July 29, 2020

7 Best Open Water Swimming Watches (Review) 2020

July 29, 2020

Open water swimming is one of the world’s upcoming outdoor activities. It combines the adventurous spirit of being outdoors and the healthy full-body workout inherent in swimming. As with any active pursuit today, the open water swimming experience can be upgraded by using these watches.

Modern smartwatches each offer a tremendous number of features way beyond telling the time. Plenty of these features in watches are beneficial to open water swimming. Smartwatches today can provide real-time athletic data, monitor heart rate and other health statistics, give GPS coordinates, and sometimes even send emergency signals. 

We have featured the best swimming watches in a previous article here, and decided a more specific set of watches for open water swimming should have its own feature. Our team at Spring Bar collated the 8 Best Watches for Open Water Swims for 2020 to help swimmers looking to get an edge when swimming in open water.

Products Prices Features
Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2

$279Automatic workout tracking
Powershare technology
Lightweight aluminum
Apple Watch Series 5$499
Powerful Apple OS
OLED display
Massive app options
Garmin Forerunner 945$549.99On-board maps
Incident detection and assistance
Long battery life
Suunto 9 Baro$420.35
80 Sports modes to choose from
100M WR
Intelligent battery modes
Polar Vantage V

$499.95Long battery life
Recovery Pro
Swimming Metrics
Garmin Swim 2$1987 Day battery life
Pool and Open water swim modes
Monitors stroke count, distance and SWOLF
Fitbit Ionic Watch$200Swim tracking
Multiple other athletic features and modes
Very low price

1 Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2

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From the Korean tech giant, Samsung, comes the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2. The Active 2 delivers on its promise of being a great activewear smartwatch: it’s tough, it’s feature-heavy, and it has the ability to download any app that could be useful in one’s chosen activity. What makes the Galaxy Watch Active 2 great for open water swims is the automatic workout tracking which is great for swimmers who are serious about the athletic aspects of their swim. Also, Samsung’s Wireless PowerShare technology allows one to charge the watch directly from a Galaxy smartphone making sure the watch has ample back-up power on extended trips.

+PROS

  • Automatic workout tracking
  • Powershare technology
  • Very affordable for its features

-CONS

  • Only 50M WR
The Basics:

Brand: Samsung

Model: Galaxy Watch Active 2

Price: $279

Reference Number: SM-R830NZKAXAR

Diameter: 40mm

Case Material: aluminum 

Crystal Material: gorilla glass DX +

Water Resistance: 50m

Strap/Bracelet: fluoroelastomer

Strap/Bracelet Width: 20mm

Watch Type: smart

The Movement/Specifications:

Movement: battery operated 

Functions/Complications: 

  • Automatically Track Workouts
  • Heart Rate Monitor with 8 Photodiodes
  • Stress & Sleep Tracking
  • GPS & GLONASS location technology
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Wi-Fi 4 (802.11n) 
  • Charge via Galaxy smartphones with Wireless PowerShare technology
  • On-going icon displays currently running apps
  • Military grade (MIL-STD-810G) shock protection

Thickness: 10.9mm

Weight: 25.52g

Key Features:

Brand: Samsung

Model: Galaxy Watch Active 2

Price: $279

Reference Number: SM-R830NZKAXAR

Diameter: 40mm

Case Material: aluminum 

Crystal Material: gorilla glass DX +

Water Resistance: 50m

Strap/Bracelet: fluoroelastomer

Strap/Bracelet Width: 20mm

Watch Type: smart

2 Apple Watch Series 5

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The Apple Watch Series 5 is currently the best-selling smartwatch of all time and is often mentioned to be one of the best smartwatches for active lifestyles – for good reason. The smartwatch of the technology giant has always been on the cutting edge of wearable tech and offers a wide range of apps to help in outdoor swims. Apart from smartwatch necessities like GPS, WIFI capabilities, and heart rate sensors, one can download apps like MySwimPro that have features specifically catering to open water swimming like mapping the swimmer’s course and linking analytics to Strava.

+PROS

  • Powerful Apple OS
  • Very clear display
  • Massive app options

-CONS

  • Quite pricey compared to other options
The Basics:

Brand: Apple

Model: Apple watch series 5

Price: $499

Reference Number: 

Diameter: 44mm

Case Material: aluminum 

Crystal Material: Sapphire crystal 

Water Resistance: 50m

Strap/Bracelet: silicone

Strap/Bracelet Width: 

Watch Type: smart

The Movement/Specifications:

Movement: battery operated 

Functions/Complications: 

  • LTE and UMTS
  • Built-in GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, and QZSS
  • S5 with 64-bit dual-core processor, W3 Apple wireless chip
  • Barometric altimeter
  • Capacity 32GB
  • Optical heart sensor, Electrical heart sensor
  • Improved gyroscope, Ambient light senso
  •  LTPO OLED Always-On Retina display with Force Touch (1000 nits)
  • Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz), Bluetooth 5.0
  • Built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery, Up to 18 hours of battery life, watchOS 5

Thickness: 10.7mm

Weight:  47.91g

Key Features:

Brand: Apple

Model: Apple watch series 5

Price: $499

Reference Number: 

Diameter: 44mm

Case Material: aluminum 

Crystal Material: Sapphire crystal 

Water Resistance: 50m

Strap/Bracelet: silicone

Strap/Bracelet Width: 

Watch Type: smart

3 Garmin Forerunner 945

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Garmin is a perennial pick for athletic watches, and once again has to make an appearance on this list because its Forerunner 945 model has features that make open water swims much easier and safer. The Forerunner 945 has many of the useful features available in other smartwatches like GPS and data collection, but stands-out with its on-board maps and incident detection and assistance. These two features already on the Forerunner 945 make it worth the money as  this watch makes open water swims in remote locations more accessible and less daunting. It also has different battery saving modes to endure longer trips.

+PROS

  • On-board maps
  • Incident detection and assistance
  • Long battery life

-CONS

  • Only 50M WR
The Basics:

Brand: Garmin

Model:  Forerunner 945

Price: $549.99

Reference Number: 010-02063-00

Diameter: 47mm

Case Material: fiber reinforced polymer

Crystal Material: corning gorilla glass 3 + dx coating 

Water Resistance: 50m

Strap/Bracelet: silicone 

Strap/Bracelet Width: 22mm

Watch Type: smart

The Movement/Specifications:

Movement: battery operated 

Functions/Complications: 

 

  • Sync music
  • VO2 max
  • Training status with adjustments for heat, altitude acclimation status, training load focus, recovery time, and aerobic and anaerobic training effects
  • Full-color
  • On-board Maps
  • Incident detection (during select activities) and assistance; both send your real-time location to emergency contacts³
  • Battery life: up to 2 weeks in smartwatch mode, 10 hours in GPS mode with music or up to 60 hours in UltraTrac mode

Thickness: 13.7mm

Weight: 48.19g

Key Features:

Brand: Garmin

Model:  Forerunner 945

Price: $549.99

Reference Number: 010-02063-00

Diameter: 47mm

Case Material: fiber reinforced polymer

Crystal Material: corning gorilla glass 3 + dx coating 

Water Resistance: 50m

Strap/Bracelet: silicone 

Strap/Bracelet Width: 22mm

Watch Type: smart

4 Suunto 9 Baro

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+PROS

  • 80 Sports modes to choose from
  • 100M WR
  • Intelligent battery modes

-CONS

  • Slightly heavier than other options
The Basics:

Brand: Suunto

Model:  Suunto 9 Baro

Price: $420.35

Reference Number:  SS050019000

Diameter: 50mm

Case Material: Glass fibre reinforced polyamide

Crystal Material:  Sapphire

Water Resistance: 100m

Strap/Bracelet:  Silicone

Watch Type: smart

The Movement/Specifications:

Movement: battery operated

Functions/Complications: 

  • Intelligent Battery Modes
  • GPS navigation
  • Over 80 Sport Modes
  • Wrist HR
  • 100M WR
  • Barometer
  • Weather resistance

Thickness: 16.8mm

Weight: 81g

Key Features:

Brand: Suunto

Model:  Suunto 9 Baro

Price: $420.35

Reference Number:  SS050019000

Diameter: 50mm

Case Material: Glass fibre reinforced polyamide

Crystal Material:  Sapphire

Water Resistance: 100m

Strap/Bracelet:  Silicone

Watch Type: smart

5 Polar Vantage V

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The Polar Vantage V is also another analytics focused watch. Among its large number of features for data collection and analysis is a Swimming Metrics function designed especially for swimmers looking for specific data including swimming style, distance, pace, and even strokes. It also has a recovery feature which tracks rest and recovery periods to give feedback to the swimmer if he has given his body enough time to rest. The 40-hour battery life is also excellent for longer trips to open water.

+PROS

  • Long battery life
  • Recovery Pro
  • Swimming Metrics

-CONS

  • Slightly heavier than other options
The Basics:

Brand: Polar

Model:  Vantage V

Price: $499.95

Reference Number: 90070737

Diameter: 46mm

Case Material: stainless steel

Crystal Material:  gorilla glass

Water Resistance: 50m

Strap/Bracelet: silicone

Strap/Bracelet Width: 22mm

Watch Type: smart

The Movement/Specifications:

Movement: battery operated

Functions/Complications: 

  • Ultra long battery life (40hrs)
  • Polar precision prime heart rate
  • Training Load Pro
  • Recovery Pro
  • Smart Calories
  • Swimming Metrics
  • GPS functions

Thickness: 13mm

Weight: 68g

Key Features:

Brand: Polar

Model:  Vantage V

Price: $499.95

Reference Number: 90070737

Diameter: 46mm

Case Material: stainless steel

Crystal Material:  gorilla glass

Water Resistance: 50m

Strap/Bracelet: silicone

Strap/Bracelet Width: 22mm

Watch Type: smart

6 Garmin Swim 2

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The Garmin Swim 2 is Garmin’s response to the swimming specialized smartwatches making its way to the market. Doing away with its incident detection and assistance feature, it produced a much more affordable watch that specifically caters to swimmers. The Swim 2 has Pool and Open Water Swim Modes and monitors stroke count, distance, and SWOLF (swimming efficiency metric). Even at the reduced cost, Garmin Swim 2 still has an excellent 7 day battery life.

+PROS

  • 7 Day battery life
  • Pool and Open water swim modes
  • Monitors stroke count, distance and SWOLF

-CONS

  • Utility is mostly focused on swimming
The Basics:

Brand: Garmin

Model:  Swim 2

Price: $198

Reference Number: 010-02247-00

Diameter: 42mm

Crystal Material:  Chemically strengthened glass

Water Resistance: 50m

Strap/Bracelet:  silicone

Strap/Bracelet Width: 

Watch Type: smart

The Movement/Specifications:

Movement: battery operated

Functions/Complications: 

  • Up to 7 Days of Battery Life
  • Always-On Full-Color Chroma Display
  • Pool & Open Water Swim Modes
  • Monitor Heart Rate While Swimming
  • Waterproof Up to 5 ATM
  • Stroke Count, Distance, SWOLF & More
  • Built-In GPS
  • Stress & Sleep Monitoring
  • Running & Cycling Tracking
  • Receive Smartphone Notifications

Thickness: 14mm

Weight: 36g

Key Features:

Brand: Garmin

Model:  Swim 2

Price: $198

Reference Number: 010-02247-00

Diameter: 42mm

Crystal Material:  Chemically strengthened glass

Water Resistance: 50m

Strap/Bracelet:  silicone

Strap/Bracelet Width: 

Watch Type: smart

7 Fitbit Ionic Watch

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Fitbit is another brand famous for its activewear offerings – starting with its fitness bands that grew in popularity a few years ago. After ushering the era of wearable athletic technology, Fitbit now offers its own smartwatch line the best of which is the Fitbit Ionic which offers a slew of useful features perfect even for open water swimming. Like the last two watches, among the Ionic’s athletic functions is swim tracking which collates data from swims like swim strokes and distance. What makes the Fitbit Ionic an excellent watch is the number of athletic features available at a reasonable low price.

+PROS

  • Swim tracking
  • Multiple other athletic features and modes
  • Very low price

-CONS

  • Comparatively small
The Basics:

Brand: Fitbit

Model: Ionic watch

Price: $200

Reference Number: FB503GYBK

Diameter: 30mm

Case Material: Aluminum 

Crystal Material: Corning Gorilla glass 3

Water Resistance: 50m

Strap/Bracelet: elastomer

Strap/Bracelet Width: 

Watch Type: smart 

The Movement/Specifications:

Movement: battery operated

Functions/Complications: 

  • Dynamic Personal Coaching
  • PurePulse® Heart Rate
  • Popular Apps
  • SmartTrack™
  • Sleep Stages & Insights
  • Store & Play Music
  • Water Resistant up to 50M & Tracks Swims
  • Payments
  • All-Day Activity
  • Accessory Bands
  • Multi-Day Battery
  • Multi-Sport Modes
  • Smartphone Notifications
  • Syncs Wirelessly
  • Gps

Thickness: 21mm

Key Features:

Brand: Fitbit

Model: Ionic watch

Price: $200

Reference Number: FB503GYBK

Diameter: 30mm

Case Material: Aluminum 

Crystal Material: Corning Gorilla glass 3

Water Resistance: 50m

Strap/Bracelet: elastomer

Strap/Bracelet Width: 

Watch Type: smart 

In this guide, we compared the best options for open water swimming for watches in terms of functionality and durability:

  • The first criteria considered for this is functionality which is a factor of what functions of the smartwatch are useful for open water swims, the battery life of the watch for use during extended periods outdoors, and map and GPS functions which are important for open water swims in more distant locations.

 

  • Durability is also considered as open water swimming is an outdoor activity and exposes the smartwatch to rough conditions which includes water pressure while in the water and even shock just heading to the swim location. Case material, strap, and crystal were considered.

Is open water swimming dangerous?

Open water swimming can be about as dangerous as any outdoor activity like hiking and trekking considering the many unexpected things that can happen. It is important to know all the risks and do all necessary precautions for anything unforeseen. Some of the dangers include dangerous currents, wildlife, and temperature. It is recommended to come with other people rather than swimming alone as simple cramps, or as serious as seizures can endanger a swimmer’s life.

What equipment should I have on open water swims?

The essentials of open water swimming include open water goggles, an open water swimming buoy for safety, sun screen, and a swimming wetsuit. These are basic items and can be added to to decrease the risks involved in open water swimming.