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

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

Question:

I am looking to purchase a waterproof GPS running watch. I occasionally do triathlons and need a GPS watch with a waterproof rating to 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 watches are best for running and swimming?

Note: I updated this post in 2021 to include ATM water ratings. It was not part of the original question. The original question only mentioned IPX but has been modified to include ATM ratings since newer watches now use the updated rating system. Everything else is the same.

Answer:

First, thank you for the question. As you mentioned, IPX and ATM are just rating standards that distinguish the water resistance and waterproof capacity a running watch has. I describe the standards below, but I also want to put IPX and ATM ratings into perspective regarding 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 no longer used for running watches anymore because most watch manufacturers, like Garmin, have moved to water-proof ratings, particularly 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.

IPX7 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.

IPX8 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 waterproof devices. 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 is ATM 2, the depth that the 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, most new 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: 9-2-2021

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

Choose the Garmin 55  if you are looking for a great entry-level to intermediate-level crossover running watch. This is Garmin’s latest model and includes a lot of new features over the Garmin 45. Many of these features were only found on more advanced watch models. I review the Garmin 55 in great detail here. Choose the Garmin 245 if you want a more advanced model with additional data tracking features. This is a great running watch and will cover just about everything you want in a running and fitness watch. Choose the Fenix 6 or the Garmin 935 (if you want triathlon support​) if you want the most advanced running watch out there with all the bells and whistles.

Last update on 2022-06-23 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Last update on 2022-06-23 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Last update on 2022-06-23 / 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 three 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 standards 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 2022-06-23 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Last update on 2022-06-23 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Last update on 2022-06-23 / 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.