Any award for the Best Triathlon Watch for 2017 is now well and truly in the bag. But whose bag?
We also wait with bated breath for what 2018 can bring with Polar’s new multi sport watch.
Best Triathlon Watch 2017
But for now we have a slew of Triathlon watches to choose from and here are the ‘awards’ for the best triathlon watches across a variety of athlete types, culminating with the overall winner of the Best Triathlon Watch ‘award’.
I’ve put what I think is the best recommendation for each type of buyer. Some people want all the features…some don’t. Some want accuracy, some aren’t too bothered. Some want the latest tech, others don’t. Some are not bothered about price. Others are. Some are concerned by aesthetics, others less so. And so it goes on.
As a basic definition: a tri watch is a waterproof sports watch that will let you track consecutive sports. Ideally there will be some degree of on-watch automation to move you from one sport to the next.
My First Triathlon – My Best Triathlon Watch
Many of you will be spending unnecessary amounts of money on club membership, kit and one-to-one tuition. Probably also worrying a little more than you need to. If you are enjoying doing that…fantastic! Whilst you know you will not win the race you might be keen to beat your work mates or peer group who are also in the same race.
The bottom line is that you don’t need a watch. You will probably get the best performance out of yourself by aiming for a high and consistent level of pacing. A waterproof sports watch of any sort will support that basic functionality (pace/HR).
So. Use the watch you probably already have.
My Thin Wrists
Many tri watches are on the large side of ‘big’. To retain a semblance of aesthetic, sporting beauty you might consider these 3 generally competent options for your thin wrists; Garmin 735XT, Fenix 5s and Suunto Spartan Trainer WHR.
The Suunto Spartan Trainer WHR (Review) is the cheapest, relatively new model that has most of the functionality you will ever need. There are several visually different version if you don’t like green 😉
An IronMan’s Best Triathlon Watch
You will probably want a watch that works with a wide range of kit you either already own or are going to buy. I can get into great level of technicality here. But it’s pointless. Sadly, the bottom line for most people doing a 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 hour Ironman is that you will need a watch with a battery that will last that long. Several watches will let you turn off various functions so that they work for the race duration. What’s the point? You’ve bought all the kit for the race and you want to use it IN THE RACE. Also several watches will simply NOT meet the stated battery life when you enable various functions eg Live Tracking.
Really, your only sensible option is the Garmin Forerunner 935 (review)
Accuracy-Seeking Best Triathlon Watch
You will get the best levels of accuracy from the watch’s internal components from Suunto and Polar. Anyone that tells you otherwise is wrong. Get a decent bike power meter (ASSIOMA is fine for most) and footpod (STRYD) and you are good-to-go.
You could choose one of these: Polar V800, Suunto AMBIT3 SPORT, Suunto SPARTAN SPORT or SPARTAN TRAINER. Personally I’d be torn between the V800 and SPARTAN SPORT.
I would probably opt for the Polar V800.
Sensible Cost-Saving Best Triathlon Watch
If you want MOST OF the bits and bobs but don’t want to pay for absolutely every feature under the sun that a tri watch can offer. Then you are looking for a top-end tri watch from a couple of years ago.
Polar’s V800 has been continually updated since it was first released and is now full of features. As a replacement is due soon there are some great prices and sales. Garmin’s 920XT has already been superceded and also has great sale prices from time to time but generally attracts a higher price than it should.
Despite that I would go for the Garmin Forerunner 920XT (review)
Best Value Tech
You might be interested in functions and tech as well as the training and racing. Garmin have the most features in their tri watches. But they usually come at a steep price. You will get great value tech in the Suunto AMBIT 3 SPORT and Polar V800.
Prettiest & Best Triathlon Watch
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
In my opinion it’s the Suunto SPARTAN Sport (Review – WHR or non-WHR – your call)
Cross-Over Athlete – From Cycling
Just buy a waterproof running watch to go with your existing head unit. Go with the same brand which is probably Garmin. No small watch face will ever be as good as your cycling head unit. With two devices you can avoid battery life issues. The Polar M430 and Garmin Forerunner 235 are fine running watches.
Uber Cost Saving Best Triathlon Watch
You want something EVEN cheaper than the 920XT. As I said for the previous category that would proabbly mean the V800. However you could also consider the Garmin 910XT which is older and SHOULD be cheaper still. The problem is finding one. Because the SUPPLY is low that might mean prices are artificially raised on the 910XT.
Get a Garmin Forerunner 910XT (review) if you can. FWIW: I used to love my 910XT…back in the day.
Cross-Over Athlete – From Running
Your running watch probably already has a bike mode that will do everything apart from support bike power meters. Use that and switch manually from one sport to the next. If that’s not acceptable then maybe you fall into one of the other categories?
Overall Best Triathlon Watch
It’s a relatively obvious choice that the Garmin Forerunner 935 (review) is the Best Triathlon Watch there are NUMEROUS positive points to list – so click on that review for more details. The Garmin 935 is not perfect and it’s not cheap. It’s “more perfect” than the rest AND more expensive than the rest. To get improved accuracy there is more stuff to buy to augment that unfortunately.
For what it’s worth: I’ve got one. I used it at IMUK 2017. The VAST majority of KONA 2017 IM athletes use Garmin.
Here is a more detailed version of this post looking at the Best Triathlon Watch: