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Triathlon Sport Watches Review: Garmin Swim 2

Designed for swim tracking, this watch has lots of multisport tracking abilities, too

We’re doing a series of reviews of Triathlon Sport Watches over the next week. In this, our second of the series, we’re having a look at a watch really geared towards swim training, but that can more than admirably serve as an excellent choice to track triathlon training.

Here’s the list of reviews we’re doing in the series:

  • Suunto 9
  • Garmin Swim 2
  • Suunto 7
  • Garmin 945
  • Polar Grit X
  • Apple Watch Series 5

Garmin Swim 2

While multisport watches typically offer swim-tracking capabilities, triathletes and swimmers who are looking for more detailed data from their swim workouts will want to have a look Garmin’s Swim 2. While it can also track your bike and run workouts, as the name suggests, this watch really shines when it comes to swimming.

That said, I think there is a very good argument as to why this watch can serve as a go to watch for triathlon training, especially for those looking for a smaller watch. My wife, who has a tiny wrist, struggles with the size of many of the training watches she’s tried in the past. At 42 x 42 x 11.4 mm and weighing just 36 g, the Swim 2 is tiny compared to many of the other watches we’re looking at.

There’s a reason you see so many triathletes with Garmin computers on their bikes and watches on their wrists – the company dominates the market when it comes to multisport watches. The Swim 2 illustrates why – the attention to detail and ease of use make this a logical choice.

While the Swim 2 does offer run, cycling and other cardio modes – we’ll get to those momentarily – its real strength and focus is on swim training. Typically, when it comes to working out in the water, collecting HR data can be a challenge. One of the most innovative features you’ll find in the Swim 2 is its wrist-based heart rate tracking. That means you won’t have to wear a heart-rate strap or use a sensor like the Polar OH1 strapped to your arm or temple on your goggle strap. We were pleasantly surprised to find the wrist-based Swim 2 and the data we collected from the OH1 attached to our temple were pretty much the same, and both lined up well any time we did an old-fashioned pulse count.

Like the swim function you’ll find in other multisport watches, you set things up before a pool workout by choosing the length of the pool you’re jumping into in either yards or metres. If you’d like you can create your own workout using Garmin Connect on your phone or computer and load that onto the Swim 2. Another great option for those trying to work on pacing is the ability to set up alerts which can beep every time you’re supposed to get to the wall.

The auto rest feature was the most appreciated new addition to the watch compared to the original Garmin Swim watch. This means that you don’t have to hit the lap button during an interval set.

For open water swimming the watch uses its GPS function to track your distance, and also provides lots of excellent data like your pace and stroke rate. You don’t dominate the GPS watch category without having excellent GPS tracking, and the Swim 2 really nailed things in our tests. We did a comparison with the Apple Watch Series 5, which dropped the GPS coverage a few times during a lake swim, while the Garmin maintained coverage throughout.

We found the GPS tracking to be especially consistent with the Garmin Swim 2.

That GPS capability works well for tracking bike and run workouts, too. While you don’t get anywhere near the same tracking and data capabilities for those workouts that you do while swimming, all the basic info is there. For those who have a bike computer and will only be using this watch to track swim and run workouts, the Swim 2 is really worth a look.

With the HR sensor you also enjoy a number of health monitoring features including daily resting heart rate, all-day stress tracking, step counting, relaxation reminders and sleep. The “smart” features are extensive, too, including notifications from your phone, calendar, weather, “find my phone,” and you can even control smartphone music. The watch pairs with Garmin Connect Mobile, too, so workouts can easily be uploaded to TrainingPeaks or other apps with ease.

The battery life on the Swim 2 is more than impressive – we found our real-life use very similar to Garmin’s predicted 72 hours in pool mode and 13 hours in GPS mode.

If keeping track of your swim training is your primary goal, though, the Swim 2 is a no brainer. For those looking for a smaller watch and aren’t tied to as much detailed run and bike features, the Swim 2 might be what you’re looking for.