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Smartwatches are relatively new in the consumer electronics industry compared to digital wristwatches. But these smart devices are skyrocketing in popularity. An estimated 20.1 million units were sold in the US in 2019 alone.
The thing is, almost every piece of these smart timepieces are waterproof to some extent. Unfortunately, you can’t wear just any type of waterproof smartwatch for every watersports or activity that involves wet conditions.
We have done some digging. In this article, you will discover some of the best watches suitable for different situations, from chilling by the beachside, running in light rain, swimming in shallow water, and diving deep underwater.
Anyone who knows a thing or two about smartwatches will agree that Garmin is the brand to beat when it comes to superior quality smartwatches. That’s why it’s not surprising to find the Garmin Vivoactive 4 taking the top spot on our list of the best waterproof smartwatch.
If you chill out a lot around the poolside or you enjoy swimming in the pool, you may as well buy the Vivoactive 4 as your digital training assistant. The watch provides impressively accurate swim tracking capability and stores your metrics in the Garmin Connect, where you can view data on your swimming time, distance, SWOLF, speed, pace, stroke, and more.
You can even view real-time data underwater through the transflective display, as long as you remain within the recommended 5 ATM waterproof rating. Purchasing the Vivoactive 4 gives you access to tons of free downloadable apps, widgets, and watch faces to help you personalize your smartwatch.
Excellent tracking accuracy
Digital training coach for 5K, 10K, and half marathon plans
The Samsung Galaxy Watch is designed to help you balance your mind and body. It does this efficiently with features that remind you to keep moving and functions that track your sleep cycle. You can manage stress levels with a built-in breathing exercise and guided meditation apps.
The smartwatch is rated 5 ATM, meaning you can take it for swimming, as long as you are not diving or snorkeling. Also, you want to keep it away from high water pressure, whether from a faucet or shower. You can expect up to 3 days of continuous use before charging, and you can power up wirelessly.
You can pair the watch with your Android or iOS smartphone through a Bluetooth connection, and if you have a smart home, you can control your appliances from your watch.
Fitbit Versa 3 is a cute, slim design smartwatch that works well in the pool. It is rated 5 ATM but doesn’t support open water swimming. This option is great for people who are not too keen on swim data. While it can track swim data, such as duration and distance covered, it won’t show you SWOLF data and stroke type.
You can customize the watch to suit your lifestyle so that it gives you bedtime reminders and control smart home devices using voice commands (built-in Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant). The GPS is quite accurate and can track your activities during hiking, cycling, or running. You can later check the intensity map of your exercises inside the Fitbit app.
You can expect the battery to last for about a week before changing if you only use it in smartwatch mode. Of course, switching to GPS tracking mode will considerably reduce battery life.
If you want a smartwatch suitable for intense watersports, such as sailing, swimming, and snorkeling, the Garmin Fenix 3 Sapphire might be just what you are looking for. This watch is waterproof rated at 10 ATM, meaning it can withstand water pressure equivalent to 100 meters.
The durable construction ensures that the smartwatch is resistant to discoloration, and the stainless steel bezel can withstand the stress of everyday use. The battery life is an impressive 50 hours in battery saver mode and up to 20 hours in GPS mode. If you use it as a simple watch, it can last up to 3 weeks before needing a charge.
The sports and fitness smartwatch includes training features that provide advanced running dynamics, recovery advisor, and more. You can choose from five different styles, including gray with a leather strap, rose gold-tone with a white band, and more.
Large Chroma display
Suitable for extreme watersports
Wi-Fi synchronization and very accurate GPS tracking
Vivoactive 3 is an excellent smartwatch choice for individuals who are serious about their fitness goals. The device comes with a built-in GPS feature and can track a wide range of activities, including pace, mileage covered, and stress level. It can even monitor your heart rate.
The watch is packed with plenty of swimming-dedicated apps to track and record your swim data, making it a great pick if swimming is your thing. It has a 5 ATM rating, so you can wear it while swimming in shallow waters or training in wet conditions.
If you enjoy listening to music while you train, this might not be the best pick for you unless you want to bring your smartphone along for your training sessions. However, the smartwatch has a huge plus, and that’s the contactless payment that allows you to make payment by simply placing the watch next to a payment terminal. Of course, you will have to link it to your payment cards first.
People who prepare a smartwatch that actually looks like a traditional watch instead of a sports watch might like what Apple has done with the Watch Series 6. It combines the superb swimming features from previous iterations into one larger design that allows you to have a better view of metrics.
The device is quite accurate and collects a great deal of swim data, including lap counts, distance, average pace, and can even differentiate between the various strokes you use during swimming.
The watch has both pool and open water support and is rated 5 ATM, so you don’t have to worry about taking it off when chilling by the pool or beach.
Germin Venu is a full-color touchscreen display smartwatch, the first from the brand. It is an excellent swim-tracking watch that lets you see your metrics (stroke count, pace, distance, calories, and SWOLF) in real-time.
The watch keeps a record of your stroke type, and you can view your data at the end of your swimming session directly on the smartwatch or in the Garmin Connect app. It also monitors your heart rate while you are underwater and offers a rest timer. The watch also supports third-party apps such as Strava.
In addition, Venu provides easy-to-follow, animated workouts right on your screen. These include yoga, strength, Pilates, and cardio. Garmin Venu is rated 5 ATM, but it is best suited for the pool. You don’t want to be wearing this into the open water on a weekend.
This is another entry from Garmin, and like other products from the brand, the Forerunner 235 is an excellent option, even though it is a lot more affordable.
The smartwatch is specifically designed with runners in mind, so you can count on this model if you are looking for a training companion to help you reach your goals while hitting the pavement or trail in both dry and wet conditions.
It tracks your heart rate, distance covered, pace, calories burned, stress level, and more. Besides showing your statistics, it uses the data to suggest useful coaching tips to help you attain your training goals. You can expect the battery to last for up to 9 days in normal mode. Switching to GPS tracking will dramatically reduce battery life to 11 hours.
Garmin Forerunner 235 has a waterproof rating of 5 ATM (50 meters), making it safe to use for shallow-water activities. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a touchscreen function because it is an older smartwatch model from Garmin.
If you prefer a slimmer and smaller Samsung Galaxy smartwatch that works well for the pool, you should look at the Active 2 model. Rated 5 ATM (50 meters), you can use this smartwatch both in the pool and open water, as long as you are diving.
This watch comes with dedicated tracking features that let you view your strokes, distance, and other metrics from the super AMOLED display. You will also find useful stats in the Samsung Health app.
You can use the smartwatch all day without noticing it on your wrist due to its lightness, slim-fit, and comfort level. However, wearing it throughout the day might not be possible because you might need to charge the battery quite often.
Not everyone wants a smartwatch with sports-specific tracking capabilities. If that’s you, then you might like the 321OU Smart Watch. It is a highly affordable watch, but that doesn’t make it any less smart. While it doesn’t come close to renowned brands such as Garmin and Apple, the watch is compatible with Android and iOS devices.
The smartwatch allows you to make and receive phone calls, get phone notifications, read texts, take pictures, and play music directly from the phone, thanks to the SD card and SIM card support.
The device won’t give you specific sports data, but it is a multifunctional tracker watch that monitors your activities while you wear it. It has a mileage counter, calories counter, pedometer, sedentary reminder, sleep monitor, and more.
It is important to note that 321OU is not suitable for swimming. However, you don’t have to take it off for hand-washing or in light rain. The smartwatch is slightly large, so it might not fit people with small wrists.
Lightweight and sturdy
Long-lasting battery life
Easy sync and navigation
Best Waterproof Smartwatch: Buyer’s Guide
It may seem like choosing a smartwatch that can work underwater is all about finding one within your budget, but that is far from being correct. There are a handful of important factors to consider when picking one of these devices.
Even within our recommended products, there are still differences that go beyond construction, price tag, and brand name. This section contains vital considerations when buying a waterproof smartwatch. We highly recommend reading and understanding this buyer’s guide before making a purchase.
Waterproof and Water-Resistant: What’s the Difference?
It is common for people to use the terms water-resistant and waterproof interchangeably, but they do not mean the same thing. Unfortunately, the misconception or misuse of terminology is not limited to consumers alone; even some brands make the mistake of using the terms as synonyms.
A device is water-resistant if some of its components (particularly the electrical parts) are protected from getting wet to a certain degree. The device can resist the penetration of water to some extent, but not entirely. In other words, water-resistance is a very low level of protection from water or wet conditions. A water-resistant watch can withstand light rain shower or the average hand-washing.
On the other hand, waterproof means impervious to water. That is to say; a waterproof device is completely invulnerable to water. But that is not always the case. Some devices, such as cameras and watches, are more waterproof than others. One way to know this is to look for a rating scale known as the Ingress Protection Rating (or IP rating); the higher the number on the rating, the better the waterproof protection.
A common and simpler way to tell the waterproof rating of a smartwatch is by looking at the ATM rating. ATM (or atmospheres) used in measuring waterproofness means the amount of pressure a watch can withstand. For example, an ATM rating of 3 indicates the device can withstand pressures comparable to about 30 meters underwater.
But here’s the thing. A watch with a 3 ATM rating does not mean it can be used to dive to a depth of 30 meters. Jumping from a diving board into a pool or ocean is definitely not a shallow-water activity like swimming. Plus, you don’t want to wear a watch with this rating when bathing or pampering yourself in a hot tub.
Typical waterproof smartwatch ratings are:
3 ATM (30 meters): The watch is water-resistant and can resist splashes and light rain showers.
5 ATM (50 meters): The watch is waterproof and can be used for swimming in shallow water. It is not suitable for diving or snorkeling.
10 ATM (100 meters): The watch is waterproof and can be worn in most watersports, including sailing, snorkeling, and swimming. But jumping off a cliff or diving is not an option.
20 ATM (200 meters): The watch is waterproof and is suitable for all kinds of watersports and diving.
Choosing the best waterproof smartwatch is not just about waterproof ratings. You need to think about several other factors, as discussed below.
If you want a smartwatch that will help you achieve your fitness goals, you should think about the tracking features included. Many options usually keep track of the distance covered, speed, and even calories burned during an activity.
But if you are serious about your fitness, you should consider choosing a smartwatch that provides advanced tracking features, such as GPS-based tracking, recording stress levels, heart rate monitor, hydration reminders, and even give you coaching advice.
GPS may seem like an unnecessary feature to look for in a swimming watch, but even if you primarily perform watersports, you still want to use your smartwatch outside the pool or ocean, right? A built-in GPS gives you location-based tracking without the need to bring your smartphone with you when you are out jogging, running, or cycling.
Smartwatches are available in different price ranges. While high-end options are generally more valuable, you can find affordable watches with plenty of useful features. The recommendation is not to make your buying decision solely on price. However, you want to be wary of cheaper models with functions that sound too good to be true. In most cases, you get what you pay for.
Smartwatches, like smartphones, come with a wide variety of apps and allow you to download apps from app stores. Some of these are useful for everyday life, while the majority are fitness or health-oriented (although they don’t replace medical advice).
The more complex functions that are in use in a smartwatch, the faster the battery drains. You want to check the specifications to see how long the battery lasts in normal mode and with some of its sophisticated functions in operations (for example, GPS tracking). Also, consider how long it takes to fully charge the battery.
Take note of the operating system, memory, storage, and processor speed. These specifications are important if you want a very responsive smartwatch. For example, if you plan to stream music during training, you might want to consider a watch with bigger internal storage.
Most smartwatches are designed to seamlessly connect with mobile devices or smartphones. Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connectivity is a given; you seriously don’t want a watch that can’t pair with your smartphone because that would mean you have to bring your phone along for every training activity. A watch that pairs with your smartphone can provide phone notifications, weather alerts, and other useful information.
This is purely a matter of personal preference. Some smartwatches come in sleek designs, and others look more rugged. Yet, others are lightweight, while some offer plenty of optional bands and faces. Keep in mind that a smartwatch design is mere aesthetics and is not as important as the watch’s functionality.
The best waterproof smartwatch that suits your purpose may not necessarily check every single box from the above considerations. However, it is crucial that you think about what is most important to you and select a smartwatch that works for you.
Regardless of how beautiful a watch is, buying it will be almost useless if it doesn’t serve your purpose. You can avoid such costly mistakes by first zeroing on why you want the timepiece in the first place and then find out its capabilities before making your buying decision.
Outdoors, I’m in my element, especially in the water. I know the importance of being geared up for anything. I do the deep digital dive, researching gear, boats and knowhow and love keeping my readership at the helm of their passions.