Lots of fitness watches claim to be suitable for swimmers, but very few live up to this claim. This is because some ‘swimming watches’ are vulnerable to water damage. Also, whilst most swimming watches can record open water swims, few can record lane swims.
Having said that, there are some great swimming watches out there. And, if you want to improve your performance, it’s worth investing in one. For more in-depth information of what makes a swimming watch different, read our guide.
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What are the benefits of swimming watches?
If you’re new to fitness tracking, you might be wondering what the point of a swimming watch is. Well, a good one can:
Track lengths – When swimming in a pool, it’s easy to lose count of how many lengths you’ve swum, so length tracking is handy.
Length-by-length data – The ability to differentiate lap data, for example, which lap you swam the fastest.
Technique monitoring – Some of the more sophisticated watches will analyse your swimming technique. It will tell you if your stroke rate is too fast, slow, or optimum.
Share your data – You can share and compare your fitness data with others. Swimming is a lone sport, so sharing your data can be motivational. It can also help you to build a supportive community.
So, whether you’re a doggy paddler or the next Michael Phelps, here are 4 swimming watches that will help you reach your goals.
Before you start your search, it helps to think about how you’ll really use the watch. Do you just need a simple, waterproof watch to count laps and or would you the features of an advanced multisport watch? Do you want a swim-centric device that focuses mainly on your pool workout or a more versatile watch that can track data from different sports (i.e. do you do triathlons or other sports where having a high-end sports watch would be useful?)
A multisport smartwatch usually tracks your swim distance and speed, while the simpler swimming specific watches can do more (ie. counting strokes, tracking pace and distance).
Below, we’ll feature both–take a closer look at their features and maybe try them on if you get the chance (this is especially important to those who are very particular about the weight of the device). We’ve also provided some videos of the watches in action.
Here are some of the best swimming watches and trackers that will help you count laps and optimize your workout.
Use built-in GPS to see your pace and distance on screen during outdoor runs, rides, hikes and more and see a workout intensity map in the app that shows your heart rate changes along your route
With Active Zone Minutes, feel a buzz when you reach your target heart rate zones during exercise, and celebrate when you earn extra minutes outside of exercise
Get a 90-day free trial of the Fitbit Premium to help you stay active, sleep well and manage stress. Unlock it all in the Fitbit app. (The valid payment method required. Cancel before free trial ends to avoid subscription fees. Offer valid for new Premium users only)
Use 24/7 heart rate to track resting heart rate & better measure calorie burn
Play your favorite songs and playlists with Spotify app controls on your wrist. Also make secure purchases with Fitbit Pay and get called, text and smartphone app notifications
Track workouts in real-time with 20+ goal-based exercise modes. It’s also swimproof and water resistant to 50Meters, so you can track swims, we’re in the shower and more
Multi-day battery lasts up to 7 days and up to 5 hours when using built-in GPS (varies with use & other factors)
Track sleep stages & review your in-app Sleep Score for an easy way to see how well you slept
Now that Fitbit is retiring the Flex 2, the cheapest way to get your swim tracking fix lies with the Inspire HR.
Like the Flex 2, the Inspire HR can record swim duration, distance swum, lengths completed and pace – as long as you’re doing breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly or freestyle (front crawl). The big addition of course is the display, which will let you view the aforementioned data.
Thanks to Fitbit’s automatic exercise recognition tech it will know when you’re in the pool and dishes out swim duration time. You can turn on swim tracking from the device itself through the exercise app where you’ll also need to set the pool length in the app to ensure you get the most accurate data.
Fitbit’s SmartTrack recognition tech can take some time to kick in, so if you’re not a strong swimmer you’ll also need to adjust the time it takes to recognise your swimming in the app.
It’s a super-light tracker to wear in the water and as it has a screen to view progress in real time, it’s a much better fit for the pool at a very good price.
Track your step count, calories burned, heart rate, sleep Quality and More
Map your activity accurately with the built in GPS
Auto tracking recognizes and starts Tracking multiple exercises when you move
Strap Length : Large band fits wrist sizes 155mm 210mm : Small band fits wrist sizes 125mm 170mm
Store your favorite music on the GearFit2 or connect with Spotify to access millions of songs
Samsung Gear Fit2 is compatible with both Android and iOS smartphones
If you’re looking for a swimming watch from the Fitbit range, the Charge 3 or the newer Charge 4 could be the one. This is a great watch that can track all sorts of swimming data.
The only downside to the Charge 3 is that it doesn’t show your data in real-time. You’ll have to dry off before you can see how many lengths you’ve swum. If you can live without this feature, the 3 is great value for money. The Charge 4 does offer real-time tracking and has GPS.
Another fitness band that comes up trumps for swim tracking is Fitbit’s Charge 4. As you would expect from any Fitbit device, swimming isn’t the only activity tracking capability here, but those looking to take this device to the water won’t be disappointed in how well it performs.
Thanks to Fitbit’s relatively new SmartTrack tech, the Charge 4 is able to automatically recognise when you’re swimming, meaning you don’t have to select the activity option from the menu before diving in; it’ll capture swim lengths, duration, distance and pace. The annoying thing, though, is that none of that data is viewable in real-time on the device itself, so you’ll have to head to Fitbit’s companion app later to get your data, and this app isn’t exactly the most intuitive out there.
Nevertheless, the Charge 4 to be pretty accurate in the water, proving comfortable and in the most part, enjoyable to use.
Slim, smart activity tracker blends fashionable design with stylish metal accents and a bright, easy-to-read display
Includes advanced sleep monitoring with REM sleep and can gauge blood oxygen saturation levels during the night with the wrist-based Pulse Ox sensor. (Not a medical device and not intended for use in the diagnosis or monitoring of any medical condition)
Fitness and health monitoring tools include estimated wrist-based heart rate, all-day stress tracking, Relaxation breathing timer, Vo2 Max, body battery energy monitor and more
Features dedicated activity timers for walks, runs, strength training, yoga, pool swims and others
Get vibration alerts for All notifications, including calls, text messages and more (text replies available for Android Device users)
Battery life keeps up with you; lasts up to 7 days (excluding Pulse Ox sleep tracking) and is safe for swimming and showering, too
Connect to your compatible smartphone’s GPS so you can get accurate tracking during outdoor walks and runs
Included Components: Manuals
The great thing about pretty much all Garmin wearables is that they all carry the same waterproof certification. But if you don’t fancy one of its sports watches to swim with, you could always opt for the Vivosmart 4 instead.
While generally Garmin’s fitness trackers have featured waterproof designs, the Vivosmart 4 is one of the first to actually provide detailed swim metrics. It will only do that in a swimming pool, however, so you won’t get that data hit in the open water.
In terms of the data you’ll see in the pool, the super slim tracker will auto-track activity offering data but you can manually do it too. From the device you can set pool size and select your skill level. You’ll be able to view swim intervals or pool lengths, which is displayed at the top of the touchscreen display.
It will then report the duration of your swims and the number of lengths you’ve completed – making the Vivosmart 4 fairly minimal when it comes to data collected.
You can also edit the number of lengths recorded if you’re not satisfied with the accuracy, however we found it pretty accurate during our testing – so we’d be surprised if too much editing is required.
Your swim data is of course synced to Garmin’s Connect app on your phone where you can get a better look at your performance. While a higher end Garmin watch will give you richer metrics, the Vivosmart 4 is one of the lightest and slimmest fitness trackers we’ve hit the pool with.
This slim wristband tracker, available in multiple colors, complements your style with its distinctive design, metal trim accents and bright, easy-to-read display. The display is only on when you need it. And when it’s on, it auto-adjusts to ambient light levels, so it’s visible even in bright sunlight. Whether you’re going to the office, the gym, the pool or anywhere in between, vívosmart 4 is the perfect fit for your lifestyle.
Languages Included English and Chinese. Wristband width 18mm, Adjustable wrist strap length 155-216mm
Battery Life: 135mAh battery capacity built in the Mi Band 4, max working time up to 20 days after a full charging.
Health Monitoring: Support heart rate monitoring, heart rate alerts, sleep monitoring, idle alerts; Monitoring your health data o matain your healthier body
Activity Tracking: Comes with 6 workout modes: Treadmill, exercise, outdoor running, cycling, walking, swimming Counting step, distance, calories burned during sports
5ATM Water Resistant: Up to 50 meters water resistant rate, freely to wear Mi Band 4 when running and exercising
Display: 0. 95-inch Colorful AMOLED display with 120 x 240 pixels resolution, up to 450 nits screen brightness
Xiaomi has got pedigreeEach year, Xiaomi adds more features to its Mi Band lineup while keeping the price hikes to a minimum. With an improved display, more exercise profiles, and a rock-bottom price, the Xiaomi Mi Band 4 squares itself away as one of the best cheap fitness
of 2019. If you were to call it the best cheap fitness tracker, I don’t know if I’d argue with you. when it comes to low-cost fitness trackers, and the Mi Band 4 is another impressive device. In an affordable package, the Mi Band 4 packs in all the basic stat-tracking you’d hope for, as well as average pace, calories burned, stroke type, average stroke rate and SWOLF.
The tracker’s screen can be read during your swim, after you’ve set your pool size and started off, and unlocking it at the end of your session is easily done. You can then use the companion app to get some detailed breakdowns of performance.
Where the Mi Band 4 fell down in our testing was on accuracy – it overestimated our distances quite significantly. We hope that this will be fixed by software updates to come, and also suspect that if you’re taking shorter swims you might not have such issues, but it was an unfortunate blight on the device.
Still, given the quality of the device overall, with its slim design and lightweight feel, the Mi Band 4 is an option well worth considering if you’re operating on a budget or want a simple and multipurpose tracker.
GPS swimming smartwatch for the pool and open water
Monitors underwater estimated wrist-based heart rate during swim activities
Pool swim mode: records distance, pace, stroke count, stroke type and SWOLF (gauges swimming efficiency)
Open-water swim mode: uses built-in GPS for swims in lakes, oceans or rivers; records distance, pace, stroke count, SWOLF, stroke rate and stroke distance
Offers advanced features for staying on pace, logging drills and more
Includes free online analysis, custom workout creation, storage and sharing on Garmin Connect online community
Connected features (paired with a compatible smartphone) include smart notifications and automatic uploads to our Garmin Connect online community
Battery life: up to 7 days in smartwatch mode, 13 hours in GPS and optical heart rate (ohr) mode and 72 hours in pool and ohr mode
One of the biggest sports watch brands today, Garmin continues to provide exceptional technology for athletes and hobbyists alike. There are many models to choose from, but those who will use the watch for swimming, the Garmin Swim (2) is one of your best bets.
*In Oct 2019, Garmin released the new upgraded Garmin Swim 2 (See full specs on the Garmin website) or See on Amazon. The new version includes underwater wrist-based heart rate monitoring and GPS for open swim modes.
Made with swimmers in mind, this water-resistant (50 meters) watch records the basics: distance, strokes, and pace. It also has features for logging drills and timed sets, and can detect what stroke you are doing. The interface is not complicated–there are a total of six buttons, so every function can be accessed easily with a press of a button.
To review, share, and analyze your workout, you can also upload everything on the Garmin Connect App. This feature helps you stay motivated, providing details of your training and the distance that you have accomplished during the day or week.
The best part about this is you don’t need to go through any complicated set-up after unboxing. You can strap it on and use it right away–all you need to do is input the size of the pool you’re using and you’re good to go.
Specifically designed for swimming and open water activities, the Garmin Swim is an excellent choice. Track your swim with GPS and measure your heart rate, even underwater. It comes with all the usual activity tracking features of a Garmin watch and is fit for many other sports activities.
For the pool, it can record your distance, pace and stroke efficiency. It can also help with your swimming drills. The Garmin Swim 2 is designed for swimming and is lightweight, luminous and easy to work in the water. It could give you real-time pacing alerts while swimming. You can read our full review of the Garmin Swim 2 here.
GPS mode allows up to 13 hours combined with heart rate measuring. Otherwise, it could last for up to 72 hours in pool mode and 72 hours with standard mode.
Tried & Tested: Swim Watch Buyer’s Guide
Fitness tracker features to look out for
Some fitness or activity trackers pack in a wide range of sensors to track everything from steps and heart rate to your exact location and even the intensity of sunlight, to let you know when it’s time to reach for the sunscreen. This can result in more detailed feedback but, as revealed by our tough tests, not every device is accurate. On top of that, having too many sensors can reduce the battery life of your device or make it more complicated to use (we rate ease of use in our tests too), so it’s important to get the right balance.
A pedometer is the most basic sensor, and one you’ll find in any activity tracker. This will count your steps and can often capture distance, too, based on an estimation of your stride length. We put the step counter through its paces in our tough lab test and check the accuracy.
If your wearable has built-in GPS, it can track distance more accurately – as long as the GPS works well and doesn’t drop the connection. Many fitness trackers can be paired to your mobile phone to make use of your phone’s GPS, but built-in GPS is useful if you want to jog or cycle without carrying your phone.
A heart-rate monitor is another option worth considering. This, as you might expect, will measure your heart rate throughout the day. It will report on your average heart rate, and periods of peaks and troughs – useful for tracking improvements in your fitness. Again, accuracy is important here, and this can vary a fair bit between different makes and models. We rate this as part of our lab tests too, to find good trackers that don’t miss a beat. More accurate heart rate monitoring should also mean more accurate VO2 max estimates (estimates of your maximum rate of oxygen consumption), if your tracker offers that. VO2 max data can be useful for climbers, people preparing for a particular event and athletes.
Most trackers, including cheap ones, will now keep an eye on your sleep, including motion sensing to see whether your sleep is disturbed, and offering you an estimate of how much of your sleep has been spent in REM, light sleep and deep sleep. Some have a sleep cycle alarm, meaning your tracker will wake you up at the optimal time in your sleep cycle that’s close to your desired wake up time.
Will I have a chance to improve my swimming technique?
Many people take part in our trips in order to improve their open water swimming technique. Whether you’re new to the open water or have been out of the pool for your whole life, our guides will work closely with you to get the most out of every stroke that you take.
Is open water swimming good for you?
Swimming is a great exercise for your body and mind. Unlike running or a gym workout, swimming is very kind to your body as it doesn’t put stress on your bones due to the water buoyancy. There has also been much research into the positive effects that open water swimming can have on mental health – being in the water allows you to take a break from the busy pressures of modern life.
Does swimming build muscle?
Swimming can improve fitness and building muscle is a side effect of getting fitter. If your aim is to predominantly work on building muscle then swimming will not be as helpful as other activities. The amount of muscle you are likely to build will depend on the way you swim. A causal swim is unlikely to help you bulk up however high intensity interval training workout in the water will make your muscles stronger. In relation to our SwimTrek trips other than events and coaching trips you are not under pressure to workout or swim anymore than you feel comfortable.
Is swimming cardio?
Swimming does work your cardiovascular system and it does use most of the muscles of the body, working your heart. Once again it depends on the amount of energy you put into your swims. On our trips it is likely that your fitness will improve, especially if you are generally a pool or outdoor swimmer that swims less than 2km a day. Lots of our swimmers come back to their clubs or swim groups and find that they can swim with much more stamina and ease than before their SwimTrek trip.
Is swimming good for toning?
If combined with a healthy lifestyle and you are swimming frequently then it can help you to tone. Depending on your fitness level, body type and the swim workouts that you are achieving will determine how it will change your body.