We are lucky as triathletes to have such a vast choice of triathlon watches. There is, however, not one watch that fits all needs. Just looking at my own family, we are four active triathletes with four different watches (from three brands) that all fit our particular needs.
The best triathlon watch for you is the one that has all the features you need and still is within your budget.
Instead of listing the top 10 watches, in this article, I will give you all the tools you need to browse through the watches and find the best one for you.
1. FITNESS WATCH VS MULTISPORT WATCH
The first decision you need to make is whether you want a fitness watch, which targets more day-to-day general activities, or a pure multisport watch. They are both really different, and your choice will depend on what you value most.
I helped one of my brothers use his Apple watch for triathlon races and training. You will need to download different apps to achieve what you would have by default on pure multisport watches, but it is feasible.
I personally prefer pure multisport watches. But if you are interested in Apple watches, I wrote a specific article on them: Apple Watches: Are They Good For Triathlon?
2. TRIATHLON MODE IS A MUST-HAVE FEATURE
The triathlon mode is an absolute must for triathletes. This mode allows you to record your swim, bike, and run into a single activity. It lets you focus on your race and not worry about starting and saving each activity separately.
If you think about investing in a triathlon watch, I would highly recommend ignoring the watches that don’t have this feature.
3. BATTERY LIFE MIGHT BE IMPORTANT DEPENDING ON YOUR RACE
If you race short-distance triathlons, I would not be too concerned. However, if you race half or full-distance triathlons, have a closer look at the battery life.
4. INTERNAL MUSIC STORAGE
If you are interested in a music function, you should look closely at the specs. Some of the triathlon watches will come with internal music storage, while others can only start and stop the music (you still need a phone).
5. A NAVIGATION FEATURE IS NOT ALWAYS HELPFUL
If you are interested in a navigation feature, really check the detail of it. It can either be a full detailed map on your watch or a simple line without any map, which is way less helpful for guidance.
6. SOME WATCHES CAN BE BULKY
Some triathlon watches can be bulky if you have a small wrist. Mine is relatively small for a man (wrist size 6.10 in or 15.5 cm), so it limits my choice quite drastically 🙂
7. CONNECTIVITY MATTERS A LOT
Once you narrow down your search to a couple of watches, you should definitely check if those watches are compatible with the hardware and software you plan to use. For example, it might be ANT+, Bluetooth, or third-party software.
From my own experience, Garmin is by far the ecosystem with the most compatibility. It is, however, a chicken and egg problem. If more people use other brands, those third parties will be more inclined to develop more with those brands…
8. GPS AND HEART RATE ACCURACY
You will find a lot of reviewers on Youtube who have built systems to check the accuracy of both GPS and heart rate sensors. One of my favorites is DC Rainmaker (link to his Youtube channel). I would highly recommend checking his review before buying a watch.
9. PRICE VARIES GREATLY
Expect to pay anywhere between $200 and $1,500 for a new triathlon watch. It highly depends on the brand and the features you are looking for. Most triathlon watches are very durable and can be worn for several years, which means you can find some excellent second-hand bargains!
If you are not in a hurry to buy one, I have seen the best discounts before a new version is released (which happens every 1-2 years) and during the Black Friday or Christmas seasons.
Now that you know which features are essential to you, it is time to look for a specific watch. Below, you will find my personal favorites.
MY TRIATHLON WATCH RECOMMENDATION
Disclaimer: The Triathlon Tips of My Tri World are reader-supported. When you buy through links, I may earn an affiliate commission.
You cannot go wrong with those two watches:
- Garmin forerunner 745 (Amazon affiliate link) for triathletes racing up to half-distance triathlons. It has all the features you really need and internal music storage. My wife has the previous version (735 XT without music), and she loves it.
- Garmin fenix 7 (Amazon affiliate link) for triathletes racing full-distance events or who want navigation guidance. I upgraded to this watch (7S) for the possibility of using either the buttons or the touchscreen, which is especially helpful when browsing the map.
If you want more information about the watches of specific brands, have a look at these articles: