How to choose a sports watch
It’s a well-known fact that if you sports without tracking it, you don’t really sports at all.
Deciding to strap on a watch that’ll track your every move ought to be a no-brainer, then. That is, until you have to choose which of the veritable barrage of time-tellers best fits your wrist.
From off-road running buddies to multifunctional motivators, the world of sports watches is truly a jungle for the uninitiated.
Thankfully, we’ve run, jumped and swum our way through the field of fancy exercise friends so that you don’t have to.
Whether you’re a trail runner or a gym-goer, read on to find out just which sports watch is the one for you.
BEST FOR...SKIERS AND SURFERS (NIXON MISSION)
Best for...skiers and surfers (Nixon Mission)
Android Wear watches might seem ten-a-penny, but few are quite as tough as Nixon’s hard-to-miss Mission. Replete in an orange get-up that’ll see stares both on the slopes and at sea, its 48mm stainless steel shell is a truly colossal affair that can take a serious knock.
Chunky buttons make utilising the in-built ski and surf apps a cinch (even with cumbersome gloves on), whilst the 1.39in AMOLED display does plenty to keep that all important data on tap – perfect for when you’re atop the crest of a radical wave.
OK, so it might lack heart rate tracking, but its suite of sensors won’t leave stat-trackers wanting. Alongside the standard gyroscope and accelerometer, there’s a thermometer, altimeter, barometer and compass – not to mention the on-board GPS.
BEST FOR...SWIMPROVERS (APPLE WATCH S2)
Best for...swimprovers (Apple Watch S2)
Like a gruelling 1-0 win against an inferior minnow, Apple’s first smartwatch effort left fitness fans happy, but not blown away. Not so with its second attempt: the Apple Watch Series 2 is a seriously smart piece of kit – especially if you’re a swimmer.
Why? Because now it’s waterproof. More to the point, the Watch S2 happens to offer dedicated swim-tracking, with GPS-logging for open water crawls and accelerometer-measured strokes and lengths indoors. It’s astoundingly accurate.
Doing away with the chest-straps necessitated by many a watery wearable, Apple’s Series 2 Watch also retains the on-board heart rate tech that made the first iteration such a doozy. Pair all of that with the easy interface of Apple’s Workout app and you’re onto a truly wearable swimming winner.
BEST FOR...BEGINNER TRACKERS (FITBIT BLAZE)
Best for...beginner trackers (Fitbit Blaze)
Like the Hoover for your heart rate, Fitbit has become synonymous with fitness wearables – and the Blaze is its best effort yet. Pairing automatic activity tracking with straightforward data delivery, the Blaze is a boon for laid-back trackers.
Sure, the styling might be a little edgy for some, but there’s no denying how easy this everyday companion is to use: the Blaze does away with needless notifications in favour of one-tap monitoring, a vibrant display and a neon-on-black OS that’s a delight to swipe.
There’s no built-in GPS (though it can talk to satellites via your phone), but the offer of specific tracking for several exercises – which can be chosen through the partner app – together with reliable heart rate readings and five-day battery life, is hard to argue with.
BEST FOR...DALEY THOMPSONS (GARMIN VIVOACTIVE HR)
Best for...Daley Thompsons (Garmin Vivoactive HR)
Fancy yourself as a do-it-all decathlete? Garmin’s Vivoactive HR might sit in the middle of its mammoth range of sports wearables, but this is £200 all-rounder is far from middling in its performance.
Sure, it lacks the fancy info-gathering favoured by serious statisticians (think VO2 Max), but for most mere mortals there’s enough data on offer here to see you through to Tokyo 2020.
Aside from standard fare daily tracking, the Vivoactive HR will vibrate to make you move, take your pulse with surprising accuracy and do a darn good job of measuring your movements – whether on a bike, on your feet or in the pool.
With sports-specific modes for everything from golf to skiing to indoor rowing, alongside a squadron of sensors, this is truly the Jess Ennis-Hill of wearables.
BEST FOR...SERIOUS RUNNERS (TOMTOM SPARK 3)
Best for...serious runners (TomTom Spark 3)
Proper pavement pounders expect a lot from their wristwear, which is why TomTom has upped its game with the Spark 3.
Say hello to route-logging on-the-run: pre-load your path for marathon guidance, or set it to track your journey into the unknown. It’ll even drop breadcrumbs to help you get home, should your sprint take a turn for the worse.
It also retains the same on-board music storage of previous Sparks, together with heart-rate monitoring and a large, flat display that delivers live stats – such as time, distance, speed and pace – as you stride.
Given TomTom’s knowhow when it comes to location logging, this is a serious contender for map-happy runners looking to keep things on track.
BEST FOR...TRACKING TRIATHLETES (GARMIN FENIX 3 HR)
Best for...tracking triathletes (Garmin Fenix 3 HR)
Take one of our favourite multi-sport monitors, cram in heart-rate tracking smarts and what do you get? A triathlete’s holy grail.
Equipped with enough monitoring options to make your physio jealous – from air pressure to heart-rate variability to VO2 Max – the Fenix 3 also happens to be a fully-functional smartwatch, albeit one wrapped in a beautifully rugged stainless steel shell.
To get things going, it’s as simple as hitting start, selecting your discipline and waiting five seconds for GPS – then you’re off. Once you’re done, there’s even a Recovery Advisor to get you warmed down the right way.
As for heart rate, the more you move, the more regularly it’s measured – so you’ll never fall short on that all-important data.