plus WatchDecentMulti-sports watch; music; standard tracking; notifications; apps; advanced tracking8/10>View latest price.
Suunto 9 WatchDecentMulti-sports watch; standard- and advanced metrics; notifications; connect apps8/10>View latest price.
Coros Pace WatchDecent; with a few hiccupsMutli-sports watch; advanced dashboard; standard tracking; notifications7/10>View latest price.

1. Garmin Swim 2 Watch- Our top pick for open water swimming.

If you’re looking for supreme accuracy and detailed swimming data that’ll help you become a better swimmer all packed into a sleek frame, then look no further than the Garmin Swim 2.Garmin Swim 2 Open Water Watch

The Garmin Swim 2 is easily the most accurate open water swimming watch out there. In fact, its tracking is so accurate that it’s almost exactly the same when compared against a tracker swim buoy which is completely accurate for tracking open water swims. 

The open water swim mode on the watch utilizes the built-in gps to provide highly accurate results when swimming in lakes, orceans, or rivers. It records your swimming distance, pace, stroke count, stroke rate, stroke distance, heart rate, and SWOLF (this is essentially a measurement of your swimming efficiency, you’ll know more about it if you’re a swim nerd like myself).

That said the Garmin Swim 2 is also a great watch for tracking pool swims with the results also being super-duper accurate. The pool mode on the watch will record your distance, pace, stroke count, stroke type, heart rate, and once again your SWOLF. There are also a couple of other features relevant to pool swimming that are quite useful, but we won’t be covering them in this article.

Once you’re done swimming you can then upload your data to the garmin connect database, if you wish, where you’ll be able to see a lot of data and track your progress over the course of the months to see how you’re progressing and where you can change things to optimize your swim training.

In terms of other features outside of swimming, the Garmin Swim 2 is quite good. It doesn’t track too many other physical activities apart from the usual like steps, calories, stress, sleep, and so on, but it does also offer tracking for both running and cycling.Garmin Swim 2 Open Water Swimming Watch

The Garmin Swim 2 Watch is compatible with both Android and IOS and the battery will last you 7 days when in smartwatch mode, if you have it switched to GPS mode at all times it’ll last you about 13 hours which is still more than enough to get you through your day. The watch also allows for notification alerts from your cell phone so that you can see any texts or other notifications that come through. Obviously, you can turn this off if you’d wish to.

Another huge bonus of the Garmin Swim 2 is the pricing, this watch comes in at a great price considering its well built design, awesome features, and gps capabilities. It’s not cheap, but neither is it expensive.

Overall, this is easily the best watch when it comes to tracking your swimming, whether it be open water or pool swimming. This is great since I know a lot of open water swimmers also regularly train at their local lap or gym pools since going to the lake or ocean isn’t always possible, especially when there is bad weather. This way you can stay up to date no matter what your training environment.

If you’re looking for a more versatile watch in terms of other sports and physical activity tracking then this might not be the watch for you. Keep in mind it does offer quite a lot in those areas, just not as much as some other watches.

Pros
  • Extremely accurate open water swimming distance tracking and map creation.
  • Can track open water and pool swimming.
  • Tracks a wide range of other swimming data like your stroke rate, pace, active heart rate, and so on.
  • Can track sleep, stress, steps, 24/7 heart rate monitoring, calories, and so on.
  • Compatible with both IOS and Android..
  • Battery lasts 7 days in smart watch mode and 13 hours in gps mode
  • Rechargable.
  • Alerts you about incoming notifications on your phone.
  • Rigid and sleek design.
  • Excellent price for value.
Cons
  • Only tracks running and cycling as additional sports activities.

2. Apple Watch Series 5- your best lifestyle, activity, and swim option.

The Apple Watch Series 5 is the latest smartwatch released by Apple, and needless to say- it’s really popular. The watch packs a ton of features, but we’ll get to those in just a second, for now let’s take a look at its swimming capabilities.Apple Watch Series 5 Open Water Swimming Watch

In terms of tracking your open water swims this watch is also really accurate, it does make a few small mistakes here and there, which the Garmin Swim 2 doesn’t. For example swimming around a buoy it might cut the corner a bit short whereas the Garmin Swim 2 won’t. Nevertheless, its open water tracking is still super accurate and easily some of the best available.

The Apple Watch is water resistant up to 50 meters and it also records a lot of additional swimming data. For open water swimming it’ll create a map visual for you and it also accurately tracks your calories burned, distance swam, and overall pace. For pool swimming it will automatically record your splits and sets and can also recognize the stroke that you’re swimming.

Unlike the Garmin Swim 2, the Apple Watch Series 5 is able to track a far broader range of additional exercise activities. This includes everything from cycling, yoga, swimming (of course), high-intensity interval training (HIIT), running, boxing and just about almost anything else that you can imagine.

Another neat feature is the ability to play music from your apple watch without needing your phone to be nearby. This is great for when you’re hitting the gym or even when swimming if you have a pair of underwater earbuds or headphones. 

Outside of that, the Apple watch also records sleep, steps, calories, heart rate, and all of the other basics that most fitness trackers do. 

The watch is also hugely customizable with hundreds of watch faces to choose from and even the ability to download a wide range of apps directly onto your apple watch. You’ll also be able to make calls or send text directly from your watch instead of just receiving notifications.

The battery life is quite good with the watch offering about 18 hours of usage for every full charge which is more than enough to get you through a full day of training and whatever else you might be up to.

In terms of price, this watch is on the higher spectrum of things, definitely not the most expensive, but it is going to cost you a bit more than the Garmin Swim 2 which is a decision that’s up to you. 

All in all, this is a really solid watch. It’s both a great activity tracker as well as a general lifestyle watch that you can wear all around. The open water swim tracking capabilities are great and really accurate. The pool swimming data is also really precise and will provide you with some insightful data. 

The watch offers a ton of added features and activity tracking capabilities, so if that is something you’re interested in, then this might be the watch for you. Keep in mind it only works with IOS devices which is unfortunate. 

Pros
  • Very accurate open water swim tracking.
  • Can track both pool and open water swimming.
  • Offers a lot of additional swimming data like pace, maps, splits, calories burned and so on.
  • Tracks a lot of other exercise activities as well.
  • Can play music directly from your watch.
  • Highly customizable.
  • Able to send texts and make calls directly from your watch.
  • Can track sleep, heart rate, steps, calories burned and so on.
  • Rechargeable.
  • 18 Hours battery life with each charge.
Cons
  • Doesn’t provide quite as much swimming data as the Garmin Swim 2.
  • Only compatible with IOS devices.

3. Garmin Forerunner 945 Watch- Our top multi-sport watch pick.

If you’re looking for the ultimate all-around swimming, sports, and lifestyle watch, then look no further than the Garmin Forerunner 945. This watch tracks an absolutely massive amount of sports and outdoor activities and also has some great lifestyle features built-in, making it quite useful to wear around.Garmin ForeRunner 945 Open Water Swimming Watch

When it comes to tracking your open water and pool swims the Garmin Forerunner 945 watch is also a really solid option. It’s tracking capabilities are very similar to that of the Apple Watch Series 5, meaning it’s good and accurate but that there are a few hiccups here and there in terms of open water swim tracking.

The Forerunner 945 will also track a wide range of additional swimming data like your stroke rate, pace, calories burned, stroke type and so on. It’s also able to create a map of your open water swims when you upload the data to the garmin connect database.

Obviously, you can also use this watch for pool swimming if you wish.

Some of the other features of the watch that I think swimmers might appreciate include 24/7 heart rate monitoring that’ll help you see how your body is performing both in training and outside of it.

You’ll find a VO2 max indicator that will help you to train smarter by indicating how you can expect to perform based on factors like heat, altitude and your previous training loads.

The training status feature of the watch will evaluate your recent exercise history and performance indicators to give you a heads up if you’re training productively, peaking, or overreaching. This is useful since you can know when to focus on recovery and when to push it to maximize your results in the pool. 

The training effect and load features will also deliver you data on how your workouts match up against previous ones and how they are influencing the development of your power, speed, endurance, and so on. This is quite useful if you’re trying to develop certain areas to become a better swimmer.

In terms of features outside of sports, you’ll be able to use your watch for payments with the garmin pay app, you’ll receive smart notifications, and you’ll be able to download up to 1000 songs to listen even when your phone isn’t around. 

You can also download a ton of awesome apps (like Uber) from the IQ store to customize your watch and add to its functionality.

The battery life is really good, it’ll last you around 36 hours per charge with GPS mode on and up to 2 weeks in standard smart watch mode.

Definitely on the higher end of pricing, but well worth it considering the extreme versatility that you’re receiving with this watch. If you want something similar, yet a little cheaper, consider the Garmin Forerunner 935, you can check its price on Amazon by clicking here.

Overall, I think the Garmin 945 is a great watch. Definitely something to consider if you are active outside of swimming or want some added data into your training and performance. The watch provides some great lifestyle features and has a sleek design that I’d be happy to rock around wherever I go.

Pros
  • The ultimate sports watch- track a huge range of activities and receive a ton of data.
  • Accurate open water swim tracking.
  • Tracks both pool and open water swimming.
  • Provides a lot of additional swimming data.
  • Extremely insightful sports data helps you to train smarter and optimize your training.
  • Can track heart rate, steps, sleep, and all of the other standards.
  • Use for payments, receive notifications and download apps.
  • Store up to a 1000 songs directly on your watch.
  • Great battery life ranging from 36 hours on GPS mode to 2 weeks on standard mode.
  • Rechargable.
  • Compatible with IOS and Android.
Cons
  • Expensive price.

4. Polar Vantage V Watch

The Polar Vantage V is a premium multisport and triathlon watch designed for elite athletes or anyone that wants to train like an elite athlete. The watch allows you to track a ton of different physical activities and allows for 130+ sports profiles.Polar Vantage V Open Water Swimming Watch

In terms of open water swim tracking, the watch is still decently accurate, but the accuracy is definitely a bit lower and choppier than the Apple Watch Series 5 and Garmin Forerunner 945. Nevertheless, you’ll still be quite happy with the results that this watch delivers.

During your open water swims the Polar Vantage V will record your distance, pace, heart rate, cardio load, calories burned and average- and maximum stroke rates. You’ll also be able to view your swimming route on a map afterwards using the flow app or website.

In terms of pool swimming the watch is also quite versatile with it being able to identify the stroke you’re swimming as well as your pace, distance, SWOLF, heart rate, and calories burned. It’s also much more accurate when used in a pool environment.

A useful and cool feature of this watch is its training load pro & recovery pro features. This allows you to get an in-depth look into how your training is affecting your body in various ways. It’ll help you to avoid over-training and injuries, and will help you to focus on recovery when you need it most.

The heart rate monitor on this watch is also highly accurate and will provide some insightful data into how your body is performing under heavy exercise load.

Other than that the watch is able to track all of the standard activity features and will also allow for phone notifications when wearing.

Something that I really like about this watch is the fact that you get access to the Polar Flow platform. This is essentially an extensive dashboard where all of your data gets stored and analyzed so that you can make adjustments to optimize your training, the data is also easily shareable to your coach so that they can have a look into your training and performance and make decisions that will benefit you.

The device is compatible with both Android and IOS and has a really impressive battery life of up to 40 hours while in GPS mode.

The pricing on the device is definitely on the higher end of things but definitely not a waste of money considering all the features and extensive data that this watch provides. If you like the Polar watch, but maybe want to try something a bit less pricey, then consider opting for the Polar Vantage M, you can check its price on Amazon by clicking here.

All in all, I really like the Polar Vantage V, I think it’s a great watch with some solid features that will definitely help you to become a better swimmer. Sure, the open water swim data can be a bit choppy from time to time but nevertheless, still a great watch to consider.

Pros
  • You can track a wide range of sports and physical activities.
  • Good open water swim tracking.
  • It can be used for both pool and open water swimming.
  • Wide range of additional swim data.
  • Training load Pro & Recovery Pro feature allows you to stay on top of your recovery and avoid possible injuries.
  • Highly accurate heart rate monitoring.
  • Can track all of the standard activity features like steps, 24/7 heart rate, and sleep.
  • Great battery life- up to 40 hours in GPS mode.
Cons
  • Expensive price.
  • Open water swim tracking can be a bit choppy from time to time.

5. Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Watch

The Garmin Fenix 5 Plus is a really popular and premium multi-sports watch that provides a lot of data, tracking, and some solid features packed into a rigid and sleek design. This watch is very similar to the Polar Vantage V but does provide a couple of added features as well at the expense of an even higher price, unfortunately.Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Open Water Watch

The open water swimming accuracy on the watch is good, once again being very similar to that of the Polar Vantage V, which as noted can be a bit choppy from time to time, but still provides some good results and will allow you to generate a map view of your swim route.

My only complaint about the open water swimming on this watch is the fact that it’ll continue counting time after you’re done swimming from time to time instead of stopping automatically like it should, so you need to stop it manually if this ever happens.

That said, the watch is also suitable for pool swimming and will provide you all of the additional swimming data that comes with the other watches so that you’re able to break down and analyze the data to see where you can improve and how you can become a better swimmer in the long run.

The watch can also track a large number of additional sports activities as well as all of the standards like your steps, 24/7 heart rate, sleep, and so on.

Like the Forerunner 945 this watch also provides some great and advanced performance metrics that will give you a better insight into your training. It’ll let you know if you are overtraining, maintaining, or peaking. The watch also provides some insightful data into your training loads and how you match up to previous periods.

Outside of sports tracking, the Fenix 5 Plus allows you to store up to a 1000 songs directly on your watch so that you can listen to them offline, wherever you are. The watch will notify you about any notifications on your phone via its smart notification feature and will also allow you to pay using the Garmin Pay app.

The battery life on the watch is really good with it lasting up to 19 hours with the GPS and heart rate monitor activated and up to 42 hours with GPS mode and gyro-based reckoning on.

In terms of the overall design this watch is built using premium materials to provide a robust performance watch. The watch is available in a wide range of finishes and the bands and watch faces can easily be changed if you’re in the mood for something different.

Overall, a really solid watch with some great features and a solid design. Definitely not a bad option for open water swimming if you’re okay with the data being slightly off here and there. Other than that the watch is great, it has lots of features and provides a lot of useful data while looking really cool.

Pros
  • Good open water tracking.
  • Allows for pool and open water swim tracking.
  • Provides added and useful swim data.
  • Tracks all of the standard activity metrics like steps, sleep, heart rate, calories and so on.
  • Gives you insights into advanced performance and training metrics.
  • Can store up to a 1000 songs directly on your watch for offline usage.
  • Allows for smart notifications and Garmin pay.
  • Rigid and durable design.
  • Lots of finishes to choose from and easy customization with different bands and watch faces
Cons
  • Expensive price.
  • Forgets to automatically stop after you’ve completed your swim from time to time.

6. Suunto 9 Watch

The Suunto 9 is another really solid and popular multi-sports watch. It can track an absolute ton of activities with up to 80 built-in sport modes including all of the big ones like swimming, running, cycling, and gym.Suunto 9 Open Water Swimming Watch

The watch can track both pool and open water swims. It’s really accurate when swimming in a pool, but open water swim tracking can definitely vary depending on factors like the weather, location (GPS signal), and wave sizes if you are swimming in the ocean.

That said, the watch does provide some pretty good to decent open water swim tracking as long as you have a strong GPS signal, if not, then your result may vary and a big nuisance that I’ve found with this watch is the fact that it can actually stop recording your swim completely from time to time. This usually happens if you stop in the middle of the water to rest or to say take a photo or something and you keep the watch submerged for an extended period of time.

Other than that the swimming capabilities are quite good and the watch will track all of the standard swimming metrics as well as delivering a viewable map. It also has the best waterproofing with it being able to withstand water in a descent of up to 100 meters.

The watch provides all of the standard activity tracking features like sleep, steps, calories and so on.

The battery life on this thing is really good with it lasting up to 120 hours while on the intelligent battery mode.

Outside of sports, you can receive smart notifications directly on your watch as well as sharing your workouts with friends and family on social media with some cool watch overlays. The watch is also integratable with sport services like Strava, Endomondo, and Training Peaks which will further extend its sports functions and capabilities.

Something that’s quite unique about the watch and may come in useful for a couple of you is the fact that it can work in temperatures ranging from -30℃ to +55℃/ -22℉ to +130℉.

The pricing is definitely not the most budget friendly and can cost you quite a bit. Something that I have, however, noticed is the fact that you can get some really good deals on Amazon on practically brand new models of this watch that have been used only a couple of times before.

All in all, this is a really good watch with lots of capabilities and features. The swim tracking accuracy can vary from time to time, so if you’re someone who stops mid swim every now and then, then this probably isn’t the watch for you. Other than that the specs are great and the watch provides some good features and a lot of data.

Pros
  • Can track up to 80 sports activities,
  • Tracks pool and open water swimming.
  • Decent open water swim tracking, but can vary a bit here and there.
  • Great waterproofing up to 100 meters.
  • Tracks all standard activity metrics.
  • 120 Hours battery life.
  • Receive smart notifications.
  • Compatible with a wide set of large sport services to extend your watch capabilities.
  • Can be used at extremely cold and warm temperatures if needed.
Cons
  • Can lose signal while swimming open water and stop tracking if you keep the watch underwater too long.
  • Expensive price.

7. Coros Pace Watch- Our top budget multi-sport watch pick.

If you’re looking for a good multi-sports and swimming watch coming in at a budget price, then consider picking up the Coros Pace Watch. The watch tracks all major sports activities, this includes swimming, biking, running, and triathlon.Coros Pace Open Water Swim Watch

The design is quite lightweight and the watch isn’t too bulky on your wrist making it good for swimmers since you’ll be able to swim without the watch feeling like it’s weighing down your hand and disrupting your stroke.

The watch can track both pool and open water swimming and delivers fairly accurate results. I haven’t had any complaints with this watch disconnecting in the middle of the swim although it can definitely overshoot and cut corners a bit here and there. It also tracks all standard swimming metrics like the other watches.

The heart rate monitor on this watch is quite good and will work while you are swimming, cycling and running. I really like the fact that you can customize your training zones by adjusting your heart rate information within the watch, this is pretty cool and is definitely something to play around and experiment with if you are an elite athlete.

The watch features a prominent strap made from premium materials. This helps for a durable band that will also ensure that readings like the heart rate tracking are accurate at all times.

The battery life of the Coros pace is really solid with it being able to last up to 30 days in standard mode and up to 25 hours in GPS mode which is more than enough for a day or two of training.

The synchronization between your phone and Coros watch is also really smooth and fast and you’ll never have to wait long for it to sync all of your data to your phone. Once it is there you’ll be able to view it within the Coros App.

I really like the Coros App, it provides a fully customizable data dashboard. For example as a swimmer you can set it to display your swimming route and map, as well as your distance, pace, stroke rate, and SWOLF. You can then say put your running workout tracking below that if that’s something you are into.

Overall, this is a really good watch coming in at a nice budget price. That said, it isn’t that much cheaper than the Garmin Swim 2 which is far more accurate for tracking your swims, so if swimming is number one priority then I’d recommend sticking with the Garmin Swim 2 which is only about $30-$40 dollars more than this one.

Pros
  • Affordable budget price saves you money.
  • Can track all major sport activities.
  • Lightweight and low-profile design.
  • Can track both open water and pool swims.
  • Decent swim tracking.
  • Good heart rate tracking.
  • Premium materials and durable design.
  • Excellent battery life lasting up to 30 days in standard mode and 25 hours in GPS mode.
  • Seamless synchronization between your phone and watch.
  • Fully customizable data dashboard in app.
Cons
  • Can overshoot or cut corners on open water swim tracking which can influence the data, especially on longer swims.

Looking for even more awesome open water swim gear? Consider checking out these articles-

Conclusion

Open water and multi-sports watches are really cool and have a lot of activity tracking features that can help us to become better swimmers in the long run by providing insightful and useful data about our training which we can then analyze and use to make adjustments that will benefit us as swimmers.

These watches are also just quite cool in the general and will help you to stick to your exercise plan and maintain a healthy lifestyle if that is what is most important to you.

That said, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to leave a comment and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. In the meanwhile, I invite you to come and check out my blog and other articles since there is a ton of awesome swimming content that can help you to become a better, faster, and healthier swimmer. See you there!

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About the author

Benjamin

Benjamin

I am Benjamin, a competitive swimmer with many years of experience in the sport of swimming. I am very passionate about competitive swimming and love sharing everything I have learned about the sport. I specialize in swimming butterfly and my favorite event is the 100m butterfly with the 50m and 200m fly closely following.

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