Is Buying a Sailing Smartwatch Worth It?

The conversation comes up often for new sailors asking about a sailing smartwatch. With so many options in sailing watches, it comes down to quality and functionality.

After reading, you’ll be able to dictate if sailing watches are right for you and if they are worth it in general. Knowing what data to look for is key to finding the best sailing watches.

Two examples of the best sailing watches to check out are the Suunto Sailing Watch and the Garmin Quatix. They both offer plenty of features and are affordable.

Why You Should Buy a Sailing Smartwatch

Suunto sailing watch

A digital sailing watch, or smartwatch, is necessary to complete normal functions to offer the best experience. They typically have an abundance of features, with great battery life, that make life easier while navigating or cruising.

The best sailing watches don’t need every single feature, as this could be overwhelming to some sailors. The basics, or whatever a sailor is comfortable with, is really all you need.

Before technology was advanced, sailors had to bring a variety of tools to use such as maps, a barometer, and compass to function daily on a boat. Now, the convenience of watches can’t be overlooked.

When looking at the best sailing watches such as the Suunto Watch and the Garmin Quatix, you’ll notice those similar features. The Garmin sailing watch is loved by many sailors and has an attractive stainless steel look. 

The only differences between many watches are the price, style, and comfort. What works best for you might not be the same experience for someone else.

10 Important Features of a Sailing Smartwatch

A sailing smartwatch is not complete or worth your time unless it has many features. While they don’t have to carry every single feature, it’s best if they have a handful.

Useful features that the best sailing watches have are a digital display, activity tracking, audible warnings for a timer, a sync button to allow smartphone connectivity, and other ways of collecting useful data. In addition, the best digital sailing watches typically have an elegant design with a stainless steel bezel and rival other luxury brands.

Water Resistant

Garmin watch underwater

The most crucial feature of any watch is that it must be water resistant. The water resistance rating will vary from one watch to the next, so it’s important also to understand how wet the watch can get.

The Garmin Quatix has a rating of 10 atmospheres (ATM) and is resistant to roughly 330 feet of water, which is good for swimming, snorkeling, or anything with a light amount of water. Anything less of a rating and you risk damaging your watch if you take it on those activities.

Most sailing watches are not meant for diving. This is why it’s important to check the rating before purchasing a watch.

Rugged, Convenient, and Comfortable

Not only does a watch need to be comfortable on your wrist, but rugged enough to last a day on the water. This means it needs to be made out of stainless steel and have a soft rubber wrist strap. This is especially true when you’re participating in sailing races.

While you don’t need it strong enough to be run over by a car, it needs to withstand rough conditions. You’re going to hit it on something at some point or drop it when you take it off to charge it.

For convenience, you want yachting watches to have a good battery life. Some digital sailing watches last two weeks while others last a few days.

Depending on the features you are using will definitely affect the battery life. If you sail a lot in the dark, you will likely need one with luminous hands that light up the watch face.

In addition, a rotating bezel helps establish a time of reference when swimming or sailing in a given direction. This might be an extra cost, so adjust your budget accordingly.

GPS and Barometer

Sailboat covered by waves

The convenience of GPS navigation while sailing makes a huge difference. Many sailing watches are able to connect to GPS chartplotters that will stream GPS navigation options through the watch.

You can get by without having a GPS route, but many watches offer this option that you would likely be going out of your way not to have it. Plus, it’s great to have if you don’t feel like getting out maps or charts.

Sailing watches that have barometers can foreshadow if a storm is forming. These are used to measure changes in air pressure, which can help keep you safe if sailing into an upcoming storm. You’ll need to understand how to read the changes in pressure and how magnetic fields affect your watch.

Compass and Chronometer

In the event that you don’t have GPS or it fails, you’ll still need a compass. You can bring one along or have it on your wrist at all times.

The Suunto Sailing Watch is a great option for using the compass. If you know which direction to go, you can reliably make it to locations with the use of a compass.

Any good watch considered for sailing has to have a chronometer built in to tell the time, offer a date function, and longitude. While not perfect in keeping the correct time forever, these are specifically designed to keep the most highly accurate time as much as possible.

Race Countdown Timer

Two sailboats racing at sunset

If you’re spending all of your time at sea, you likely won’t need a race timer. For regatta racers that enjoy sailing races or want the convenience of timing any activities on board, a regatta timer function will be handy.

Tide Tracking

Depending on your location, you might have serious tide changes that can affect where you park your boat for the night. This means water could drastically increase or decrease near shore and you could be stuck.

Most sailing watches come with some form of tide indicator to give you an idea of what to expect. A watch must do this accurately in order to save you from being stuck.

Different Time Zones

Sailboat on water

Expert sailors that sail in many locations throughout the world offshore sailing need to have a sailing watch that can adapt to multiple time zones. In the sailing world, it can be easy to lose track of time from one location to the next.

A watch can provide valuable data to help keep you on track with the time. During long trips, a perpetual calendar is essential for a good sailing watch.

Emergency Functions

Most sailing watches that have GPS also come with an emergency function such as man overboard. If you’ve fallen into the ocean or you’re in danger, there will be a button that you can press to pinpoint your location.

As simple as this sounds, it’s best to check this feature beforehand to ensure it works properly when needed in those situations. Other models of watches might have a different method of emergency capabilities.

Do Sailing Smartwatches Have Sailing Apps?

Sailing watch connected to the internet

Sailing smartwatches are compatible with different apps. Depending on the brand of watch, you can connect to a variety of apps to help with navigating and other functions.

These include but are not limited to Garmin, raceQs, and an Android app. Each app will have their own unique experience that measures boat speed, changes in wind, and even has a timer.

Some apps will be better than others, so play around with your watch first and see what works best for you. Most watches will be compatible with at least one app.

Final Thoughts

A watch is worth it if you plan on spending valuable time on boats at sea and don’t feel like going through your junk drawer to help navigate. With a variety of functions, a watch offers sailing specific features that are hard to pass up.

When considering the best watch for you, just keep in mind that you don’t need to have every feature to enjoy time on the water. At a minimum, it needs to have great water resistance to some degree and has to be within your budget.