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Triathlon Watches: A Guide To Choosing The Best Sport Watch

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By Jim P.

So, you decided to take up the sport of triathlon. You hopped into the water at your local YMCA pool and began swimming laps. Things were fine for the first 4 laps, but then on lap 12 you couldn’t quite remember if it was lap 11, lap 12 or lap 13.

The next day, you went for a run on your nearby greenway. You were pretty sure the distance was about 6 miles. But later that night you got to thinking. “I wonder what the exact mileage of my run was today. I once ran a half marathon in 1 hour and 32 minutes — I wonder if I ran at that pace at any point during my run today.”

A few weeks later, you get to wondering how many miles you have been averaging each week in swimming and running. You do a guestimate but it would be nice to know for sure.

Hmm… sounds like you need a sports watch!

Today’s top triathletes utilize the latest technology for measuring distance, pace, heart rate, caloric output, and even altitude.

The latest in sport watch technology by such manufacturers as Garmin, Timex, Polar, Casio, Suunto, and even Nike now make it possible to monitor your body and environment in real time similar to monitoring systems used by astronauts walking the moon.

By far, the most popular triathlon watch worldwide is the Timex Ironman triathlon watch. In 1986 Timex partnered with Ironman Triathlon to develop a new digital watch — resulting in the Timex Ironman triathlon watch. Today it is the world’s largest selling sports watch.

Since 1986, it’s estimated that between 500,000 and one million Ironman watches have been sold every year.  It was added to the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History. It has traveled to the moon. And it’s worn by consumers on every continent on Earth. The watch has been spotted on celebrities and politicians — including former President Bill Clinton who wore the watch on his inauguration. You can routinely find them on the wrists of doctors, police officers, lawyers, and business leaders. The watch has also become a fashion statement among many teens.

The attraction of the first models included:

  • a rugged and durable design
  • water resistance to 100 meters
  • a ribbed wrist strap
  • and the black and orange color scheme with Ironman logos

The basic features of the watch included:

  • time
  • stopwatch
  • timer
  • occasion alarm
  • and 3 alarms

In 1992, the Timex Ironman triathlon watch got its first major technology update with a new Indiglo electroluminescence technology.

Today’s top-of-the-line Timex Ironman watch (the Timex Ironman Global Trainer) stands out in reviews. It has these features:

  • dual time zones
  • a multi-dimensional heart rate monitor
  • measures real-time, average, and max speed
  • calculates your pace, average pace, and best pace
  • and has GPS functionality

timex-icontrol-ironman-watch.jpg Another popular Timex Ironman watch is the Timex iControl Ironman watch, which plugs into your iPod.

Improvements and new features are added with each model. For example, the Timex Ironman Sleek series utilizes an optical viewing angle. Some watches in this series have a 150-lap counter.

Timex Bodylink watches include Finish Mode — a function that predicts the time it will take to finish a specified event distance such as 5k or 10k. The prediction is based on the Bodylink’s GPS technology which can also give you other useful information such as your speed and pace. The watch can also be set up to alert you if you are moving either too quickly or too slowly for your desired pace — based on your values for the event distance and target time. Finish Mode then displays the following real-time data and presents it for your viewing throughout the event:

  • Finish Time – predicted finish time based on your current speed and distance
  • Heart Rate
  • Pace (expressed in minutes/km or minutes/mile)
  • Average Pace
  • Speed (velocity)
  • Average Speed
  • Distance (distance traveled while the Chrono has been running)

Other useful functions of most Ironman watches include:

  • countdown timers up to 24 hours
  • workout recall by date
  • on-the-fly lap recall
  • elapsed time counter
  • target time feature

Female triathletes have a range of options for a Timex Women’s Ironman watch.


Tips For Choosing A Triathlon Watch

So, how do you choose the best triathlon watch? Here are 2 key things to keep in mind:

#1 – Consider your budget restraints.
An important consideration is your budget for a triathlon watch. These sport watches range from $40 to $400. Your budget will help you sort through which watch features are truly necessary — and which ones are not.

For example, sure it would be nice to have GPS functionality on your triathlon watch — but do you really need it? The Apple watch would be cool, but how how usable are its features for you? The reality of it is that you can go to Walmart, and pick up a Timex Ironman 150-lap count with interval timer for $35, and it will meet the essential needs of most triathletes.

#2 – Research all the options.

Browse through sports watch reviews online. It might also be helpful to simply ask other triathletes about the sports watch they chose, why they chose it, and how satisfied they are with it.