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Best swimming watches for pool or open water in 2023

Open-water swim coach and 220 Triathlon editor Helen Webster takes a look at six of the best swim watches on the market

Female triathlete using a swimming watch

Keen to maximise your time in pool or open water? Then analysing your training with a swimming watch is a good shout. Here are some to consider…

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Whether you’re training in the pool, in the open water or both, a swimming watch is a good investment to make sure you are getting the most out of your time and effort. Which one you go for will differ depending on what kind of training you’re doing, the metrics you’re looking for and how much you can afford to spend.

How to pick a swimming watch

For pool training alone, a basic watch will count the number of lengths for you (a godsend if you struggle to keep count as you swim!), as well as the time swum and your splits, such as time per length.

More advanced features will allow you to count drills, will recognise and log different swim strokes (based on the type of movement your arms are doing) and allow you to group your swim sets.

For the open water, things get a little more complicated. If you’re doing a buoyed course at a lake, for example, then you can just use a basic watch to log the amount of time you have been swimming and to show improvements in your lap times – and for those less acclimatised to cooler water, it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on the amount of time you have been in the water for.

Many triathletes will opt for a watch with GPS, though, and this works by logging the distance you’ve swum as well as creating a map of your swim.

Why is this useful? Well, even on a set swim course it will allow you to see how much you might be swimming off-course and how much further than the planned distance you are swimming – a handy insight into how straight your swimming is and how well you’re sighting, invaluable come race day!

For the swim geeks amongst us, this also allows us to ‘play back’ our swims and look at maps, as well as 100m splits, to see how we performed in each swim.

Finally, those swimmers looking to analyse and improve their strokes will appreciate the added metrics in the more advanced swim watches. Pace, SWOLF, stroke rate and stroke length are all handy to have – as well as heart rate (more accurate with a chest strap), calories burnt (useful if swimming long and needing to fuel) and water temperature.

With all that considered – here are a few we’ve found that could do the job for you!

Best swimming watches in 2023

Garmin Swim 2 

Garmin Swim 2 swimming watch
Credit: Garmin

Wanting to keep things simple and buy a watch that just focusses on your swimming? Then the Garmin Swim 2 could be the one to go for.

This smart watch has all the features you could possibly need for both pool and open water, with wrist-based heart rate and both a pool and open-water swim mode. It will log lengths, distance, pace, stroke count, stroke type and SWOLF in the pool and, with built-in GPS, logs distance, pace, stroke count, SWOLF, stroke rate and stroke distance in open water.

It also allows you access post-swim analysis on the excellent Garmin Connect platform. The watch will also sync to your phone to allow message alerts.

For more info, read our full Garmin Swim 2 review.

Coros Pace 2

COROS PACE 2 Premium GPS Sport Watch
Credit: Coros

Coros claim this is the lightest multisport watch on the market, weighing in at just 29g including the silicone strap. Plus, it has a superb quoted battery life of 20 days with regular use and 30 hours in full GPS mode (so more than enough for all but the most hardcore of triathletes!).

As a multisport watch this one will appeal to triathletes as it also has running and cycling modes and the ‘training analysis’ feature allows you to monitor energy and recovery levels.

It’s waterproof to 50m and offers metrics such as, pace, time, distance, stroke length, stroke rate and SWOLF, to name but a few.

See our full review of the Coros Pace 2 for more.

Wahoo Elemnt Rival

Wahoo Elemnt Rival
Credit: Wahoo

Designed to perform with Kickr and Elemnt bike computer integration, the Rival is a multisport watch which also includes a triathlon, open-water and pool swim mode.

Of most interest if investing in this option though, for most buyers, will be the integration with other Wahoo products and platforms. The ‘planned workouts’ feature also includes TrainingPeaks integration as well as 12 pre-built Wahoo Sports Science workouts.

The week’s workouts will automatically sync, allowing you to manage swimming, cycling, and running workouts. Good for time-pushed triathletes!

See our full verdict in our Wahoo Elemnt Rival review.

Garmin Fenix 6X Pro

Garmin Fenix 6X Pro
Credit: Garmin

The release earlier this year of the top-end Garmin Fenix 7 range means there are some good deals to be had on the previous Fenix 6 models.

With the 6X Pro you get a rugged but professional-looking watch with more features than we can possibly list here, including a heart-rate sensor with Pulse Ox capability, a colour screen including maps for running/cycling and a large, sunlight-readable screen.

Multisport logging allows you to monitor triathlon, duathlon and swimrun, while there are standalone pool and open-water swim activity functions, as well with all the stats and info you would expect from a premium multisport watch.

Swim-specific metrics include distance, pace, stroke count/rate, lengths and swim efficiency (SWOLF), plus drill logging, pool swim workouts and pacing alerts for pool swimming.

Polar Grit X 

Polar Grit X Pro multisport watch
Credit: Polar

Described by the manufacturer as the ‘Swiss army knife of training aids’ this watch has an impressive spec list.

It’s designed for multisport, so you get full bike and run and triathlon functions, but the swimming metrics detect everything from heart rate to distance, pace, stroke and rest time, while the battery life of up to 40 hours means you can get all your workouts in without having to worry about losing power.

For Strava fans, it has an ‘upcoming segment’ function, which will help keep you motivated on the bike and run!

Read our full Polar Grit X Pro review for more information and our verdict.

Swimovate Poolmate2 Swimming Watch

Swimovate PoolMate2 Swimming Watch
Credit: Amazon

The PoolMate 2 is designed to function in both the pool and open water. With upgraded battery life compared to previous models, a crystal glass face and a larger display, it’s a versatile companion.

In the pool, it tracks laps, strokes, distance, speed, efficiency, duration, sets, rest time and calories. Transitioning to open water can be done with a calibration lap and its built-in accelerometer delivers metrics with over 2 years of battery life.

Accuracy is a strong suit, with a 99.75% rate, making it a trusted choice for swimmers to improve their technique.

Nabaiji Swimming Pool Watch SL500

Nabaiji Swimming Pool Watch SL500 swimming watch
Credit: Decathlon

We couldn’t conclude this list without adding an option for bargain hunters and this option from Decathlon’s own brand Nabaiji hits the mark.

Waterproof to up to 30m, this no-frills option will record your distance, your lengths and your time in 25m, 33m and 50m pools. Perfect for those who get overwhelmed by too many stats and too much tech (or are scared of losing a more expensive option in the changing rooms!).

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Top image credit: Oleg Breslavtsev/Getty Images