Best triathlon watch 2024: track your swims, cycles and runs more accurately

The best triathlon watches for the discerning athlete from Garmin, Polar, Suunto and more

Best triathlon watch 2024: Quick links

Polar launches Vantage V3 multisport watch and debuts new sensing platform called Elixir

(Image credit: Polar)

00. Top 3↴
01. Best overall: Garmin Forerunner 965
02. Most rugged: Garmin Fenix 7
03. Best budget: Polar Pacer Pro
04. Best for small wrists: Garmin Forerunner 255S
05. Best for recovery: Polar Vantage V2
06. Best lightweight: Coros Pace 2
07. Best mid-range: Garmin Forerunner 745
08. Best die-hard: Wahoo Elemnt Rival
09. Best premium: Suunto 9 Baro Titanium
10. How to choose
11. How we test
12. FAQ

Is the best triathlon watch a must-have? It isn't, but monitoring performance and recovery with a multisport watch can provide a competitive edge over your fellow triathletes. Track your swims, cycles and runs without excessive button pressing using one of the below performance wearables.

If you're new to the sport, a proper triathlon multisport watch can help you train more effectively than going on intuition alone. Triathlon watches differ from the best running watches as they can be used for multisport training, not just running. They also provide more accurate heart rate reading than even the best fitness trackers.

Need even better accuracy? Pair your triathlon watch with one of the best heart rate monitors. One of the most common triathlon mistakes is to get your pacing wrong by not knowing which heart rate zone you should train in. A dedicated tri watch can help get that right and provide data to train and race more efficiently in the water, on the bike or on your feet.

The Top 3

Best triathlon watches to buy right now

Why you can trust T3 Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

Best overall

Garmin Forerunner 965 reviewT3 Awards 2023 Logo

(Image credit: Matt Kollat/T3)
Best triathlon watch overall

Specifications

Weight: 52 g
Battery life: See full review
Water rating: 5 ATM, Swim (Withstands pressures equivalent to a depth of 50 metres)

Reasons to buy

+
Amazing, bright AMOLED display
+
Long battery life
+
All the features and sensors that made the Forerunner 955 the top multisport watch are present
+
Lighter and thinner than its predecessor

Reasons to avoid

-
UI has garish colours

The Garmin Forerunner 965 is a mind-blowingly capable multisport wearable and our current favourite triathlon watch. It's everything we hoped the Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar would be – and then some.

Despite using the same sensors and features as its predecessor, the Forerunner 965 is lighter and thinner, which is not a bad thing for enthusiasts and pros alike, who often prefer lightweight gear to optimise performance.

The superb AMOLED display is easy to read and looks stunning. The UI colours are a bit garish for our taste – we prefer the saturated yet palatable interface of the Apple Watch Series 8 – but we appreciate the saturated colours are easier to read quickly, which, yet again, is a desirable feature for a performance wearable.

If you need an accurate multisport watch and have enough money to buy one, the Garmin Forerunner 965 is your best option. We loved it during testing, and you'll love it, too. 100 per cent.

Read our full Garmin Forerunner 965 review.

Most rugged

Garmin Fenix 7XT3 Awards 2022 Winner's Badge

(Image credit: Matt Kollat/T3)
Most rugged triathlon watch

Specifications

Weight: 73 g with silicone band (case only: 50 g)
Battery life: See description below
Water rating: 10 ATM (splashes, rain or snow, showering, swimming, diving into water, snorkeling, high-speed water sports)

Reasons to buy

+
Real-time stamina meter is great for monitoring energy levels during triathlons
+
Power Glass extends battery life
+
Touch controls
+
Fast and reliable GPS

Reasons to avoid

-
Quite bulky and heavy

With the Fenix 7, Garmin improved the formula that made the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro such a well-received rugged wearable. 

Adding the Power Glass was a stroke of genius; it combines the solar harvesting feature with the durable Sapphire glass lens, which means the Fenix 7 is tougher and has a longer battery life than its predecessor, which was evident when we tested the watch both in and outside the water.

The new Stamina feature is a great addition and measures short and long-term stamina during running and cycling activities. (This feature is not on by default; you must turn it on in the settings.) Knowing how much juice you have left in the tank can come in handy and even encourage you to push harder at the end of a session. We found this especially useful during long tri races.

For this and other features (such as Body Battery) to work correctly, you'll need to wear the watch 24/7, and it might be a bit of a challenge for some as the Fenix 7 is bulky. Thankfully, the watch's waterproof, so you don't have to take it off ever, even when you're in the shower/pool.

Read our full Garmin Fenix 7X review. (The Garmin Fenix 7X won the Best Multisport Watch category at the T3 Awards 2022)

Best budget

Detail shot of the Polar Pacer Pro on a laptopT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Matt Kollat/T3)
Best budget triathlon watch

Specifications

Weight: 41 grams
Battery life: Up to 7 days (Smartwatch mode), up to 30 hours (GPS mode)
Water rating: 5 ATM, Swim (Withstands pressures equivalent to a depth of 50 metres)

Reasons to buy

+
Display is visible in broad daylight
+
GPS picks up comparatively fast
+
All the tests from the Vantage V2 are present (minus the Orthostatic and Leg Recovery tests)

Reasons to avoid

-
Design and UI feel dated
-
Battery life is not mind-blowing
-
Not the coolest looking watch

The Polar Pacer Pro is one of the best Polar watches you can get right now, especially if you aren't super keen on touchscreen operation.

We like the new display of the Pacer Pro – it's bright and easy to read in broad daylight. It's much, much faster in terms of processing power than the Vantage M2, its closest predecessor, which is evident in screen transitions and load times.

The Polar Pacer Pro has most of the tests the flagship Polar does and can even measure running power on the wrist.

We found the new Walking Test is a bit so-so; it's interesting but gives you a random VO2 max estimation, which isn't all that helpful. Hopefully, further firmware updates will improve this in the future.

The Pacer Pro is the best value-for-money triathlon watch right now, so if that's what you're after, you might as well get one right now.

(You might wonder why the 4-star Pacer Pro is ranked higher than the 5-star Forerunner 255S on this list; that's because they have similar functionality, but the Polar is A) cheaper (if only slightly), and B) can measure running power on the wrist without external sensors.)

Read our full Polar Pacer Pro review.

Best for small wrists

Garmin Forerunner 255S review

(Image credit: Matt Kollat/T3)

4. Garmin Forerunner 255S

Best small triathlon watch

Specifications

Weight: 39 grams
Battery life: 14 days in smartwatch mode, up to 30 hours in GPS mode
Water rating: 5 ATM, Swim (Withstands pressures equivalent to a depth of 50 metres)

Reasons to buy

+
New heart rate sensor
+
New multi-band GNSS support
+
Tracks heart rate variability

Reasons to avoid

-
No solar charging
-
You need an external sensor to measure running power and advanced running metrics 

The Garmin Forerunner 255S is the smallest Forerunner to date, yet it offers more functionality than some larger triathlon watches. Primarily marketed as a running wearable, the mid-range Forerunner 255 and its smaller sibling, the Forerunner 255S, are indeed brilliant triathlon watches for people on a budget.

The standout new feature, compared to the capable Garmin Forerunner 245, is heart rate variability (HRV) tracking. HRV adds another layer to the extensive recovery and training features already included on the Forerunner 255S. You also get the Race Widget and the triathlon mode.

The best thing about the watch, though, is that it enables people with small wrists to have access to pro workout features without any compromises. You can train like a pro using a small watch and a heart rate monitor – and that's worth the hefty price tag.

Read our full Garmin Forerunner 255S review.

Best for recovery

Polar Vantage V3 reviewT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Matt Kollat/T3)

5. Polar Vantage V3

Best triathlon watch for recovery

Specifications

Weight: 39g (without strap), 57g (with strap)
Battery life: up to 16 days (smartwatch mode), up to 61h (GPS mode)
Water rating: WR50

Reasons to buy

+
Updated sensor platform
+
Lightweight design
+
Tons of recovery features and tests
+
Large, bright display

Reasons to avoid

-
Over-estimates heart rate/calories burned
-
Smartphone syncing could be smoother
-
UI isn't the prettiest

The Polar Vantage V3 is a powerhouse multisport watch renowned for its extensive recovery features and advanced training capabilities. Despite some drawbacks like overestimating heart rate and calorie expenditure, it shines with its updated sensor platform and lightweight design.

Its robust feature set extends beyond traditional activity tracking, catering to the needs of endurance athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike. Its multisport capabilities enable seamless transitions between different activities, making it ideal for triathlons and other multi-stage events.

The watch's focus on health optimisation makes it a go-to choice for triathletes, offering comprehensive features such as ECG, SpO2, and skin temperature tracking. With its ability to track a wide range of activities and provide detailed insights into performance and recovery, the V3 stands out as a versatile companion for athletes striving to reach their peak performance levels across various sports disciplines.

Read our full Polar Vantage V3 review.

Also consider: The Polar Vantage V2 caters to serious athletes with its robust features, exceptional build quality, and comprehensive performance data. While lacking in casual amenities like music storage and NFC, it excels in providing invaluable insights for runners and cyclists, making it a top choice for dedicated fitness enthusiasts seeking data-driven improvements.

Best lightweight

Coros Pace 3 review

(Image credit: Matt Kollat/T3)
Best lightweight multisport watch

Specifications

Weight: 30g (without strap), 39g (with strap)
Battery life: Up to 24 days (smartwatch mode), 38 hours (GPS mode)
Water rating: 5 ATM (Suitable for surface water activities and not for diving)

Reasons to buy

+
Updated GPS and heart rate sensor
+
Longer battery life
+
Touchscreen display (might not be a positive in everyone's books)
+
New outdoor workout modes added

Reasons to avoid

-
Design and appearance feel dated
-
Touch interactions aren't as smooth as other smartwatches
-
Offline music only works if you have MP3s

The Coros Pace 3 is a compelling option in the realm of multisport watches, especially for runners and triathletes seeking robust features without a hefty price tag.

Its recent updates elevate its capabilities, boasting enhanced sensors and functionalities conducive to effective training. While its aesthetic may lack the sleekness of more premium models, the Pace 3 prioritizes substance over style, delivering dependable performance tracking and extended battery longevity.

With the inclusion of outdoor workout modes and improved GPS accuracy, it caters to the diverse needs of fitness enthusiasts. Despite its modest appearance and occasional touchscreen hiccups, the Pace 3 remains a commendable choice for those prioritizing functionality and value in a wearable device.

Whether you're logging miles on the road or pushing through a swim leg, the Pace 3 stands as a reliable training companion, offering a blend of affordability and performance that's hard to beat in its price range.

Read our full Coros Pace 3 review.

Best mid-range

Garmin Forerunner 745 on white backgroundT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Garmin)
Best mid-range triathlon watch

Specifications

Weight: 47 grams
Battery life: Up to a week (Smartwatch mode), up to 6 hours (GPS mode with music), up to 16 hours (GPS mode without music), up to 21 hours (UltraTrac mode)
Water rating: 5 ATM, Swim (Withstands pressures equivalent to a depth of 50 metres)

Reasons to buy

+
A triathlon-focused Forerunner!
+
Handsome display
+
Almost identical to Forerunner 945 but lighter and cheaper

Reasons to avoid

-
Comparatively short GPS battery life

The Garmin Forerunner 745 is a fantastic triathlon watch. In fact, it's Garmin's one and only dedicated multisport wearable, designed from the ground up to track triathlons.

It's somewhat cheaper than the Forerunner 945, trims some of its over-the-top features (e.g. archer widgets), and offers more precision and faster GPS connection than the cheaper Forerunner 245, especially if you are using your watch for triathlons, which we can safely assume you will.

We can go on forever dissecting the many features of the Forerunner 745, but there is no point. You have seen most of them in other Garmin watches already, and the main advantage of the Forerunner 745 is not that it brings a lot of innovation to the table but uses the right blend of previously tried-and-tested hardware and software.

Read our full Garmin Forerunner 745 review.

Best die-hard

Wahoo Elemnt Rival on white backgroundT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Wahoo)
Best triathlon watch for die-hard athletes

Specifications

Weight: 53 grams
Battery life: up to 14 days (Smartwatch Mode), up to 24 hours (GPS or HR Mode)
Water rating: 5 ATM (water resistant up to 50 meters)

Reasons to buy

+
Extremely easy to set up and use
+
Clear data screens
+
Touchless Transition tech

Reasons to avoid

-
Less features-packed than rivals
-
No navigation feature, for instance
-
Sensitive to colour specification

Although not as rugged as Garmin's Fenix range (or anything from the Suunto catalogue, for that matter), nor as good as a general fitness watch as, say, a Fitbit, the Wahoo Elemnt Rival majors on its swim/bike/run focus. Wahoo's smartwatch delivers a bucketload of data that requires minimal interaction with the tech, allowing you to focus on performance with only a cursory glance at the watch's face.

"The Touchless Transition is an incredible innovation and works very well", we said in our review, "At the same time, the fact data is seamlessly handed over to other Wahoo bike computers will please anyone who is already invested in the ecosystem." The software has been updated since the launch, so the Elemnt Rival can now analyse sleep and has STYRD integration, among others.

Read our full Wahoo Elemnt Rival review.

Best premium

Suunto 9 Baro Titanium on white backgroundT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Suunto)
Best outdoorsy triathlon watch

Specifications

Weight: 76 grams
Battery life: 7 days (Smartwatch mode), 25 hours (GPS mode, up to 170 hours with battery saver on)
Water rating: 10 ATM (splashes, rain or snow, showering, swimming, diving into water, snorkeling, high-speed water sports)

Reasons to buy

+
Sleek premium design
+
Large screen with amazing resolution
+
Ultra long battery life
+
Premium feel

Reasons to avoid

-
You'll need Suunto Smart Heart Rate Belt and Suunto Smart Sensor to track heart rate under water
-
No NFC or music storage

If you need long battery life, you'll need the Suunto 9 Baro Titanium: it can last up to 170 hours in Tour mode, the most aggressive battery-saver option on the watch. Granted, you probably won't use this mode all that often, considering the watch does not do much else apart from tracking your position with an 'OK' precision, so no wrist heart rate, Bluetooth or vibration.

The Titanium version of this endurance athlete's favourite watch might not be cheap, but it features a titanium bezel and sapphire crystal glass for added ruggedness. The case is also water-rated to 100 ATM, so you can easily swim in it. That said, it can't read heart rate on the wrist underwater without external sensors, but it can track loads of other metrics such as swim pace and distance, stroke rate, count and type, and even SWOLF.

From a build quality point of view, the Suunto 9 Baro Titanium feels closer to an outdoor watch than a tri watch. It is more robust and certainly heavier than the Garmin Forerunner 945, and people with smaller wrists might not appreciate the watch's size.

Read our full Suunto 9 Baro Titanium review.

How to choose the best triathlon watch for you

Choosing the perfect triathlon watch is no small feat. First off, it needs to be as waterproof as a submarine, because let's face it, you're going to be swimming, biking, and running like a champ.

Look for one that can last longer than a marathon – we're talking at least 6-8 hours in GPS mode to ensure it survives the whole race without keeling over. Some batery beasts can even go for days in GPS mode – perfect for those ultra-endurance athletes who like to push the limits.

Then there's the swimming part. Your watch needs to do more than just float; it should also be able to track your underwater antics with precision. We're talking heart rate, stroke count, pace – the whole shebang. And let's not forget the transition between sports. You don't want to be fumbling with buttons while you're trying to peel off your wetsuit like a superhero, do you? Look for one with seamless sport-switching, so you can focus on the race, not your watch.

Comfort is key when you're racing for hours on end. Nobody wants a watch that feels like a shackle on their wrist. Opt for a flexible strap and smooth casing that molds to your arm like it was made for you. And let's not forget durability. Your watch should be able to take a beating and come out unscathed – whether you're hitting the pavement or accidentally banging it against your bike. Look for tough materials like Gorilla Glass or Sapphire crystal lenses and sturdy casing that can handle whatever you throw at it.

How we test the best traithlon watches

Testing triathlon or multisport watches requires a comprehensive approach to evaluate their performance across swimming, cycling, and running disciplines. 

Firstly, we assess the watch's waterproofing capabilities by subjecting it to rigorous immersion tests. We evaluate its ability to track swimming metrics such as stroke count, lap times, and heart rate, paying close attention to accuracy and consistency.

Next, we transition to cycling, testing the watch's GPS accuracy and connectivity while on the move. We analyse its ability to track speed, distance, and elevation changes accurately, comparing its readings to known benchmarks and other devices for validation.

During the running phase, we focus on the watch's performance in tracking pace, distance, and heart rate while on foot. We assess its usability and readability on the go, considering factors such as screen visibility in different lighting conditions and ease of accessing key data fields.

We evaluate the watch's battery life in various modes, including GPS tracking, multisport mode, and everyday use. We also assess the watch's durability and comfort, considering factors such as strap design, casing materials, and overall build quality. 

For more information on how we test at T3, click on the link now.

FAQ

What's the difference between running and triathlon watches?

Running watches focus on tracking runs with features like GPS, heart rate monitoring, and pace measurement. In contrast, triathlon watches cater to multi-sport athletes participating in swimming, cycling, and running events. They are waterproof, offer multisport modes, and provide advanced metrics for swimming. Triathlon watches have longer battery life, recovery tracking, and navigation tools for training and races. Built with durability in mind, they withstand outdoor conditions and may include bike mounts. While both track fitness, triathlon watches meet the unique needs of triathletes, offering comprehensive features for each leg of the race.

Are Fitbits good for triathlon?

Fitbits can be suitable for basic triathlon training due to their fitness tracking capabilities, including heart rate monitoring, step counting, and GPS tracking for running and cycling. However, they may lack some advanced features specific to triathlon, such as multisport mode, open water swim tracking, and detailed performance metrics. Serious triathletes may prefer dedicated triathlon watches from brands like Garmin, Suunto, or Polar for more comprehensive training and race analysis.

Is Garmin 245 a triathlon watch?

The Garmin Forerunner 245 is primarily designed for running and general fitness tracking. While it offers many advanced features for runners, such as GPS tracking, heart rate monitoring, and performance metrics, it lacks some specific features needed for triathlon, such as open water swim tracking and multisport mode. For dedicated triathlon training and racing, you may want to consider Garmin watches from the Forerunner 7 series or the Fenix series, which are designed with multisport capabilities in mind.

What triathlon watch do pros wear?

According to an article on slowtwitch.com, the top 15 pro men finishers at Kona 2019 mainly used Garmin and Polar watches.

Apart from the winner, Jan Frodeno, who now works with Wahoo and uses a Wahoo Rival, according to a press release from Wahoo: "RIVAL is already being used by some of the world’s best triathletes, including Ironman World Champion Jan Frodeno, American Ironman World Record holder Heather Jackson, and two-time Olympians Alistair and Jonny Brownlee."

Although not famous for his triathlon feats, Eliud Kipchoge uses a Coros Pace 2, an excellent watch that can also be used for triathlons as well (not to mention, it's featured on this best tri-watch list).

Matt Kollat
Section Editor | Active

Matt Kollat is a journalist and content creator who works for T3.com and its magazine counterpart as an Active Editor. His areas of expertise include wearables, drones, fitness equipment, nutrition and outdoor gear. He joined T3 in 2019. His byline appears in several publications, including Techradar and Fit&Well, and more. Matt also collaborated with other content creators (e.g. Garage Gym Reviews) and judged many awards, such as the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance's ESSNawards. When he isn't working out, running or cycling, you'll find him roaming the countryside and trying out new podcasting and content creation equipment.