Best of all Triathlon Watches in 2024 – one clear winner – Garmin

Which Is The Best Triathlon Watch for 2024?

 

The Best Triathlon Watch for April 2024 is a Garmin Forerunner 955, it’s the clear winner with every feature and retailers are now allowed to discount it. The newer but more expensive Forerunner 965 confused the choice but, for me, the 965 is the one I bought for triathlons, duathlons & running this year but only because it has a slightly larger and prettier screen but the same features.

More: Garmin 955 Deals HERE

Garmin 965 Deals Here

Updated 16Apr 2024

Yes, there are better options for specific needs like music, thin wrists, great aesthetics, lasting for a full Ironman distance race or supporting all your sports sensors. If the price is a major constraint, much older watches like a Garmin Fenix 5S Plus or Forerunner 935 have the same core triathlon features as the new 955/965, selling at considerably lower prices. If you have tighter budget constraints and are intrigued by running with power, the Polar Pacer Pro or Coros Pace 3 will be more to your liking. Don’t buy a second-hand GPS watch, the battery will be significantly degraded.

Garmin Forerunner 955Stamina
955 Solar

Thus there is a different Best Triathlon Watch for each kind of triathlete and it’s NOT OBVIOUS which is the best triathlon watch for everyone. So, I’ll separately cover ALL TYPES of triathletes and I’m sure you fit into one or more of those categories.

FORM Swim Goggles Specifications

The basics: 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…ever; my recommendations; a link to the best prices for you from my partners in your country like REI, Amazon and Power Meter City.

I have trained a lot with ALL of these watches.

Garmin 935 vs Forerunner 965
Garmin 935 vs Forerunner 965

Best Overall Triathlon Watch – Which is the Winner?

All things considered, the best overall triathlon watch is the Garmin Forerunner 955. It can do almost everything tri-related and more besides.

Sure, it’s expensive and perhaps an AMOLED screen and QuickFit bands might be desirable but you will be able to live with what is on offer. Rest assured that virtually EVERY triathlon-related feature and kind of connectivity are included in the price. There are no nasty subscriptions to worry about. 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 cut-off time of an Ironman.

Triathlon Feature examples: proper custom multisport mode, FE-C trainer support, ANT+/BLE power meter support, running dynamics, STRYD support, daily workout suggestions, 3rd party plan support, complex structured workout execution support, custom interval mode, decent lightweight shell and battery life, every possible data metric on display, every key Firstbeat physiology insight, training peaks compatible, zwift compatible, strava compatible, ie fully triathlon compatible 😉

 

Best Triathlon Watch

Coros Pace 3 specifications comparison featured

Best Budget Triathlon Watch

The Best Budget Triathlon Watch is the Coros Pace 3 at below $/£200

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, easy-to-read watch. It has a large number of features on a super-lightweight watch but its app could be improved.

 

Best Triathlon Watch Garmin 945 Sigma id.TRI Polar Vantage
Spartan Trainer, Stratos, 935 – no winners here, old school

Buy: Coros Pace 3 here

Best Garmin Triathlon Watch

The absolute best Garmin Triathlon Watch is 2024’s Forerunner 965 as it has all the Fenix 7/Forerunner 955 features plus a pretty screen. The trade-off you make is for a higher cost and shorter battery life.

Both the FR965 and the Forerunner 955 have ALMOST EVERY CONCEIVABLE triathlon feature and a good battery to get you through two KONAs. 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, and show you maps.

However, the much older Garmin Forerunner 935 still represents the best bang for your buck even in 2024; turn off a battery-eating feature or two for your Ironman race and all will be fine. I sold my 945 and re-bought a 935 which I now just use solely as a back pocket sports logger alongside my FR965 on my main wrist but I prefer my Apple Watch for more general smart usage (non-sports). (Must Read: Apple Watch Ultra Critical Review)

Garmin Forerunner 965 ❌ all the cr*p bits ❌ did I just waste my money? This review says…maybe but it remains my go to.

Best Triathlon Watch – by Price Band

Here are lists of the best for each price category.

  • ‘Luxury’ Watch – MARQ ATHLETE 2 – needs updating, not recommended now for this category.
  • Premium Price – Garmin Epix 2
  • Mid-Price – Garmin Forerunner 955 (945LTE version offers little extra, 965 offers prettier screen), Garmin Forerunner 745 is smaller but with a similar number of features
  • Low-Price – Best Coros Pace 3, The Amazfit Stratos 3 is a decent, cheap tri watch which still has lots of smart features – like music support but its onboard sensors need improvement.
Use discount code THE5KRUNNER at coros to get a free $30 accessory

 

Best Triathlon Watch Garmin Enduro
Off-road multisport options: Enduro, Vertix & Suunto 9

Best Polar Triathlon Watch

The Polar Vantage V3 has advanced structured workouts that support running power, it’s definitely the best Polar triathlon watch. Some athletes would trust its physiology feedback more than they would from a Garmin but I love the V3 for the quality of the case construction, vivid AMOLED screen and the overall aesthetic appeal of the design. The cheaper Polar Pacer Pro is almost nearly as feature-full but adds a degree of race-worthiness with its thin and lightweight construction, again I’ve used these for racing just for that reason. Polar’s FLOW platform is good; along with my partner, I prefer how it presents and summarises our activity data.

MY best Polar Triathlon Watch is the slightly thinner Pacer Pro but if you are looking for recovery analysis and a more premium finish then go for the Vantage V3.

Best Triathlon Watch Garmin 945 Sigma id.TRI Polar Vantage

 

Best Triathlon Watch Polar Vantage
V2 Shown…it’s a nice picture!

Best Suunto Triathlon Watch

Suunto RACE is an awesome triathlon watch. It looks beautiful and has a fantastic AMOLED touchscreen. It has good GPS, clever battery life management and, like Garmin, a whole host of 3rd party apps that include STRAVA Relative Effort, Training Peaks integration and special automatic effort lap modes (hill, loop, sprint). Suunto watches are much easier to use than Garmin with more streamlined menus, if you want a new, free feature you download the one you want – unlike Garmin that come pre-installed with a huge number of features you’ll never want or use. The app is good too!

The best Suunto Triathlon Watch is the Suunto RACE.

Links to partners in your country, some offer discounts – especially with the loyalty schemes linked to from here with REI and Amazon

Suunto RACE running

 

 

 

Best Triathlon Watch – Which has the best optical Heart Rate?

The jury is still out on this due to the vagaries of oHR accuracy and how it varies from person to person and according to the environment & sport.

You will be surprised to know that the new oHR sensor in the Apple Watch is the best I have experienced. The next best would be the Garmin Forerunner 745 and that did come close. However, after the 745 comes the Garmin Enduro and the optical HR was back to ‘less than acceptable’ again, maybe it was the colder weather? So I just can’t trust Garmin to get this right and even Apple has off days. Get a chest strap!

The Best optical Heart Rate Monitor in a Triathlon Watch is the Apple Watch.

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apple watch ultra 2 map footpath app

Best Multisport Watch – for Thin Wrists

See next section

Apologies for the assumption that only women have thin wrists…I HAVE THIN WRISTS

Best Triathlon Watch – for Women

 

The best triathlon watch for women is the Garmin Forerunner 745 which is basically an older Forerunner 945 packed into a smaller case. Garmin also support features for women like menstrual cycle tracking and includes other features like music support and safety alerting. The 945/955/965 have those same female-specific features. Remember you can now also consider a smaller Apple Watch Series 8 41mm which also has a triathlon mode

The Best Triathlon Watch for Thin Wrists is the Garmin Forerunner 745 BUT if you also want music and a more robust case then go for the Garmin Fenix 7S Pro Sapphire. If they are both too expensive consider the Polar Pacer Pro or Fenix 5s Plus and for the cheapest option we return to the Sigma iD.Tri. For the best-looking, small format tri watch that you would wear for 24×7 usage consider the Suunto 9 Peak.

Option: Also seriously consider the Garmin Forerunner 255s which is a cheaper, small-format triathlon watch with a music option.

Option. Also seriously consider the Suunto 9 Peak Pro which is a high-quality, small-format multisport watch

Suunto 9 Peak removing straps pins Review of best Suunto triathlon watch

 

Garmin Forerunner 745
745 vs 945…same, huh?

Best Triathlon Watch – for Techiness & Features

The geeky amongst you (like me!) will buy the Garmin Forerunner 965 or similarly any of the Garmin Fenix 7/7PRO ranges. The techiness you will love will lie in the connectivity with any kind of sensor, an awesome range of 3rd party CIQ apps/data fields and with full integration to all the key 3rd party data platforms. Perhaps worthy of note in this category is the Coros Vertix 2 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?

 

Which is the Best Triathlon 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. Do NOT buy an Apple Watch Ultra unless you want to use a battery save mode! With the old 935’s battery life fading as it ages, the best option here is the uber-batteried Forerunner 955 Solar (not the 965). 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. Do you want last lap normalized power on display? You got it. Do you want to know the wind direction or temperature? You got it. Do you want an app store full of Garmin sporty goodness? Yep…you got that too. You’ve got it all.

The Best Triathlon Watch for Ironman is the Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar

Polar Vantage V2 Specifications
Polar Vantage V2

Best Multisport Watch for Beginners-with-intent

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. In 2024 this one is often at a stupidly low price of £/$/Eu99 – go for the Wahoo ELEMNT Rival, it’s EASY to use with all the unnecessary configuration stuff squirrelled away onto the excellent app, this makes the watch itself simple to use, unlike a Garmin whose watch menus are labyrinthine in its complexity. As time passes, you will discover more really clever triathlon features, eg to automate transitions or cleverly work together with any other Wahoo equipment you might own. Many Garmin owners begrudge their watches but you will find that most Wahoo owners are advocates for their watches and bike computers. There is a reason for that…the Rival looks very much like a sturdy Garmin Fenix with bits of titanium prettiness thrown in for ruggedness and it should be a good future-proof solution as your interest in the sport develops.

The Best Triathlon Watch for Beginners is the Wahoo ELEMNT Rival, it does all you will ever NEED anyway. It’s good for life!

Other options are the excellent Polar Pacer Pro and the now-discounted Garmin Forerunner 255 (two five five).

 

Shop Wahoo – Choice of Retailer Partners

buy Wahoo Elemnt RIVAL specifications

Best Triathlon Watch – with Maps

The availability of maps on the Forerunner 965 makes the 965 the winner in this category.

Although now the competition is starting to up their game. Apple Watch has good maps as does Polar Vantage V3 and Suunto RACE. A word of warning though, a small watch format is not great for viewing maps and following routes all you really need is a watch that supports breadcrumb routes and the competition all does 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. If you must get a map on your wrist then perhaps instead consider the Fenix 7X, which has a slightly larger screen area for that map and all the same features but it is a larger format watch.

 

Best Multisport Watch – for the Future

Garmin released the Forerunner 965 in 2023 and this will be the leading tri-watch for at least a year. There might be a smaller version later in the year if you want to wait

Apple’s Watch Series 9 (2023) might offer some interesting options for the casual triathlete and subsequent iterations are likely to be very similar. I don’t expect apple’s triathlon software features to change much over the next few years.

Polar has already released its lower-end model (Pacer Pro) and a new, premium Vantage 3.  Whilst the Vantage won’t be replaced until 2027, the Pacer Pro could be updated in 2024.

Suunto direction of travel is hard to predict. It’s RACE watch is going to be hard to beat by the company. If anything I expect they will release larger much more expensive watches than this one that aren’t that much better.

 

Jabra Elite Active 75t | Jabra Elite 75t

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 can support multiple online music providers alongside triathlon functionality. The 955 is the winner of the best triathlon watch with music but you can equally consider the  Fenix 7 Pro (or Forerunner 265/256s Music) as all Garmin-s music-enabled watches support podcasts, on-watch MP3 playback, Deezer, Spotify and Amazon Music. I doubt Apple Music or YouTube Music will be added to Garmin. Coros now also boasts music support but I doubt onboard music will come to either Polar or Suunto for years…if ever.

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 it 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 955 (or 755 or 255 Music).

The Polar Vantage V2 can control music on your phone and the Coros Vertix 2 can store and play MP3 music files.

Best Multisport Watch – All terrains, other disciplines

Multisports can mean much more than simply the triathlon disciplines. If you start to introduce adventure multisport races then you might need support for custom multisport profiles to include Kayaking, canoeing, MTB riding, trail running and more. Only Garmin can do that properly. Then if you are looking for the ruggedness of the construction and a battery life that is verging on limitless you are again directed back to Garmin and, specifically the Garmin Enduro – complete with solar charging. The Enduro is a pro trail watch that just so happens to have all the Garmin multisport features…all of them. It can follow breadcrumb trails but does NOT otherwise have onboard maps.

 Garmin Enduro
Garmin Enduro

Your Votes for the Best Multisport Watch

Over 2000 of you have voted here for your favourite multisport watch. Have your say or just check out the results…

buy Wahoo Elemnt RIVAL specifications
Wahoo Elemnt RIVAL

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

Best Triathlon Watch - Category Winners
  • Best Overall Triathlon Watch - Garmin Forerunner 955 - 94%
    94%
  • Best Garmin Triathlon Watch - Garmin Forerunner 955 - 94%
    94%
  • Best Budget Triathlon Watch - Sigma iD.Tri - 88%
    88%
  • Best Triathlon Watch – by Price Band (Luxury) - Garmin MARQ Athlete - 95%
    95%
  • Best Triathlon Watch – by Price Band (Premium) - Garmin 955 - 94%
    94%
  • Best Triathlon Watch – by Price Band (Mid Price) - Polar Vantage M2 - 89%
    89%
  • Best Triathlon Watch – by Price Band (Low Price) - Sigma iD.Tri - 88%
    88%
  • Best Triathlon Watch – for Women - Garmin Forerunner 745 - 93%
    93%
  • Best Triathlon Watch – for Techiness & Features - Garmin 955 - 94%
    94%
  • Best Triathlon Watch – for Ironman - Garmin 955 - 94%
    94%
  • Best Triathlon Watch for Beginners - Wahoo ELEMNT Rival - 89%
    89%
  • Best Triathlon Watch – with Maps - Garmin 955 - 94%
    94%
  • Best Triathlon Watch – with Music - Garmin 955 - 94%
    94%
  • Prettiest Triathlon Watch - Garmin Forerunner 965 (2023) - 95%
    95%
93%

 

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9 thoughts on “Best of all Triathlon Watches in 2024 – one clear winner – Garmin

  1. Hey, thanks a lot for a great breakdown, but why Fenix 6S Pro is better option for women if they like music over FR745? They both have music and battery life is exactly the same for both of them.
    (I agree with sturdiness part)

    1. I’d choose F6SPro (61g) if you want full maps, FR745 (52g) if you want lighter weight. Otherwise feature set is nearly identical. I find lighter weight equals better comfort, and they are all impressively durable.

  2. Hi, great overview as usual! Still in the presented taxonomy the category “best for running/cycling with power” is not there: which one would be the winner? (A better place to post this would have been in the “2021-best-running-watch…” article, but it seems not possible to post comments there…which watch would win in the “best for running with Stryd” category?)

    1. that’s a good question.
      it’s of interest to me but i think it’s fairly niche. I think i covered it in my best running watch
      anyway, to answer your question.
      garmin – non-native power is a massive downside
      Suunto – don’t have enough power features
      coros is very good, perhaps it could be argued to be the best. but the app lets it down for me.
      Wahoo – need to add structured power workouts then I’ll think about it some more.
      so
      Polar wins. the only downside for me with polar and running power is that if your stryd battery runs out then you will have some inflated on-the-wrist power stats to deal with. sounds minor but it annoys me, I have asked them for the ability to be able to disable wrist-power. then there’s the issue of getting the data out of flow in just the way i want it. I would use polar devices MUCH more if they natively supported dropbox. I’ve asked for that too.
      Apple watch is pretty cool. but you’re using the stryd app (other apps work with stryd data too). i cant say this wins if I’ve just criticised garmin for non-native power.

      basically: in 99% of cases people have the watch before they buy the stryd so it’s a moot recommendation.

  3. Hello,
    EIther you’ve leaked a future fw update or you’ve fumbled, but the Suunto9 does NOT have Strava live segments 🙂
    Thanks for the overview of all the key actors.
    You should emphasize a bit more on the “(features-list) size does not matter” aspect for these watches 🙂

  4. Hi guys. I am willing to purchase a new triathlon watch. Music storage is a must.
    Should I go for the 945 or wait a few months for a new release from Garmin or Suunto?

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