Triathlon watches are effective training companions for multisport athletes of all kinds. Here are the best on the market in 2021.

GPS-enabled watches offer reliable water resistance, precise fitness tracking, and a complete range of smartwatch capabilities. For those exercising with triathlon fitness in mind, the right watch can substantially improve your training.

A high-end tri watch can tell you how fast you are going, how far you have gone, and the intensity of your workout relative to yourself and others. It gives you essential health information and tells you how close you are to reaching your training goals.

Watch brands often offer a range of devices, each decked out with different modes and their own activity-specific features. Additionally, many watches on the market sync up easily with information-sharing and tracking apps like Strava to keep you connected to your training community.

On this list, we’ve compiled a list of high-quality triathlon watches that are available in 2021. After comparing lots of options on the market, we have identified the watches that we believe offer the best performance and value. While some are more expensive than others, this list includes watch options for all kinds of triathletes.

From big names like Garmin to lesser-known options offering exciting innovations, here is our list of the best triathlon watches of 2021.

Feel free to scroll through to see all of our recommended buys, or jump to the category you’re looking for:

The Best Triathlon Watches of 2021

Best Overall: Garmin Forerunner 945

garmin forerunner 945

Garmin’s Forerunner series has long existed at the pinnacle of high-quality athletic watches.

As the flagship model in the series, the 945 ($600) is stuffed with maximum bells and whistles. A very long list of this watch’s impressive features includes onboard music storage and playback for Spotify users, temperature tracking, detailed training plans, and focused metrics. It also sports a longer battery life thanks to Sony GPS chipsets.

Although this watch’s casing and strap haven’t changed compared to its predecessor, the Garmin 935, the 945 offers lots of fresh and exciting capabilities. First, this watch allows you to train anywhere with detailed, routable map services.

The new 945 includes Garmin’s Elevate optical heart-rate sensor. Additionally, this watch can detect and accurately track your stress levels throughout the day.

For those athletes already familiar with Garmin’s user interface, this watch will be easy to adapt to. For those who are new to Garmin, it will take some time for you to learn how to navigate the watch’s wide array of features.

Remember that this watch tracks key information about your lifestyle throughout the day — not just when you’re working out. Whether you are exercising or sleeping, the watch can track and store data via your smartphone or other devices. You choose which metrics that you want personalized feedback for, and the Forerunner 945 does the rest.

Overall, this watch is very effective in its goal of providing you with accurate assessments of your physical activity in every area of your life. It points out trends in your breathing patterns, stress management, sleep cycle, training progression, and more.

We recommend this watch for multisport athletes who are seeking an advanced, capable smartwatch that is packed with features. For those on a budget or for those seeking a simple athletic watch without the frills, this isn’t the best choice. The Garmin Forerunner 945 is an all-in-one watch at the top of its class.

Features:
  • 5 ATM water resistance
  • 1.2” display
  • 240 x 240-pixel display
  • Gorilla Glass display
  • Garmin Elevate heart-rate sensor
Battery Life:
  • Up to 36 hours in GPS mode (without playing music)
Pros:
  • Tracks sleep data automatically
  • Sport-specific metrics plus running, cycling, and swimming
  • Watch pairs with Bluetooth headphones and can play saved MP3s or Spotify playlists
Cons:
  • More expensive than other watches
  • Garmin user interface can take some time to figure out and navigate effectively

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Best Budget: Coros Pace

coros pace

The Coros Pace multisport watch ($199) is a hybrid of pricey, feature-packed smartwatches and consumer-oriented fitness trackers. Originally introduced in 2018, the Coros Pace has undergone several software updates since its release.

Now, it has been perfected as a solid and reliable entry-level triathlon watch. We think it offers impressive value for the price.

Although this watch is marketed generally as a multisport watch, it was specifically designed to meet the fitness needs of triathletes. High-end competitor models from Garmin may offer more sport modes, but the Coros Pace excels at tracking activities that triathletes care about most: running, swimming, and cycling.

In triathlon mode, the user can easily switch between training modes. With a simple, user-friendly interface, this watch is a straightforward and practical training accessory.

The associated Coros App allows you to completely tailor your training regime. The app monitors and logs every detail from your workout, including heart rate, distance traveled, and steps completed. If you prefer third-party services like Strava, the Pace can sync up easily with those, too.

This watch offers impressive GPS capabilities. To track your location and route, the watch uses BDS, GLONASS, and GPP, while also allowing you to easily combine and switch between the three modes.

In the midst of a high-intensity workout, the watch’s well-ventilated silicone band remains secure and comfortable. The durable plastic housing and clear glass face are both effectively resistant to scratches. The face is sleek and visually pleasing thanks to an LED display and color screen with a resolution of 240 x 240 pixels.

Coros claims that the 310 mAh lithium-ion battery will hold a charge for 30 hours with an active GPS connection. However, many users find that the battery does not quite live up to this claim. The strap tends to be the first component to wear out on this generally durable watch, but it can be easily replaced.

Whether you’re swimming in a pool or open water, running on the trail or treadmill, or cycling indoors or out, the Coros Pace will keep up with you. It offers the helpful feedback you need to progress as an athlete. And it’s a lot of watch for the price. We recommend it to those in search of great value.

Features:
  • Activity tracking in various swim, bike, and run modes
  • Triathlon setting combines swim, bike, and run modes and switches between them automatically
  • Provides metrics including pace, cadence, elevation gain/loss, training effect, stride length, interval training, sleep monitoring, and steps
  • Optical heart-rate monitor
  • Easily replaceable, well-ventilated silicone band
  • Clear and durable LED display with glass cover
  • BDS, GLONASS, and GPS capability
  • Connectivity with Coros app and other tracking apps like Strava
Battery Life:
  • 310 mAh lithium-ion battery lasts up to 30 hours while a GPS connection is active
Pros:
  • Great value for $200
  • User-friendly interface
  • Comfortable to wear all day
  • Good battery life
  • Lightweight
  • Satisfactory water resistance
Cons:
  • Lack of navigation features
  • Not as customizable as some competitors

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Best Non-GPS Triathlon Watch: Timex Ironman Essential 10

timex ironman essential 10

This watch may seem simplistic compared to other options on this list — and it absolutely is.

On the Timex Ironman Essential 10 ($28-32), you find just what the name suggests: bare essentials. There is no full-color LED display, Bluetooth connectivity, or GPS tracking included in this device. Simply put, this is a tried-and-true, highly accurate timekeeper that foregoes the features in favor of unbeatable reliability.

For athletes who need a simple, budget-friendly athletic watch, the Timex Ironman Essential 10 is the way to go.

There are no hidden features here. This watch is free of bells and whistles. For $30, what you’ll get is a clean, sporty design. It’s an easy-to-use stopwatch with 10-lap memory, a durable resin strap with a classic buckle closure, and battery life that lasts a very, very long time.

Triathletes have been utilizing dependable Timex watches for decades. Use it to set an alarm for those early morning workouts, and keep it on throughout the day if you like. The screen also lights up with that classic Indiglo for nighttime use.

For swimming, this watch provides excellent water resistance up to 330 feet deep. Large buttons allow easy control of the display, even while on the go. Tall numbers let you read the face from all angles.

No, the Timex will not automatically upload your afternoon run to Strava, nor will it count your steps or make you dinner. However, in a market filled with feature-packed triathlon watches, the Timex offers exactly what so many others cannot: simplicity and an approachable price tag.

Features:
  • Stopwatch with 10-lap memory
  • Alarm and countdown timer
  • Durable resin strap with simple closure
  • Indiglo light-up display
  • Water-resistant up to 330 feet
  • Streamlined yet sporty design
Battery Life:
  • Up to several years without changing the battery
Pros:
  • Affordable
  • No fancy features to distract you from your workout
  • Reliable
  • Good water-resistance rating
  • Accurate timer and alarm
Cons:
  • Very few features, but that’s the point

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Best of the Rest: Polar Vantage M

polar vantage m gps watch

The Vantage M ($279) is Polar’s midlevel multisport triathlon watch. It’s designed to be a more affordable version of elite multisport fitness watches like the Garmin 945 or Polar’s own Vantage V. With all the essentials, plus a handful of clever bonus features, the Vantage M is yet another good choice on the triathlon watch market.

The Vantage M does not have a touch screen like the Vantage V. Instead, the user navigates using five physical buttons, two on the left and three on the right. While lots of multisport watches have confusing interfaces, this one is notably intuitive.

Although this watch effectively tracks various activities, it really shines in the running category. The Vantage M tracks running metrics such as step counts and run distances with an impressive degree of accuracy.

A variety of built-in training programs, including steady-state tempo training, are great for athletes working to fine-tune specific aspects of their performance.

This Polar model has some fun, unique extras. Guided stretches and a built-in test to estimate VO2 max offer practical resources to round out your workout. This watch can also be put into flight mode, which is great when surrounded by sensitive Bluetooth equipment or for those who work in high-security areas.

All of the watches in Polar’s multisport line are handsome and visually sporty. Compared to other offerings on the market, Polar’s watch casings are super sleek and low profile. Among the lightest comparable watches available, the Vantage M weighs just 1.59 ounces, including the strap.

The Vantage M features a 1.2-inch color display with 240 x 240-pixel resolution. Three sizes and various strap colors allow you to customize the watch to your wrist size and style preference.

In the pool or open water, the Vantage M’s WR30 rating means it is water-resistant up to about 98 feet. For athletes who spend lots of time in the water, Polar’s higher-end options offer improved water resistance.

The Polar Vantage M is lightweight and durable with a quick-to-learn interface. For triathletes who favor running above all other activities, this is a top-of-the-line option. Although it lacks some smartwatch features like an accessory app for customizing your experience, it shines as a functional companion for committed athletes.

Features:
  • Polar’s Training Load Pro provides information about how your training affects your body
  • Highly accurate optical heart-rate monitor
  • Metrics for swimming, cycling, and running
  • Customizable wristband options
  • WR30 water resistance (up to 98 feet)
  • Charging cable and instruction manual included
Battery Life:
  • Up to 30 hours with GPS active
Pros:
  • Lots of data viewing options on display
  • Included extras that guide you through breathing and stretching exercises
  • Onboard GPS and heart-rate monitor
  • More affordable than other competitors
Cons:
  • Fewer smartwatch features than other options
  • Swimmers and cyclists may be disappointed by running-specific focus

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Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Triathlon Watch

Cost

Triathlon watches vary a lot by price. Consider your budget as you think about making a purchase. Multisport watch options can be as inexpensive as $30, like the Timex Ironman Essential 10.

On the other end of the scale, high-end Garmin watches can cost upward of $600. Try to select the watch that best fits your needs and is also within your price range. On this list, we have included watches in various price categories.

Watch Brands

Although there are lots of companies that make triathlon watches, some are much more well-known than others. Many of the larger, more well-known companies such as Garmin and Suunto make great products, but they are not the only producers of high-quality watches.

No matter which brand you choose to buy, it’s wise to consider their guarantee and warranty terms before purchase. A clear guarantee and a reasonable warranty can assure you that the watch will perform as it should. If anything stops working prematurely, you’ll be able to replace the defective watch.

Features

Triathlon watches currently offer more features than ever before. The key is to identify the watch with the best features package to supplement your lifestyle and athletic training regimen. Different features allow different forms of data tracking and interfacing with other smart devices and social apps.

While any good triathlon watch offers metrics for running, cycling, and swimming, some favor one activity over the others. For example, the Polar Vantage M provides lots of tools to support running training and exercise, but fewer features for swimming and cycling.

Structural features and durability should also be a consideration. Some watch housings are more durable and impact-resistant than others, mostly depending on materials and design. If your workouts are likely to put a lot of strain on your watch due to exposure to rough conditions, you may want to prioritize hardy materials and durability.

A properly fitted and comfortable strap is also important. During a high-intensity workout, the blood vessels dilate, and muscle size and arm diameter increase. Therefore, it is a benefit to be able to adjust the strap quickly in the midst of a workout or race. We recommend a soft silicone wristband with plenty of ventilation, especially when sweat is a factor.

garmin
Photo credit: Garmin

Some common features that tend to determine the price of various watch options include smart notifications, optical heart-rate monitors, and color LED displays. Many triathlon watches also measure your active pace and compare it to your average and best pace in real time.

Some also have GPS that track your location and distance, and that can automatically upload this information to social apps like Strava. With various features and functions, triathlon watches allow you to assess your progress as an athlete by comparing your current performance to both your previous training sessions as well as your goals.

For triathletes who prefer to train with music, some high-end watches like the Garmin Forerunner 945 can store and play MP3s and also connect to your Spotify account and smartphone.

Water Resistance

Because every triathlon watch is designed to wear while swimming, they all come with varying water-resistance ratings. To determine which water-resistance rating is right for you, consider how often you will be swimming, the duration of each session, and whether you’ll be mostly swimming in pools or open water.

Some watches are rated specifically for open water, and athletes planning to swim in the ocean should especially prioritize this feature. A watch that doesn’t match an athlete’s water-resistance needs may end up malfunctioning and break down prematurely.

Certain high-end watches are rated up to depths of 100 meters or more. While swimming, a high-end watch will track your distance, and some will even evaluate your stroke pacing and technique. In the pool, some watches can monitor your laps, and they automatically determine which type of stroke you are doing.

Of the watches on this list, the Garmin Forerunner 945 is rated especially highly for open water swimming.

Battery Life

Except for a few simple options from brands like Timex, most triathlon watches come with a USB charging cable. Once fully charged, battery life varies a great deal from watch to watch. Ideally, your watch will not suddenly die on you while you are in the middle of a training session or race.

While high-end watches with lots of features offer plenty of benefits, these features, like GPS and Bluetooth connectivity, are known to quickly drain a watch’s battery. Select a watch that offers the right balance of features and battery life for your personal needs.

The working duration of any watch’s battery depends on how many functions are running at the same time. Some watches, like the Coros Pace, can last for multiple days at a time without being charged — unless it is actively tracking location via GPS. When GPS is active, the Pace claims to last up to 30 hours on a single charge, which is impressive compared to similar models.

For races and competitions, you’ll want to know that your watch’s battery is reliable. Simple watches like the Timex Ironman Essential 10 will last for years on end without requiring a battery replacement, but they don’t have GPS capabilities.

garmin forerunner 945
Photo credit: Garmin

Connectivity

Many multisport watches are compatible with other smart devices. Interfaces between your watch and your phone or computer can be a helpful training asset that should be considered. Users who are interested in uploading their progress automatically to social apps like Strava will want a watch with this capability.

Athletes who enjoy music during training should seek out compatibility with Bluetooth headphones. The potential for interfacing with various other smart devices and workout accessories is endless. For some, these features are excessive, but for others, they provide effective support and training motivation.

Weight

Triathlon watches are designed to be lightweight and sleek so that they do not create drag or slow you down. Heavy watches can be uncomfortable and distracting. The best watch is one that you forget you’re wearing when you aren’t looking at it.

In 2021, lots of features will not necessarily add up to a heavy watch. However, the combination of features and an impressively light design does usually add up to a more expensive watch. Still, total weight is worth considering as you shop for a watch.

Heart-Rate Monitor

There are many benefits to monitoring your heart rate during your training sessions and throughout your day. A reliable and accurate heart-rate monitor allows the user to keep tabs on changes in their heart rate — crucial information for any triathlete.

Your heart rate provides insight into developments in your fitness over time. Heart rate is also a useful metric for better understanding your recovery time. Of all the information that a good multisport watch can provide, heart rate is perhaps the most telling of an athlete’s overall fitness level.

High-end watches have integrated optical heart-rate monitors. Using sensors, the watch tracks your heart rate and shows it on the watch’s display for easy reading.

To get the most accurate reading, optical heart-rate monitors usually need to be calibrated using your resting heart rate. This is a typical step in the setup process of any multisport smartwatch.

Once your watch possesses this crucial information about you, it can help you by setting individualized targets and training goals. A heart-rate monitor is a standard tool for dedicated triathletes who want to understand their own performance from a physiological standpoint.

FAQ

What Is the Best Triathlon Watch?

The best triathlon watch is the one that meets your needs as an athlete and has the capabilities you need as you pursue your training goals. In our list above, you’ll find several high-quality options for users with different preferences based on budget, features, and style.

Do I Need a Triathlon Watch?

A triathlon watch can be an extremely helpful and compact tool for many kinds of training athletes — not just triathletes. The main draw of these multisport watches is their ability to monitor and track various kinds of data for different kinds of activities.

Some of the watches on this list also offer mainstream smartwatch capabilities like smartphone notification tracking and Bluetooth connectivity. If you’re a dedicated athlete interested in tracking your training progression, a triathlon watch may be the ideal tool for you.

garmin forerunner 945
Photo credit: Amazon

Do Triathlon Watches Have a Heart-Rate Monitor?

Many triathlon watches include an integrated optical heart-rate monitor. These monitors need to be calibrated to your resting heart rate to provide personalized, accurate assessments of your fitness level.

Heart-rate monitors are one of the most consistently useful features of a good triathlon watch. If this is important to you, you’ll also want to make sure that the watch you buy has an easy-to-read display that clearly shows your heart rate in real time.

Should My Tri Watch Have GPS?

It depends. Not all triathlon watches have GPS. If you like to track your route and distance during workouts, you’ll want a watch with GPS capabilities. This list includes several high-quality GPS-capable watches that we recommend.

Remember, watches with GPS tend to be more expensive, and the battery will drain more quickly while GPS is activated.


Have a favorite triathlon watch? Let us know in the comments, and we’ll check it out for future updates to this article.


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