Best Triathlon Watch
The Best Triathlon Watch 2019 is the Garmin Forerunner 945, yet there ARE better options if you have a specific need. For example, a Garmin Fenix 5S Plus has the same core triathlon features, as does the 935, and both for lower prices. Whereas someone with budget constraints and interested in running with power might find the new Polar Vantage M more to their liking.
Anyway, you get the idea; there is a different ‘Best Triathlon Watch‘ for different kinds of people. I’ll try to cover ALL TYPES of triathletes but the basic thing you need to know is that a Triathlon Watch has a single mode that seamlessly permits the recording of a swim followed by a bike followed by a run, with appropriate data displayed for each sport.
Each category below includes a link to my detailed reviews of every single tri watch; my recommendation; a link to the best price from my partners (REI, Wiggle, Amazon, PMC…) as well as hundreds of reader pollings
Controversial Contention: The Best Triathlon Watch is the Forerunner 935. It properly does all-things ‘tri’
The 945 is even better than the 935..now that’s confusing. Well, not really, it’s a faster 935 with extra ‘smarts’, extra $$$ but pretty much the same tri-functionality.
Remember you can tell if a reviewer has actually used the device they are recommending by the photo…a stock photo means they’ve never used it and may never have finished a triathlon. FWIW I’m a GB Age Group Triathlete.
Let’s get back to watches
Best Garmin Triathlon Watch
The best Garmin Triathlon Watch is the Garmin MARQ ATHLETE which is the same as a Forerunner 945 but in a premium casing.
Both have ALMOST EVERY triathlon feature and a good battery to get you through KONA.
The 935 represents the best bang for your Garmin pro-tri buck, turn off some of the features for your Ironman and all will be fine
Best Triathlon Watch – on a Budget
The Best Budget Triathlon Watch is the Amazfit STRATOS at around $/£150
You will be seriously amazed by the wealth of techy features and yet, perhaps, disappointed by the accuracy of the onboard sensors. But you are on a budget.
The Sigma id.TRI might find its way here soon…or not.
Best Triathlon Watch – by Price Band
- ‘Luxury’ Watch – MARQ ATHLETE
- Premium Price – Best Garmin Forerunner 945, Forerunner 935, Fenix 5S Plus or Polar Vantage V (Titan) – Next Best Garmin Fenix 6 SERIES, then the Fenix 5 PLUS series, Garmin Forerunner 920XT or Suunto 9
- Mid-Price – Best Polar Vantage M, or Suunto 5, next best Garmin 735XT and maybe the COROS Pace or Apex
- Low-Price – Best Amazfit STRATOS – Next Best “Sale/Refurb/Used Models”
- Ultra Budget – Best Sigma iD.TRI (see also iD.FREE)
Best Triathlon Watch – Polar
The old Polar V800 has the most features and is the joint-most accurate GPS watch…ever. The new Polar Vantage V has lost features from the V800 but gained beauty as well as other features like optical HR. The new Polar Vantage M is cheaper and lighter and I HAVE used it for most of my races in 2019 but with STRYD and the H10.
MY Best Polar Triathlon Watch is the Vantage M.
Best Triathlon Watch – Suunto
The Suunto Triathlon Watches have beauty in my eyes and have the best quality of construction of any of the watches covered here. Suunto’s thing is ‘a long-life battery in the rugged outdoors‘.
My personal favourite is the Suunto 9 and yet the Ambit 3 would be the joint most accurate (ever). You will get the best features at the best price from the Suunto 5, which is an updated Suunto SPARTAN Trainer
The best Suunto Triathlon Watch is the Suunto Spartan Trainer
Best Triathlon Watch – with Heart Rate
They all support chest straps. I presume you mean with the ever-inaccurate, built-in optical HR?
The jury is still out on this but the best optical heart rate monitor in a triathlon watch might be found in the Polar Vantage M or Polar Vantage V. Garmin’s Elevate HR has improved with the 2019 models (MARQ, 945 and Fenix 6).
The Best Heart Rate Monitor in a Triathlon Watch is in the Polar Vantage M but it still might not work for you…that’s oHR for you.
Best Triathlon Watch – for Thin Wrists
Best Triathlon Watch – for Women
Apologies for the assumption that only women have thin wrists…I HAVE THIN WRISTS
Without a doubt, this is the Garmin Fenix 6S (Pro+Sapphire) which maintains the same size screen as earlier Fenix watches but packs everything into a more compact case.
The Best Triathlon Watch for Thin Wrists is the Garmin Fenix 6S Pro Sapphire
Best Triathlon Watch – for Accuracy
Optical HR likely won’t be accurate, so the most accurate triathlon watch will be the one that displays pace/distance and elevation correctly without onboard optical HR.
The Best Triathlon Watch for Accuracy is the Suunto Spartan Sport (HR, ie non WHR)
Best Triathlon Watch – for Techiness
The geeky amongst you will buy the Garmin Forerunner 945 or similarly any of the Garmin Fenix 6 range or 5 Plus range. The Best Triathlon Watch for Techniness is the Garmin Forerunner 945 (again)
Best Triathlon Watch – for full-race Live HR
Pre-2019 the Polar V800 was the ONLY good choice for accurate live HR for the entire race when linked to the Polar H7 5KHz HRM (or H10). Now the latest Garmin tri watches can display live oHR (albeit WRONG readings IMO)
The Best Triathlon Watch for full-race live HR is the Polar V800
Best Triathlon Watch – for Ironman
Simply put, the battery has to last until the end of the race and the watch will probably also need to support your bike power meter. With the old 935’s battery life fading as it ages the best option here is the uber-batteried Forerunner 945.
The Best Triathlon Watch for Ironman is the Garmin Forerunner 945
Best Triathlon Watch – for Beginners
The best triathlon watch for beginners is either “The Practice” or “The Training“. A watch is one more thing to worry about. Your current waterproof watch will be fine.
Do you want to spend some money? Oh alright then. Go for the Polar Vantage M, it’s superficially straightforward but a lot of clever stuff lies hidden away for you to discover as time passes, it’s pretty and it should be a good future-proof solution with lots of new stuff being added over the next couple of years.
The Best Triathlon Watch for Beginners is the Polar Vantage M
Best Triathlon Watch – with Maps
With the introduction of maps onto the Forerunner 945 then this clearly makes the 945 the winner in this category.
Best Triathlon Watch – for the Future
This might turn out to be the Polar Vantage V if it lives up to the expectation of continually delivering new features over several years like its predecessor, the V800. Caveat emptor. Your other choices from Garmin, Suunto and others are almost certainly going to be superseded within 2 years although should be supported beyond that timeframe.
The Best Triathlon Watch for the Future is the Polar Vantage V
Best Triathlon Watch – with Music
You can’t listen to music while you race, but you can while you train, and only Garmin seem to have this well under control and are able to support multiple online music providers AND with triathlon functionality.
The Best Triathlon Watch with Music AGAIN is the Garmin Forerunner 945
Detailed Review Links
Still not convinced? You can read lots more about these individual watches in the links or check the prices at your local retailer (the link goes to retailers in your country)
- Amazon REI Wiggle PMC : Review: Polar V800
- Amazon REI Wiggle PMC : Review: Polar Vantage M
- Amazon REI Wiggle PMC : Review: Polar Vantage V
- Amazon REI Wiggle PMC : Review: Garmin Fenix 3/HR
- Amazon REI Wiggle PMC : Review: Garmin 920Xt
- Amazon REI Wiggle PMC : Review: Suunto AMBIT3/ AMBIT3 SPORT
- Amazon REI Wiggle PMC : Review: Suunto 9
- Amazon REI Wiggle PMC : Review: Suunto 5
- Amazon REI Wiggle PMC : Review: Garmin Forerunner 735XT
- Amazon REI Wiggle PMC : Review: Suunto SPARTAN SPORT
- Amazon REI Wiggle PMC : Review: Suunto SPARTAN ULTRA /SPORT
- Amazon REI Wiggle PMC : Review: Suunto SPARTAN SPORT WHR
- Amazon REI Wiggle PMC : Review: Garmin Fenix 5
- Amazon REI Wiggle PMC : Review: Garmin Fenix 5S
- Amazon REI Wiggle PMC : Review: Garmin Forerunner 935
- Amazon REI Wiggle PMC : Review: Garmin Fenix 5X
- Amazon REI Wiggle PMC : Review: Garmin Fenix 5X Plus
- Amazon REI Wiggle PMC : Review: Garmin Fenix 5S Plus
- Amazon REI Wiggle PMC : Review: Suunto 5
- Amazon REI Wiggle PMC : Review: Suunto SPARTAN TRAINER WHR
- Amazon REI Wiggle PMC : Review: Amazfit STRATOS
- Amazon REI Wiggle PMC : Review: Garmin 910XT
- Amazon REI Wiggle PMC : Review: Refurbished Garmin 310XT
- Amazon REI Wiggle PMC : Review: COROS PACE
- Amazon REI Wiggle PMC : Review: COROS APEX
- Amazon REI Wiggle PMC : Review: COROS APEX Pro
- Amazon REI Wiggle PMC : Review: COROS VERTIX
- Amazon REI Wiggle PMC : Review : Garmin Forerunner 945
- Amazon REI Wiggle PMC : Review : Garmin Fenix 6 Series
- Amazon REI Wiggle PMC : Review : Garmin MARQ ATHLETE
- Amazon REI Wiggle PMC : Review : Sigma iD.TRI (see also iD.FREE)
Local Amazon Links (to: lowest priced listing)