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12 best waterproof watches for swimming, surfing and diving

Whether you’re a lane swimmer or deep-sea diver, these durable designs can withstand any water sport

Alice Barraclough
Thursday 30 September 2021 15:47
<p>Take the plunge with one of these submersibles and know it won’t let you down</p>

Take the plunge with one of these submersibles and know it won’t let you down

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When it comes to waterproof watches, you want something that has the ability to withstand the extreme pressures of travelling far below the water’s surface – as well as travelling as fast as possible on top of it – without breaking. So it’s particularly important to pay attention to exactly how “waterproof” it really is.

In the watch industry, the term “water resistant” refers to how long watches can handle water pressure. Usually measured in atmospheres (ATMs) or depths, water-resistance levels typically range from 3 ATM (30m) to 20 ATM (200m).

Remember, watches that are equipped for swimming or diving are still only water-resistant up to a certain point and there’s always a risk of moisture leaking into the case.

It’s also worth noting that we’d consider most adult waterproof watches unisex. If, however, you have a slim wrist or don’t like wearing particularly heavy watches we suggest you pick a women-specific watch instead.

How we tested

We tested the following watches in the local lido, at the lake, on the sea and in the shower – so whether you’re a swimmer, surfer or sailor, you can take the plunge with one of these submersibles and know it won’t let you down.

Read more:

The best waterproof watches for 2021 are:

  • Best overall – Garmin fēnix 6 pro solar edition: £819.99,
  • Best for triathletes –Wahoo elemnt rival multisport GPS watch: £349.99,
  • Best for open water swimming – Polar vantage M2: £269,
  • Best for pool swimming – Garmin swim 2: £219.99,
  • Best for surfing – Nixon siren watch: £105,
  • Best for diving – Dumas hazard yellow: £315,
  • Best for adventurers –Accurist sports watch: £89.99,
  • Best for sailors –Gill race watch: £74.95,
  • Best for night swimmers –Luminox navy SEAL: £379,
  • Best for fun – Swatch Bioceramic C-Lime: £108,
  • Best value for money – Casio unisex vintage digital chronograph resin strap watch: £24.90,
  • Best for iPhone users – Apple watch series 6: £379,

Garmin fēnix 6 pro solar edition

Best: Overall

Rating: 9/10

  • Water resistance: 10 ATM (up to 100m)

We think it’s fair to say that the Garmin fēnix 6 is one of the best multi-sport smartwatches money can buy. It tracks just about every water sport you can think of – from pool to open water swimming, diving, paddleboarding, kayaking, sailing, powerboating or just relaxing by the pool.

The pro solar edition also works with surfline sessions, so if you’re out catching waves wearing your Garmin, it creates a video of every wave you ride in front of a Surfline camera, so you can watch them back later and see how you did. The only problem? It comes with a huge price tag.

Wahoo elemnt rival multisport GPS watch

Best: For triathletes

Rating: 9/10

  • Water resistance: 5 ATM (up to 50m)

This all-singing, all-dancing multisports watch is ideal for triathletes who want a watch that not only tracks run-specific training and long cycle rides but also offers accurate data in the pool. It’s simple to use, simple to see and simple to track.

It’s headline feature, however, is that when racing, you don’t even have to press any buttons in between discipline as it automatically detects once you’re out of the water and in transition. Despite the big-ish screen, it’s actually a lot more lightweight than we originally thought and the silicone strap is both comfortable and easy to adjust for smaller wrists.

Polar vantage M2

Best: For open water swimming

Rating: 7/10

  • Water resistance: 3 ATM (up to 30m)

We found the Polar watches were the most accurate when it came to open water swimming – either in the lake or the sea. Using GPS it calculates pace and distance during your swim and also records your average and maximum stroke rates (how many strokes you take per minute) when swimming freestyle. But we wouldn’t recommend using it in the pool – it doesn’t seem to recognise drills or kicking with a kickboard, and tumble-turning at the wall seems to trip it up even more.

Garmin swim 2

Best: For pool swimming

Rating: 7/10

  • Water resistance: 5 ATM (up to 50m)

These days, pretty much every smartwatch is water-resistant and can handle a dip in the pool. But some are way better than others at tracking your swims accurately. The Garmin swim 2 records distance, pace, stroke count, stroke type and swimming efficiency – you can also set the watch to auto rest, so when you take a breather at the end of the lane, it doesn’t add time onto your splits. All you need to do is tell it the size of the pool you’re swimming in and you’re ready to go.

We particularly liked the slim profile of this watch – others we tried were a little too on the clunky side and created extra drag in the water, but this Garmin felt almost unnoticeable. For the forgetful, it’s also really useful for uploading your swim set onto, so you can see whether you’ve got 6 x 200m freestyle or 4 x 100m IM next, without having to remember.

Nixon siren watch

Best: For surfing

Rating: 8/10

  • Water resistance: 10 ATM (up to 100m)

Made from ocean plastics, this is a cool-looking watch – so its tagline: “where beach meets street” feels very apt. Delivering tidal information for your local surf break, this watch is a dream for surfers.

The custom digital display includes functions such as time of day (12 hours or 24 hours), date, calendar, basic and future tide. There’s also timers with a final countdown clock known as a 60-second “send” notification – so you know when to start paddling for that wave. We love the candy coloured straps, too – particularly the pale pink and aqua.

Dumas hazard yellow

Best: For diving

Rating: 7/10

  • Water resistance: 30 ATM (up to 300m)

Named after the diving pioneer Frédéric Dumas, this is a classic “dive” watch inspired by the 1970s – although whether anyone actually wears it for diving remains to be seen. We blame James Bond here – Sean Connery wore a Rolex Submariner in the early Bond films and dive watches then became a fashion statement rather than a piece of high-tech underwater equipment.

The Dumas is an attractive, wearable, everyday watch with a contemporary, legible design. And, as it has up to 300 metres of water resistance, if you did fancy taking the plunge with a spot of scuba diving, it can be worn over the outside of a diving suit, ready to keep tabs on your oxygen supply.

Accurist sports watch

Best: For adventurers

Rating: 8/10

  • Water resistance: 20 ATM (up to 200m)

This bold, bright orange hue was made with adventures in mind. Featuring a shockproof silicone strap and tough stainless steel case to protect the watch from any bumps, we found the grippy, breathable band stayed put when swimming, paddle boarding and kayaking. For under £90 it’s great value for money in terms of quality and even though it’s on the larger size, the watch doesn’t feel too heavy. Plus, with 200m of waterproofing, this watch is ideal for divers, too.

Gill race watch

Best: For sailors

Rating: 6/10

  • Water resistance: 3 ATM (up to 30m)

A sailing watch is generally known for its countdown functions and that’s because, from rookies to race-hardened veterans, sailors from all levels of the sport need to end up on the start line at exactly the right time.

This Gill race watch isn’t particularly flashy, but what it lacks in style, it makes up for in functionality. Easy to read, suitably sturdy and made to withstand the weather, there’s also an audible alarm and alert sounds so you won’t miss the start gun. One function that makes it less appealing as a watch for yachtsmen is the absence of GPS.

Luminox navy Seal

Best: For night swimmers

Rating: 8/10

  • Water resistance: 20 ATM (up to 200m)

The idea of swimming in the dark can be a little frightening to some. But luckily, the Swiss brand Luminox creates robust watches with self-powered built-in illumination. So even if you’re swimming or diving in the depths of the ocean at 200m, the innovative self-illumination technology – “always visible” – will help you keep track of the time at any depth. Designed for the US navy Seals, this watch is one tough timepiece. We think the hard-wearing black-in-black dial is particularly smart.

Swatch bioceramic c-lime

Best: For fun

Rating: 6/10

  • Water resistance: 3 ATM (up to 30m)

Offering a perfect pop of colour, the Swatch Bioceramic watch features a fun, sporty and durable design in fresh lime green – evoking endless, summer days playing in and out the water on paddle-boards and dinghies. There aren’t really any fancy gizmos and functions to shout about here – but its mood-boosting, citrus design caught our eye and is perfect for anyone who usually dives head-first into the pool or sea on holiday, only to discover they’ve forgotten to remove their watch.

Casio unisex vintage digital chronograph resin strap watch

Best: Value for money

Rating: 7/10

  • Water resistance: Splash resistant

Not just for kids, this Casio is a classic for a reason. It’s simple, durable, and does what it says on the tin. Featuring a digital display, stopwatch, alarm and a microlight, this original timepiece is suitable for every occasion – and we love the vibrant pink tone. Of course, with the low price comes low water protection, so while it’s fine to wear out on a speed boat or yacht, we wouldn’t recommend using it for a long-distance swim.

Apple Watch Series 6

Best: For iPhone users

Rating: 8/10

  • Water resistance: 5 ATM (up to 50m)

If you’re an Apple user, their latest smartwatch doesn’t disappoint. With too many perks to list here – waterproof wise, it can log swimming in a pool (including calories, laps and distance using the built-in accelerometer) or open water and auto-identify your stroke. The screen locks once you start a swim workout (to prevent any water damage) and we like how light it felt on our wrists in the water.

But, while Apple claims it’s “perfect for swimming, surfing or water-balloon fights” that’s not the sole reason you should get this watch. It’s fab for fitness tracking in general and offers every health insight you could think of – from sleep to blood oxygen.

The verdict: Waterproof watches

If you want more than just a simple waterproof watch – something that accurately tracks activity in the water and on it, then it’s got to be the Garmin fēnix 6. Tracking ​​distance and calories, plus auto-identifying which stroke you’re doing, and calculating efficiency reading based on your stroke count and time. Those who want a waterproof watch that won’t let them down needn’t look any further.

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IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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