How To Select A Waterproof GPS Running Watch. IPX6, IPX7, or IPX8?

How To Select A Waterproof GPS Running Watch. IPX6, IPX7, or IPX8?

how to choose the best waterproof running or triathlon watch. IPx7, ipx8, ATM 5, ATM 3
  • Question:

I am looking to purchase a waterproof GPS running watch. I occasionally do triathlons and need a GPS watch that has a waterproof rating that will support swimming, yet versatile enough to train for marathons and long runs.

I see running watches that have various IPX and ATM ratings. What exactly do these mean and how do I know which running and triathlon watch is best for both running and swimming?

Note: this post was updated on 3-6-2021 to include ATM water ratings. It was not part of the original question. The original question has been modified slightly to include ATM  ratings in addition to the original IPX the original party asked. This was done to make the post more relevant to the new ATM Waterproof/Depth ratings. Everything else is the same.

  • Answer:

First, thank you for the question. As you mentioned, IPX and ATM are just rating standards that distinguishes the level of water resistance or waterproof capability a running watch has.

I describe the standards below, but I also want to put the IPX and ATM ratings into perspective in terms of what that means for a runner or triathlete.

Generally speaking, running and triathlon watches fall into two main categories when it comes to how they hold up against water:

  • Water-resistant running watches
  • Waterproof running watches

Water-Resistant  Running Watches

Generally speaking, a water-resistant watch is OK for running and cycling. A water-resistant watch would be able to handle running in the rain without issue. You would not want to swim in them. Water-resistant running and triathlon watches include all modern watches rated at IPX-6, IPX-7 or IPX-8.  IPX-7 and IPX-8 running watches are protected for short periods of time when accidentally immersed underwater.

IPX ratings are not used as much anymore when it comes to running watches, because most watch manufacturers, like Garmin have moved to water-proof ratings, particularly using the ATM rating system. I cover ATM ratings below.


IPX-7 rated watches are specifically rated to protect against immersion up to to a depth of 1 meter for up to 30 minutes.

IPX-6, IPX-7 and IPX-8 watches are not safe for swimming. Even if the watch rating says 30 minutes and a depth of up to 1 meter, they are not specifically designed for swimming and thus damage could occur.


IPX Water-Resistance Ratings

IPX6 Water RESISTANCE Standard

Protected against heavy splashing and rain. Must not fail or show water seepage when exposed, but not when immersed.

IPX-7 WATER RESISTANCE
Standard

Protected against short durations of water immersion. Max immersion for less than 30 minutes and at a depth of less than 1 meter. IPX-7, while water-resistant, is still not recommended for swimmers, as a precaution.

IPX-8 WATER RESISTANCE
Standard

Designed for continuous underwater use. The best rating for sport/GPS watches used for swimming.


ATM Waterproof Ratings

The ATM rating system applies to devices that are waterproof. The ATM system uses a number (which you multiply by 10) to get the depth rating of the device. For example, if the ATM rating of a device is ATM 2, the depth that device can safely withstand is 2 x 10 which is 20 meters.

Unless you are into diving, you don't need a rating greater than 3 ATM. However, many Garmin models have a 5 ATM rating.

1 ATM WaterPROOF DEPTH Standard

1 ATM indicates a device can withstand a depth of 10 meters 

3 ATM WATERPROOF DEPTH STANDARD

3 ATM indicates a device can withstand a depth of 10 meters .

5 ATM WATERPROOF DEPTH STANDARD

5 ATM indicates a device can withstand a depth of 10 meters .

My Top 3 Recommendations for Running Watches

Updated: 3-6-2021

Please note: As an Amazon Associate I may earn from qualifying purchases.”


Choose the Garmin 45  if you are looking for a great entry (or crossover to intermediate level) running watch with great features that most runners desire. I recently reviewed this running watch in great detail which you can read about if you are interested.

Choose the Garmin 245 if you are looking for a mid-range watch of slightly higher quality, faster GPS sync, and more features.

Choose the Garmin Fenix 6 if you are looking for a top of the line watch that can handle any type of fitness event, swimming, activity tracking, etc.

Last update on 2021-04-21 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Last update on 2021-04-21 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Last update on 2021-04-21 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

If you want to see a comparison of several Garmin GPS running watches, check out my Garmin GPS Buyers Guide and Comparison Chart.

My Top 3 Recommendations for Multisport / Triathlon Watches

These waterproof Garmin GPS watches will hold up to longer periods of immersion and are recommended if you like to do triathlons, or swim as a cross-training activity.

The Garmin 735XT and Garmin 935 are the gold standard when it comes to triathlon/multi-sport watches.  The Fenix 6 is another great option. The Fenix series of multi-sport watches add activity tracking and comes with a LOT more features. What I like best about the Fenix series is that it looks like a watch you could wear day to day, even when not training.

Last update on 2021-04-21 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Last update on 2021-04-21 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Last update on 2021-04-21 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

If you want to see a comparison of several Garmin GPS running watches, check out my Garmin GPS Buyers Guide and Comparison Chart.

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About the Author Steve Carmichael

Steve is a RRCA / USA Track and Field Certified Running Coach who has helped thousands of runners since 2010. He coaches online as well as locally in the Columbus, Ohio area. He is host of RunBuzz Running a top rated running podcast with 150+ episodes available for free on all major podcast apps. Steve resides in Lewis Center, Ohio with his wife, kids, and dog.

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