When competing at US Master’s Swimming national championships I was able to try out the soon to be released Garmin Swim watch. The watch is intended for indoor pool use, not open water swimming. It does not have a GPS, but instead calculates your distance and stroke by the use of an accelerometer programmed inside the watch. After signing my life away at the Garmin vendor booth, in case I didn’t bring it back they could hunt me down, I strapped on the watch and took it to the warm up pool to try out.
The watch itself is black and the same size as a regular Timex ironman wristwatch. The watch has 6 easily accessible buttons and an easily readable digital display with button activated backlight. The design appears sturdy and contains a CR202 traditional watch battery that should last about one year. When needed, the owner, can easily remove the back of the watch and replace the battery. After checking out all the features it was time to get in and try it out.
Before swimming the watch has to be set with the size of pool that you are swimming in. The watch comes preset with selections of 50 meters, 25 meters, and 25 yards. There is also a custom setting if you encounter something different. I selected the 50 meter size and jumped in the water and warmed up with a 200 free. When I finished I stopped and looked at the watch and it had correctly calculated my distance, the number of lengths I swam, my pace, and calories burned. It was also keeping track of my total swim time. I continued warming up and mixed up the strokes a bit to see if that affected the accuracy of the watch. I did a 200 IM and again the watch correctly interpreted the distance traveled. I kept swimming until I hit 600 meters and finished warming up. I was able to review the total distance I swam, the calories burned, total swim time, lengths completed and my pace per 100. These were all the preset fields, but Garmin says the fields can be customized to display other things if you prefer. I returned to the Garmin booth and the Garmin Sales person told me how the watch will wirelessly sync over bluetooth after completing your workouts. When the workout is downloaded you can review several things about your swim. The watch can differentiate between the different strokes and will tell you how far you swam each stroke, but as of now this information can only be seen after downloading the information into the computer. There is also a training intervals feature that can be used during practices to keep track of the time, distance, and number of intervals that you have completed. The watch can be turned into the interval mode and when completing each interval you push a button to indicate you are resting and then start time again when you leave on your next interval. At the conclusion of the interval you will be able to see your total time, total rest time, and total swim time, along with your total distance and pace. There is also a drill mode that you can turn the watch to when completing drills. Since the watch is programmed to recognize the 4 competitive strokes, drills may not be recognized, so you can go to drill mode and when you are done, the watch allows you to enter your total distance to add to your practice total. A couple of the other features it has includes calculating your stroke rate and swolf. Swolf is the number of strokes that it takes to complete a length plus the time it takes to complete the length. Swolf is a measure of swimming efficiency. The lower the number the better. In all it seemed that the watch worked very well. For any fitness swimmer it would make a great training tool and would be a great way to keep track of your workouts.
Size and design make it like wearing a regular wristwatch
Easily readable display
Correctly interprets distance and stroke type
Long battery life
Wireless workout downloads
Watch does not display the distance swum of each stroke, has to be seen after downloaded.
I did speak with the Garmin reps about this and they said several swimmers at the meet had commented on this and would likely change that with a software upgrade in the future.
The only thing I would like to see added, would be a way to pre-program practices into the watch and then select them and swim them at the pool. Hopefully Garmin will get some feedback and add this feature in a software upgrade.
Garmin is releasing the watch to the public in August and will retail for $150.00.