archive Best Triathlon Watch

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The Best Triathlon Watch for you – Sorted

The Best Triathlon Watch for 2020 is the Garmin Forerunner 945, it’s obvious. Yes, there ARE better options if you have specific needs like music, thin wrists, great aesthetics, lasting for a full Ironman distance race or supporting all your sports sensors. Older watches like a Garmin Fenix 5S Plus or Forerunner 935 have the same core triathlon features as the relatively new 945, with both selling for considerably lower prices. Someone with tighter budget constraints and intrigued by 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 and it’s NOT OBVIOUS which is the best triathlon watch for those people. So, I’ll cover ALL TYPES of triathletes and I’m sure you’ll fit into one or more categories.


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 recommendations; a link to the best prices for you from my partners in your country like REI, Wiggle, Amazon and PMC. I really have trained with ALL of them.


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Best Overall Triathlon Watch

All things considered, the best overall triathlon watch is the Garmin Forerunner 945. It can do almost everything tri-related and more besides.

Sure, it’s expensive and perhaps a larger screen area with stronger glass and QuickFit bands might be desirable but you will be able to live with that. Rest assured that virtually EVERY triathlon-related feature and kinds of connectivity are included. To justify the price tag there are also many smart features including maps, contactless payments and music. Plus, don’t worry, it absolutely will see you through to the end of an Ironman.




Best Garmin Triathlon Watch

The absolute best Garmin Triathlon Watch is the Garmin MARQ ATHLETE which is the same as a Forerunner 945 but in a premium casing.

Both the MARQ Athlete and the Forerunner 945 have ALMOST EVERY triathlon feature and a good battery to get you through KONA. You can follow training plans, link to Training Peaks or STRAVA, connect to obscure Muscle Oxygen sensors, bluetooth or ANT+ power meters, lots of Firstbeat Physiological insights, connected smartphone features galore, play music, show you maps and make you a mean flat white Americano (one of those wasn’t true 😉 ).

However, the older Garmin Forerunner 935 still represents the best bang for your Garmin pro-tri buck, turn off some of the battery-eating features for your Ironman and all will be fine. I sold my 935 for a 945 but now regret it in some ways as I don’t really need the ‘smarts’ of the 945.



Best Budget Triathlon Watch

The Best Budget Triathlon Watch is the Sigma id.TRI at below $/£150

Sorry that you’ve never heard of it. You will be seriously amazed by the wealth of techy features and connectivity of this small-format watch. It has the features that most recreational triathletes will want it to do but you might not like its looks for 24×7 usage.

Best Triathlon Watch – by Price Band

Here are lists of the best for each price category.




Best Polar Triathlon Watch


The old Polar V800 has bucket-loads of features and is the joint-most accurate GPS watch…ever. The new Polar Vantage V has lost only a few features compared to the V800 but gained beauty as well as several other NEW features like optical HR. The new Polar Vantage M is cheaper and lighter than the Vantage V and I HAVE delighted in using it for most of my 2019 races alongside STRYD and the Polar H10 chest strap.

MY Best Polar Triathlon Watch is the Vantage M but if you are looking for recovery analysis and a more premium finish then go for the Vantage V.



Best Suunto Triathlon Watch


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 a shell that’s built for the rugged outdoors‘.

My personal favourite is the Suunto 9 Baro and its clever power management features and STRAVA Live Segments and yet the old Ambit 3 could sneak in as the joint-most accurate (ever). On the other hand, you will get the best triathlon feature+price combo from the Suunto 5.

The best Suunto Triathlon Watch is the Suunto 5…Personally, I prefer the Suunto 9 as teh 5’s screen is a bit dim and small.



Best Triathlon Watch – with optical Heart Rate


The jury is still out on this due to the vagaries of oHR accuracy. The best optical heart rate monitor in a triathlon watch might be found in the Polar Vantage M or Polar Vantage V it just depends on how you use the technology and on your physiology. Garmin’s Elevate HR has improved with the 2019 models (MARQ, 945 and Fenix 6) and they would be my recommendation if you wanted the best chance to get accurate oHR.

The Best optical Heart Rate Monitor in a Triathlon Watch is from watches with the latest Garmin ELEVATE sensor



Best Multisport 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. Garmin also support features for women like menstrual cycle tracking and includes other features like music support and safety alerting. The 945 has the same female-specific features…obviously.

The Best Triathlon Watch for Thin Wrists is the Garmin Fenix 6S Pro Sapphire. If that’s too expensive consider the Vantage M or Fenix 5 s Plus and for the cheapest option we return to the Sigma iD.Tri.


Best Triathlon Watch – for Techiness & Features

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). Perhaps worthy of note in this category is the Coros Apex Pro which has lots of on-watch features but whose smartphone app stops me heartily recommending it – but if you throw your data straight into STRAVA or Training Peaks then what does an app matter?



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, perhaps STRYD too. With the old 935’s battery life fading as it ages the best option here is the uber-batteried Forerunner 945. Naturally, it will support all the ANT+/BLE sensors you could dream of and the delivery of infeasibly large amounts of Firstbeat insights as well as linking to your coach via Training Peaks. You want last lap normalized power on display? You got it. You want the weather? You got it. You want an app store full of Garmin sporty goodness? Yep…you got that too.

The Best Triathlon Watch for Ironman is the Garmin Forerunner 945


Best Multisport 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 and your current waterproof watch will be perfectly fine.

Do you want to spend some money? Oh alright then. Go for the Polar Vantage M, it’s superficially straightforward but, as time passes, you will find a lot of clever stuff lies hidden away for you to discover both on the watch and in the excellent Polar Flow ecosystem; it’s pretty and it should be a good future-proof solution as your interest in the sport develops.

A newcomer here in late 2020 is the Wahoo ELEMNT Rival which I expect to be a serious contender in 2021. It is very easy to setup up and use for newbies, much more so than Garmin watches which have very complicated menus.

The Best Triathlon Watch for Beginners is the Polar Vantage M, it does all you will ever NEED anyway.




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. No other vendor competes properly in this segment. A word of warning though, a small watch format is not great for viewing maps and to follow routes all you really need is a watch that supports breadcrumb routes and the competition all do well with those kinds of courses. My recommendation here is to think more closely about your true mapping needs and REALLY consider a dedicated bike computer. Also perhaps consider the Fenix 6 Series, which have a slightly larger screen area.



Best Multisport Watch – for the Future

2018/2019 was the time to invest for the future, not now. Wait. If you want a future-proof watch with leading-edge tech then we WILL see more in 2021 potentially from all the key players – Garmin, Polar, Suunto and Apple.

You will be waiting to see what a Garmin Forerunner 955 LTE or Polar Vantage M Gen 2 or Suunto 9 Gen 2 turns out to be. It’s VERY unlikely any other company like Coros, Wahoo, Garmin, Apple or Sigma will come out with a full-featured, all-singing, all-dancing competitor to the market leaders…there’s just too much catching up to do. That said, any of those companies could bring out a niche triathlon watch to target certain kinds of triathletes. Don’t hold your breath.

The Best Triathlon Watch for the Future is the ‘Wait and see in Q2.2021’




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 945 is the winner of best triathlon watch with music but you can equally consider the Fenix 5 Plus or Fenix 6 as all Garmin-s music-enabled watches support podcasts, on-watch MP3 playback, Deezer, Spotify and Amazon Music. I doubt Apple Music will be added to Garmin and Google might be too busy moving Play Music to YouTube Music to bother with Garmin support for now.

The next best choice here compared to a Garmin would be one of the low-end watches like the Amazfit Stratos Gen 3 (even Gen 1 supports music playback). The Stratos looks AWESOME (I have one) but it’s really just an interesting toy to play with and if you plan to take triathlon seriously at some point in the future you will buy something else later. But for well less than $/£150 in might just fall in the ‘toy’ category for some of you to buy on a whim now.

The Best Triathlon Watch with Music AGAIN is the Garmin Forerunner 945.


Your Votes for the Best Multisport Watch

Over 1500 of you have voted here for your favourite multisport watch. That’s a good sample size but the results may have been skewed slightly by an overzealous marketing manager cc’ing everyone in the company to vote for a certain product. What do you think?

Detailed Review Links & Buy Links

Still not convinced? I know I’ve skirted over many of the issues in this ‘best of’ post. However, if you have a few hours to spare you can read all the detailed content  I’ve written that backs these recommendations and buy at the prices at your local retailer (the link goes to retailers in your country – about 10 retailers in the USA including the discounters)

Here is the summary again and remember massive amounts of detail are in the reviews if you need to do more research


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66 thoughts on “archive Best Triathlon Watch

  1. you ask for 2016 so my bet: Ambit4, solar powered (if sun goes down the licensed Seiko cinetic drive takes over), POD less (everything comes from the watch or the super smart sensor II) and Sundays it will make French toast, for Boris: it will have a step counter as well 🙂

  2. I am not a triathlete but enjoy jogging and swimming, I am terrible at counting laps or distance and would like a watch preferably to tell me what stroke and how many laps and how far I have run (even on a circle track). Can anyone suggest a good watch? I was looking at Tom Tom Multi-sport watch but was recently told it no longer available.

    1. I have the Garmin Vivoactive, which is perfect for lap swimming and running. And it’s not crazy expensive like many of the others. The newest version has the built-in HR monitor.

        1. Hi the5krunner, I recently bought a Garmin Vivoactive HR & I can confirm after I used already now more than 2 months: it’s an awesome smart watch! Totally worth the price, I use for cycling & running, had a Half Marathon already with that watch, GPS tracking + HR is really accurate both in this little smart watch. At the beginning I used with my good old Garmin Edge 500 to compare the stats, data of my cycling & running & yep, the Vivoactive HR is pretty accurate, I really enjoy to use. 🙂

  3. Good review, thanks.
    One thing that matters to me is how easy it is to get the data from the watch to my chosen training diary. I use Sport Tracks and with Polar devices I have to first upload to Polar Flow then export to computer then import to Sport Tracks. Quite long winded! With my Garmin the file automatically transfers to my computer via Ant making it a single step import to Sport Tracks.

    1. yes me too. you know about tapiriik, look also at and the android app syncmytracks. As you also realise many of the platforms have direct links ‘eslewhere’. And that elsewhere almost always includes STRAVA, so STRAVA can be used as a staging post. I keep my stuff and my the5krunner stuff separate which adds a further layer of complexity as does needing HRV. HRC is not normally transferred in the above links. sigh

  4. I currently have last year’s Garmin VivoActive, but it doesn’t have an integrated HR monitor (like the new one), which I definitely want/need. Having a wrist-based monitor is most important for me. And I would love to upgrade to a true multisport watch for training and tri’s, but one that doesn’t break the bank! I’m super interested to hear what’s announced in the coming months, since it seems like Garmin is going mostly wrist-based, and I’m sure others will follow if they haven’t already.

  5. I am interested in this comment: “FWIW 1: For a xmas present for 2016 PERSONALLY I would want a Suunto Spartan ULTRA (not sport).” I am aware you have test copies of both devices. Is this to do with battery life?

    1. ty firechimp for the question, I was hoping to get away without that one coming!!. Sad to say it’s solely because it’s very, very slightly prettier in the all black ULTRA!! The SPORT has a shiny metal bezel. Having said that, and trying to come up with a more professional answer (ahem), I think the purchaser has to see SPARTAN as a longer term investment in the development of the SPARTAN platform. It’s likely that the firmware differences in the two may become more apparent as firmware is rolled out over the coming few years. Personally I see myself doing more non-tri things in the coming years so ULTRA will most likely be the best fit.

      1. Thanks for the answer.

        “Pretty” is a rare descriptor for many of the sports watches of recent years so this has to be seen as good thing (see new copper version… bit early?))! Especially so, with the increase in competition from less historically sporting brands and blurring of the lines with the smartwatch segment.

        I am aware of some of the issues and comments around the Spartan platform being quite erm “raw” to say the least. Even on Suunto’s own site it only has 2 stars which cannot be good for consumer confidence in the product. I personally hope they make a success of it, as numerous true sports brands as competitors must be better for driving the correct innovations. However we will see with passing of time.

        Keep up the good work!

  6. I bought my Polar V800 November 2014. After a while the battery charging area was swollen due to corrosion. Apparently a 1sr. gen problem. Polar immediately, and in a very friendly manner, swapped the watch. No problem at all since then! I wear the watch 24/7, swim-bike-run 10h weekly, and so far not a heartbeat missed. After heavy and daily use the watch still looks like new. I am very pleased with the meaningful updates and at the same time the features accommodate my needs. With all this positive it brings me to one single point of improvement. I am bridging my PM Ant+ data with a Viiiiva HRM, which perhaps offset the recovery recommendations because not using the Polar HR belt? Polar – please include Ant+ going forward! But wait! – why not buy another watch? No, I like the look and the build quality (and the brand).
    Then a word off appreciation for this site. In my opinion it hits the “nerve” what these “gadgets” are all about for the majority of us (and apparently many pro´s also).
    5Krunner – thanks for a great site!

  7. Hi there, I am looking for a triathlon watch – and the Suunto Ambit Sport 3 is calling to me – mainly because of the price! The main functions I am interested in are :

    1. swimming metrics , hr , laps , etc in a 33 m pool.
    2. Ultras/marathon running – I use a run/walk method (dodgy knees) – will the watch still work fine in gps + hr + interval mode for 8-10 hours?
    3. easy triathlon mode
    4. open water swims with good gps accuracy – so I know where I am going off course and how many extra meters I end of swimming.
    5. Swim-cycle-run brick sessions.
    6. (possibly calories from weight training, boxing?? or Am I asking for too much!)

    I feel given the £150-200 price of the Suunto HR in comparison to Polar V800 HRM (£250+), Garmin being out of my price range, Suunto would be the best option here. I have gone through all your reviews and Suunto seems to be my best option.

    Any advice appreciated!

    1. there is about to be a trade show in las vegas called CES. new products might get announced this week. see what comes out of the mix after that. otherwise yes, go for the ambit 3 sport.

  8. I read somewhere that there will be some news coming from Suunto in the end of March 2017. If this rumour is true, could it be the Suunto Spartan Sport WHR that will be released? This since there have been several improvements in the Suunto Spartan software recently in regards to 24/7 tracking?

      1. Thanks for a great review – after much study and soul searching I have just purchased a Garmin 935.
        Which very neatly proves your point that the slowest swimmer in the swim squad will be wearing the most expensive sports watch…sad but true.

        Thanks again for all the hard work!!

  9. You mention “Stryd (& EPOC, don’t know what that is)” support on the Ambit’s in a way that makes it sound like a feature not on the V800, however the V800 also supports Stryd, has for awhile in some limited fashion, and fully as of this spring/summer updates. Your picture caption seems to clearly indicate it (one of the 3 mentioned with “Stryd:”), but the text seems to imply that it doesn’t compared to the Ambit’s. Just pointing out a little clarity item there.

    1. thanks Chris.
      i’ll have a look at that.
      this post is fairly old but has been updated. it’s quite long and likely I overlooked a few bits.
      yes I have done various pieces on stryd+various devices, including v800 when the compatibility was first announced.

  10. Enjoyed your take. Although I prefer the Stryd Foot Pod over the Pioneer. Tried them both. Sometimes changing the battery in the Pioneer screwed up the electronics. Then went to the foot pod which has its own USB charger. When you buy an Ambit3 Sport ( not RUN ), you get a chest strap HRM comes with it. For me the cheapest way to go was thru Ebay. Reconditioned Ambit3 Sport and 920XT. Along with the Stryd Foot Pod. HR – Power – Cadence

    1. yep I liked the pioneer at the time but the footpod has won me over.
      ebay – yep, often cheap.
      amazon is weird sometimes really expensive from 3rd parties but once amazon have bought too much stock of their own then super cheap. sigh
      reconditioned – no, I definitely wouldn’t do that. they were originally sent back for a reason (isent back maybe 5? 6? 920xts over a few years)

      1. Well, I have been lucky so far. But I do not use them for swimming.
        Also, I do not own a Smart Phone. So, no Apps for me to deal with.
        And, I do not let them discharge to under about 50%. Keep them on their
        chargers when not in use. I do not know if that has any problems with
        their lifespan. I have only been using the watches for about 18 months now
        with no failures. Sometimes one of my 910XTs becomes squirrely. But
        I turn it off and back on to clear it.

  11. I just damaged my aging V800 while replacing the strap (those pins REALLY didn’t want to come out). It’s still soldiering on but I thought I’d see what’s out there when it gives up the ghost. How disappointing to find that the best watch in my price bracket is … another V800! The thing is what, 4 years old?! Maybe the Suunto is worth looking into, because the V800 looks like a museum piece these days. I love it, but I don’t wear it for its looks!

  12. Hey! Great Post ya. It’s Really Amazing and beautiful. All the options for watches are just amazing. I Really wish to buy such kind watches but I can’t. I Really liked the Thin Wrists one. It’s Diiferent and unique. Thank you for sharing.

  13. Would you allocate the Suunto Spartan WHR Baro in with the Suunto Sport WHR or the Suunto 9 Baro or was it forgotten altogether?

  14. Do you expect an eSim in a near or far future Garmin-watch? (or Polar, Suunto,..?)
    The only reason I take my Apple Watch along my runs is the fact that I can stream music and hopefully my prefered radio-stations soon and I’m reachable without my phone.
    But it looks quite silly wearing 2 watches (Garmin for training, Apple for streaming/phone).

  15. why no garmin under ‘The Best Triathlon Watch for Accuracy’ afraid to be embarrased by the reaults or? 🙂
    stunning that the 5year old PolarV800 still make it to the top in some of the polls…

    1. which Garmin do you think would deserve to be on that list?
      I couldn’t think of one that would deserve inclusion as potentially ‘the best’ in terms of accuracy. Happy to add one in…don’t think it would get (m)any votes

  16. If I buy a wahoo tickr or garmin heart rate monitor can i connect it to my iphone, my elemnt bolt (bike computer) and a garmin watch all at the same time? Or am i limited to just one or two of the 3?

    Thank you in advance!

    1. the tickr X has the ability to SIMULTANEOUSLY pair with one bluetooth smart connection (ios) and unlimited ANT+ connections (elemnt, garmin)
      the garmin hrm-dual has the ability to SIMULTANEOUSLY pair with two bluetooth smart connections (ios + either elemnt or some garmin models like 935) and unlimited ANT+ connections (elemnt, garmin)
      the garmin hrm-tri/run/swim has the ability to pair with unlimited ANT+ connections (elemnt, garmin)

  17. How long it takes to fully charge your Suunto Trainer ? I have some weird problem when it’s going up to 99% and then stops charging at all (also I need something like 2.5 up to 3hr to get it there). The second question I have, why do you recommend Vantage M over the Trainer for the beginners ?

      1. I’m talking about the SuuntoLink on desktop, but the same value is shown by the watch. Also 3hr of charging is totally normal for this device, nothing to be frightened?

        1. many devices/sensors report the wrong charge state. i would not worry about 1%
          i cant remember the full charge time for fully depleted but i’m sure it was less than 3 hours. Could it be the port on your computer or an old cable? try it with a new turbo-boosting smartphone charger that plugs into the wall just use your suunto cable. it SHOULD charge/modulate to the right rate.
          are you sure it is on the clip properly?

  18. Hi, great post. I’ll tell you as an athlete, the Garmin Forerunner 935 is one of the best watches I’ve had. This is the best watch for a triathlon. This device is currently considered the top of the Garmin company. The watch is equipped with the largest number of functions in this class of devices. Slim case, light weight, excellent long-lasting battery, allow you to use the watch for the Garmin triathlon for 24 hours using GPS. The watch can take steps and help with routes thanks to navigation, and can also become an indispensable assistant in the fitness room. Good luck!

  19. Any news about Forerunner 745? It seems it would be released half year ago, but still
    nothing 🙁

  20. Hi! I really like your site, I saw you updated your best running watches list and I was wondering about the triathlon watches list too. I’m about to buy a coros pace 2 primarily for triathlon, since my garmin fenix 5+ battery is a little weak now. Would you also recommend the pace 2 for triathlon or you just consider it for running purposes? Thanks.

    1. I cover some answers to your question in here: Pace 2 review:
      i would consider the crown vs buttons and the app of coros as negatives that would put me off. the app is ok and allows data export and the crown functionality does work well as a counter argument.
      COST is a great benefit and the saving of buying at the P2’s price point means you have meaningful cash to splurge elsewhere.
      If you have a higher budget then maybe hold fire for a little while longer

      1. thanks for the quick reply. I’ll make sure to use one of your affiliate links. in fact, I used one for the pace 2, waiting since beginning of oct, probably follow your advise…

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