what is the best sports watch for swimming

What Is The Best Sports Watch For Swimming?

What is the best sports watch for swimming, either for yourself or as a gift to someone else? As a keen swimmer, it felt to me for a long time that tracking swim workouts was a bit of an after thought on fitness trackers. But the latest generation of sports watches from all the big brands have changed that. Now functionality in the pool is more than enough to rival functionality out of it. So all that’s left is to choose the best! But what’s ideal for me might not be the same for you. So here I’m going to try and give you an objective assessment of what makes five popular watches good in the pool.


What Is The Best Sports Watch For Swimming?

Sports watches, smart watches, and fitness trackers are taking the health and wellbeing world by storm. These watches monitor everything from calorie use to sleep hours, step count, heart rate and blood oxygen levels, and present the data in a convenient and accessible way. But can they measure the effectiveness of your swimming workout too? Come to that, are they even waterproof?

The great news is, lots of sports watches are suitable for wearing in the pool, and modern smart sports watches are increasingly capable of measuring your athletic output in the water too. The wearable technology industry has been booming over the last 10 years, and dozens of different makes and models are vying for your hard earned cash. So in a crowded market, what is the best sports watch for swimming? We’ve compiled a list of the best watches from different brands and at various price points so you can choose the best swimming watch for you.

what is the best sports watch for swimming

Our Top 5 Best Sports Watches For Swimming

These are our five favorite sports watches for swimming, that we think stand head and shoulders above the rest in terms of functionality, value, and durability.

  • Apple Watch 8
  • Garmin Forerunner 255
  • Amazfit GTS 2
  • Fitbit Versa 4
  • Garmin Swim 2

1. Apple Watch Series 8

The Apple watch hardly needs any introduction. The latest model is all about flexibility. It boasts a mind boggling number of lifestyle tracking features, and it’s well-optimized for a wide range of sports, including swimming. Specifically relating to your time in the pool the Series 8 can:

  • Detect your stroke, even when you’re kickboard swimming.
  • Measure your number of lengths and total distance covered.
  • Count how many strokes you take per length.
  • Monitor calorie consumption and heart rate.
  • And for triathletes, it will automatically detect when you transition to your bike.

The 8 series is crack-resistant, dust-resistant, water-resistant up to 50 meters. Apple claim it is more durable than any of their previous models.

Garmin Forerunner 255

Garmin smart watches have long been a popular alternative for people who don’t already have an iPhone or Macbook. Whilst the Apple watch’s audacious aim is to do everything and do all of it brilliantly, Garmin watches are really targeted at people who love to be outdoors, and love to be active. So the Forerunner 255 is equipped with a huge range of sports features and apps, even a triathlon option.

For swimming, you can make a full swimming profile and track your performance in the water with the different sensors. The watch is designed for you to switch between sports performances easily. Everything, from your lap time to your recovery time is recorded and saved. You can even compare this workout to your previous one. Other than the basic sports features, it has all the necessary bells and whistles like the heart rate monitor, stress tracker, sleep tracker, and more.

The Forerunner 255 is also competitively priced compared to the Series 8 and has a longer battery life, although how much battery life you’ll get out of any smart watch depends on exactly what you use it for, and how much you rely on battery-draining functions like GPS tracking.

Amazfit GTS 2

If you’d rather trade some bells and whistles for a more pocket-friendly price tag, this is what the Amazfit GTS 2 offers you. Just like the Series 8 and the Forerunner 255, the GTS 2 is water resistant up to 50 meters. The design is quite simple and intended to be so. According to their website, the Stratos has toughened glass and a color screen that can be seen clearly even under bright sunlight. The watch has options for tracking your performance both pool swimming and open-water swimming, plus dozens more sports modes for other activities. Finally, in addition to the 5 days of battery life, you can track all your biometrics like oxygen use using VO2Max technology.

Fitbit Versa 4

Fitbit is another major player in the smartwatch game, and the Versa 4 is the latest option in their artillery. The watch has over 40 exercise modes, but its most impressive features are its programs where you plug in data and it gives you suggested workouts or if you even need a workout today or not. The watch includes a feature called Active Zone Minutes, where you can earn points for the hard work you put in.

For swimming, of course, it’s waterproof and it tracks your performance in-pool or open water through GPS and other sensors. Previous smart watches from Fitbit have disappointed swimmers in the pool, with inaccurate distance and length counts being a commonly cited problem. But, the Versa 4 seems to have addressed a lot of those problems now, and like the Series 8, it can even detect your stroke automatically. They’ve also finally added the option to program custom pool lengths, rather than limiting you to a few preset distances.

Garmin Swim 2

It’s literally in the name. This watch leaves out the fancy features and is specifically made for swimming. It has GPs tracking for open-water swimming, and pool swim mode that calculates your distance, stroke count, stroke type, pace…etc. It has a super clear display, for easy checking underwater, and it will help you with pace guidance during your workout. Reviewers are impressed with how well it tracks heart rate during swimming – a notoriously difficult task for wearable tech under water.

The Garmin Swim 2 is pretty unrivaled when it comes to swim-related features (as it should be!), but its functionality in other areas is limited. The smartwatch functions are pretty basic, as are the other supported workout modes. So this is a great choice for the diehard swimmer, but perhaps not anyone who enjoys a range of workouts, or loves their tech to have lots of clever lifestyle features.

What Is The Best Sports Watch for Swimming in Open Water?

It doesn’t take a genius to spot that lots of the swimming functions on smart watches relate to measuring lengths, strokes per length, interval training, etc. In other words, they’re designed with pool swimming in mind. But what about the open water swimmer – which watch do they need?

Tracking workout data is harder in open water, because wearable tech has to rely on GPS data rather than pool length to track distance, which requires more processing power. The two watches we think are most up to the job are the Apple Series 8, and the Garmin Swim 2. For the Garmin Swim 2, it’s what makes this watch worth sacrificing lots of other functionality for. It is laser-focused on performing well when you swim, at the expense of other features – but it won’t let you down in open water. As for the Series 8, there’s just no denying that Apple are market leaders in wearable tech, and their watches outperform other brands in many areas. This includes when open water swimming, and we wouldn’t expect anything less from them.

What Is The Best Sports Watch For Swimming?

This was a review of five of the most popular sports watches for swimming. They are all good, but if you can afford one and you already own other Apple tech, the Series 8 comes out on top for me. I’d say the Forerunner 255 and Swim 2 from Garmin come in a close joint second behind it, and both deserve an honorable mention.

Which would you choose? Or would you get something else altogether? Let us know in the comments box down below!

More Help with Swimming Kit


Henriksen A, et al. Using Fitness Trackers and Smartwatches to Measure Physical Activity in Research: Analysis of Consumer Wrist-Worn Wearables. Journal of Medical Internet Research. 2018 Mar

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