Choosing a Sports Watch: The Complete Best-Choice Buying Guide

If you were considering choosing a sports watch, you have come to the right place.

Even if you were not convinced about whether you need one of these watches, you are still in the right place.

We have gathered everything you need to know about sports watches, down to choosing the right one for your needs. At the end of this piece, you would see if they are worth your money – and what to look out for when shopping for one of these watches.

Before we jump into the meat of the piece, though…


What is a Sports Watch?

The definition of what a sports watch is has changed well over time. Thus, most of the explanations and classifications of sports watches that you will find online today will be, at best, vague.

Sports watches started as those timepieces with a legible, easily readable face and water resistance to boot. This definition fits in right with the Rolex Oyster Perpetual’s likes, which were taken on climbs of Mt. Everest.

Looking at that, the definition is not wrong.

When climbing a mountain, you don’t want a watch that you would have to squint to read. You want to get everything at a glance. You also want to go into areas where moisture is a given without worrying about your watch not working on coming out of the other side.

In line with that, sports watches are also revered for their durability and ruggedness. After all, how do you expect to subject them to extreme conditions without breaking if they are not built to last in the first place?

Today, the definition has expanded.

Different sports have different requirements.

While a runner might fancy a chronograph on their watch to time runs, diver’s watches will benefit significantly from rotating bezels. Hikers also love when their watches have all of an altimeter, barometer, compass, and thermometer, among other things.

Swimmers will enjoy the lap timers in addition to waterproof benefits. In the same vein, hunters and anglers have specific requirements for their wristwatches too.

All that combines to tell us that the perfect definition of a sports watch does not exist.

Simply put, a sports watch is a solidly built piece of time-telling machinery with additional features to aid an individual in executing their preferred sports at the highest level.


How Do I Choose A Sports Watch?

This question would not have been an issue sometimes back. With the number of sports watches littering the market today, it is not surprising that we get questions on the line of “how do I choose a sports watch” quite often.

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to sports watches. To ensure you always choose the best one for yourself, follow these tips:


#1 Activities

Determine the activities that you will use the watch for.

Knowing yourself, that should not be hard at all.

Competition between sports’ watch manufacturers plays right into your corner here. You can either decide to get highly specialized watches designed for specific activities or go for multi-sports units. The latter is what we recommend for those involved in multiple sports or trying their hands out at other sports soon.


#2 Purpose

Some sports watches are only to be worn when you are going on the said activity. An example of that is the Garmin Foretrex 401 for hiking and the Mares Nemo Wide Dive Computer Watch for, well, divers.

These watches are not designed to be worn as everyday timepieces and will only come out of their boxes on the day you need them.

On the other business end of things, there are excellent sports watches that can double as standard units. A good example is found in smartwatches (like the Apple Watch series, Samsung Galaxy watches, Fitbit series, Fossil units, etc.), which also function as a daily tracker.

These versions of sports watches can help you stay on top of your overall health game (as related to your preferred sports) with their daily tracking. You get an outstanding value for money on them from monitoring your sleep, water intake, calorie intake, and steps to other factors.


#3 Additional Features

You should know that additional features mean more money, but it’s a good spend when you require those features.

As discussed in the section above, sports watches can also pack additional perks to spice up the deal. New generation watches even bring a heart rate sensor and oximeter to the table.

Here, it is worth considering if there are any other advanced metrics you would like to track.

As a side note, you can get the best value for money on sports watches that do not offer all the results on the unit themselves. Providing a connection to your smartphones/ computers, you can export your sports activity results later for processing.

When you can afford the conventional units that give you all the results on the watch, though, don’t compromise.


#4 Battery Life

Your sports watch’s battery life is equally as important, especially when you are using the watch as a daily driver.

If you were not considering this before, allow us to paint you a scenario:

Your sports watch could have a battery that dies on you daily – or once every two days.

Fortunately, manufacturers also have settings to keep the watch off sports mode when not in use. You can get as much as ten days to one full month of battery life in the normal watch mode.

Of course, not all sports watches are created equal. Ensure your unit has such provisions if you need them.


What Is the Best Smartwatch for Exercise?

The Apple Watch is the best exercise smartwatch for iPhone users. Android users, especially those with a Samsung smartphone, will be better off with any of the Samsung Galaxy Watches. Other suitable options for Android phone users are Fitbit units, Fossil smartwatches, and Garmin’s productions.

Regards the Apple Watch, this is the best time to pick a Series 5 watch. They still pack unique features that enable them to compete against the latest smartwatches. They also sell for lower now since the Series 6 watches have made the market already.

Regards the Series 6 watches, we don’t see a reason to go for them unless you have the extra cash to spare. If you can do without the oximeter sensor, you don’t need the Series 6. For a feel of the new-generation tech without the additional costs, though, you are better off with a Series 6 SE watch.

For Samsung users, either the Galaxy Watch Active 2 or Galaxy Watch 3 will do wonders for you. We chose both because of our love for the bezels on the Galaxy Watch 3, even though the Active series are more fashioned for sports-minded individuals.


Do I Really Need A Running Watch?

The most important things you need for running are a good pair of running shoes and the desire to pick up the pace. Every other thing should come second.

A running watch won’t make you run faster; neither will it slow you down. However, it could help you modify your running exercises so well that you become a better runner.

You can get the following perks by using a running watch:

  • GPS Tracking – instead of estimating how far you ran manually, you get a close/ accurate measurement of that distance automatically. You can also find the way back with this feature if you were running in unfamiliar territory.
  • Time tracking – know how long it took you to complete every run, what each lap took to complete, and more.
  • Hydration timer – remember to stay hydrated with a running watch. Some of these watches come with alarms and sensors to let you know when you haven’t been drinking enough water as well.
  • Heart rate sensor – your heart rate will change when you are running. This change is usually not something to cause concern, but what if? The Apple Watch, for example, has been known to save the lives of multiple wearers in otherwise mortal scenarios. In most of these cases, the wearers didn’t even feel anything was out of place until they got the watches’ alerts.
  • Music – you don’t have to take your phone running with you to keep the music playing. Some running watches (smartwatches, most often) allow you to store some music that you can play (via Bluetooth, preferably) on the run.

There’s more where that came from, but you get it already.

To reiterate, the running watch will not directly make your run better. Used right, though, you will find ways to improve the quality of your running exercises.


Is Apple Watch Good for Sports?

Short answer: yes.

That is not without reason. Here are some areas where Apple watches excel for sports:

  • Heart rate monitoring – stay healthy while at your favorite sports. Keep an eye on your heart activity so that you are not stressing yourself in the process.
  • Oximeter – only available on the Apple Watch Series 6 (as of the time of this writing), you can also track your blood oxygen levels. That ensures you are not overexerting yourself at any time.
  • Waterproof – what is a good sports watch if it is not waterproof? From the Series 2 to the new Series 6 models, the Apple watches can all be used up to 50m underwater without fear of water damage. That is not suitable for diving or snorkeling, but it gets the job done for swimmers and other water sports.
  • Sports modes – Apple outdid itself here, coding different sports modes into its watches. From the 12 different activity/ sports modes currently supported, you can choose for the watch to track your yoga, hiking, running, cycling, swimming, rowing, and other forms of sports also.
  • Connectivity – the connectivity that the watch offers to iPhones makes exporting and reading data from your sports events even more desirable. Keep an eye on your metrics with the dedicated watch and health app on the iOS-enabled devices.
  • Automatic workout detection – you don’t always need to tell the watch that you are starting a workout. Get started, and it commences tracking the activity almost immediately.

The major downside for many sports watch lovers when it comes to an Apple watch is the build.

For something supposed to be sporty, the Apple Watch is considered a little bit on the fragile side. The Cupertino-based company has worked on that by supplying silicone bands (which also keep the sweat out) and scratch-resistant, stronger glass to the overall build. That said, you should not subject your Apple watch to extensive abuse anyway.


Which Sports Watch Are You Getting?

From basic sports watches to the current wave of smartwatches, you have everything you need to decide in here.

Leveraging everything we have said, what sports watch will you be choosing? Or, would you even be needing one at all?