Garmin MARQ review: an undeniably stylish sporty smartwatch

The money-is-no-object smartwatch that touts all the Garmin bells and whistles, but is it worth the large price tag?

Garmin Marq review
(Image credit: Garmin)
T3 Verdict

While the MARQ athlete sports all the features that make Garmin watches the most comprehensive fitness tracking devices out there, its large price tag is - quite frankly - madness. There’s no denying that this is a luxurious watch packing some damn right gorgeous, high-quality materials, but we just don't think that’s enough to justify its price. Especially since Garmin’s Fenix 6 offers pretty much the same features for almost a third of the cost.

Reasons to buy
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    Some of the best fitness-tracking tech out there

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    Luxurious

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    Extremely well made

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    No expense spared

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Eye-wateringly expensive

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    Disappointing screen for a dress watch

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    Software doesn’t quite match the design

Garmin’s MARQ range of smartwatches is a special collection of five devices with each model focusing on a specific activity. Consisting of Driver, Aviator, Captain, Expedition and Athlete (which we’re reviewing now), the collection boasts Garmin’s best-in-class smartwatch features such as GPS, music storage, activity tracking, smart notifications and Garmin Pay support. 

These watches are made unique in that each device is crafted from titanium alongside a sapphire crystal screen to deliver a super-premium, luxury feel for users.

Garmin Marq Athlete Review: Price And Availability

The MARQ Athlete smartwatch launched in the UK on 13 March 2019 and is still available to buy at Garmin for a whopping RRP of £1,399. Gulp. 

The watch is available in just one colourway – a black and silver titanium design with subtle yellow accents for an athletic touch.

You can find the best Garmin Marq prices below:

Garmin Marq Athlete Review: Design

There is no question that the MARQ Athlete has been beautifully put together to ensure it ticks all the boxes for design. While it is on the bulky side (measuring 14.1mm thick), it’s the type of watch that kind of suits that oversized aesthetic, if you get what we mean. Yes, it’s on the boisterous side of things, but it definitely isn’t as heavy as you’d think for a watch of this size. 

Thanks to the titanium, it weighs just 94g. This, alongside a smooth silicone strap, means that the watch is perfectly comfortable to wear for long periods. Saying that, it did feel a little too big for sleeping in. 

Garmin Marq review

(Image credit: Future)

With so much beef to it, you’d think the MARQ Athlete would be a nightmare during those times when you need to be mobile. However, we didn’t feel too heavy or bulky on the wrists during workouts - even throughout a HIIT class that involve jumping onto boxes or swinging kettlebells. The placement of the buttons we weren't in much danger of accidentally changing any settings or tracking options.

While the silicone rubber strap does a good job in keeping things comfortable during those sweaty times, we were quite disappointed that, for this price, the MARQ Athlete doesn’t come with something more premium. Where is the matching titanium wrist strap? It’s a bit of a joke that, considering the asking price, you’re lumped with a cheap-looking strap that completely cheapens the overall upmarket feel of the watch.

Another issue we have with the MARQ Athlete is its display. Made from a sapphire crystal material, it’s undoubtedly rugged and of great quality, but we just don’t think this type of screen fits the overall design of the watch. You’d normally find these types of screens in Garmin’s explorer or outdoor watches. 

Okay, it’s named Athlete for a reason, but it is still marketed (and priced) as a luxury device and it’s ridiculous to think that someone paying that amount of money for a watch would be taking it on a hike or an ultra marathon with them. 

Sure, the screen is clear and readable even in bright sunlight, but it’s nowhere near as nice to look at as the vivid OLED screens on smartwatches like the Apple Watch or Samsung Galaxy Active, which would - in our opinion - be a much better fit in this watch design.

Garmin Marq review

(Image credit: Future)

Garmin Marq Athlete Review: Performance And OS

One thing you should know about the MARQ Athlete is that it is essentially a Fenix 6 dressed up for fashion week. It has almost all the same specs and software features, but they’ve just been crammed into a much more impressive (and expensive) casing.

Just like the Fenix 6, there are more layers to the MARQ Athlete’s software offering than an onion. Besides some extremely helpful health tools, there’s an impressive range of sports tracking activities, from the more standard running, swimming and cycling to the more unexpected SUP, skiing and golf. 

Everything we tested worked exceptionally well, even when doing indoor workouts such as an indoor HIIT class. Using GPS is a doddle, too, and activates almost instantly after hitting the start activity tracking button with a “GPS connected” message popping up seconds later.

Sports features are aplenty in this here smartwatch. You’ll also find stress tracking, incident detection (which sends an automated SMS and email with your name and GPS location to your emergency contacts), and the firm’s third-gen Elevate HR sensor for more accurate heart-rate monitoring. 

Great for those who consider rest time just as important as the activity itself, Garmin’s Recovery tools are present, too, working in the same way as they do on the Fenix 6 to encourage rest and help prevent injury.

Garmin Marq review

(Image credit: Future)

As with other high-end Garmin watches, the MARQ Athlete also comes integrated with a pulse oximeter, branded by Garmin as ‘Pulse Ox4’. Helping users to see how well their body is absorbing oxygen, this feature gauges how well you’re adjusting to heat or altitude. 

Like many of its other sporting features, this is undoubtedly a cool tool, but we just can’t see much use for it in a watch that you’d probably be too terrified to take to the great outdoors with you.

Garmin Marq Athlete Review: Battery Life

The MARQ’s ability to soldier on for great lengths of time without dying is just as impressive as its feature set, with a battery life that is quoted by Garmin to last up to 12 days in smartwatch mode to 28 hours in GPS Mode and up to 48 hours in UltraTrac mode.

In our experience using the device, we found these estimates to be about right. Saying that, it isn’t easy to properly measure this as it largely depends on what you do. For instance, using the watch’s GPS functionality continuously on - say - an ultra marathon, total battery life is a predicted 36 hours. 

However, we haven’t been doing much continuous running, especially for that amount of time. We’ll leave that sort of testing to the experts, thank you very much. Still, we found the watch was able to power through about two weeks’ worth of use, wearing it continuously and taking it with us to track a run or cycle every other day or so.

As for charging - that’s relatively fast, too. It takes less than three hours to bring the battery fully back to life.

Garmin Marq review

(Image credit: Future)

Garmin Marq Athlete Review: Verdict

While the MARQ athlete boasts all the features that make Garmin watches the most comprehensive fitness tracking devices out there, its large price tag will be too much to swallow for most. 

There’s no denying that this is a luxurious watch packing some damn right gorgeous, high-quality materials, but we just don't think that’s enough to justify its price given what else is available. Especially since a Fenix 6 offers pretty much the same software for a third of the cost. 

Don’t get us wrong, there’s definitely nothing majorly wrong with the MARQ Athlete, it’s just not a product many people are going to be genuinely interested in buying.

Still, most opinions about this watch will be split into two camps: you’ll either think it’s a ridiculous waste of money, or you think it’s a beautiful object that you just have to own. And to be honest, either is fair. If you’ve got the dosh and want to treat yourself, go ahead: you’re likely to be disappointed (well, maybe except for the display).

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Lee Bell
Lee Bell

Lee Bell is a freelance journalist & copywriter specialising in technology, health and how the latest innovations are shaking up the lifestyle space.