The best Garmin watches are now some of the most advanced ways to track sports training, fitness levels, racing performance and even stress and sleep. In short these are lifestyle trackers with sports specific smarts aimed at getting you fitter, faster and generally better at your sport of choice.
Garmin is a specialist when it comes to running and cycling, with more intelligent metrics than most other competitors and with accuracy to back that up. Since Apple started making waves in this market Garmin has started adding OLED screens to its watches like in the Forerunner 965 and the premium Marq range, which offer even more lifestyle tracking options and third-party app potential.
So while this brand features many times in our best running watches guide it also manages to feature in the best cheap running watch options, meaning there should be an ideal wearable for most needs. And if you want the best deal check out our Garmin promo codes to help make a saving.
This guide offers the best Garmin watches from premium running and lifestyle trackers to budget picks and those with music onboard for phone-free training.
We’ll be updating this list soon with the Garmin Vivoactive 5 once we’ve tested to see how it compares to the current line-up. For now, whatever your needs and budget, we’ve got a Garmin watch for you below.
Matt is TechRadar’s Fitness, Wellbeing and Wearables Editor, which means he’s an expert on workouts, smartwatches, and all things fitness tech. Matt’s spent years covering the health and fitness beat, is a regular Garmin user, and has personally tested many of the watches below.
The quick list
Want to get straight to the best Garmin watch for your needs? Use our quick round-up below to immediately find a GPS watch that suits you – and you can read more about it by jumping to our full write-ups and explanations using the links.
Best for most people
The best Garmin Watch for most people
The Garmin Venu 3 tops our list because it does everything so well for both lifestyle and fitness considerations. Perfect for everyone from hardcore triathletes to casual fitness enthusiasts looking for an Apple Watch replacement.
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Best cheap Garmin
The best cheap Garmin Watch
The Garmin Vivosmart 5 is more of a fitness tracker rather than a true smartwatch, but it’s cheap, cheerful and will do a great job of recording your workouts, allowing you access to the excellent Garmin Connect app.
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Best for runners
The best Garmin Watch for runners
The Garmin Forerunner 265 Solar is an amazing watch for people serious about their running. With the Training Readiness score, advanced metrics and beautiful AMOLED screen , it’s perfect regardless of whether you love the tarmac or the trail.
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Best outdoor watch
The best Garmin watch for outdoor sports
The Garmin Instinct 2 is an amazing, tough-as-nails trail running companion. Exceptional battery life, workout suggestions, recovery guidance and a shockproof resin case are a few of its standout features.
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Biggest Garmin Watch
The biggest, most advanced Garmin outdoor watch
If the Garmin Instinct 2 is the best outdoor watch for most people, the Enduro 2 is the best outdoor watch for elite athletes. Designed for serious orienteers, triathletes, and endurance runners, this watch is a monster.
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Most advanced multi-sports watch
The most advanced Garmin multi-sport watch
The Garmin Fenix 7 Pro is one of the most advanced multi-sport watches around, meaning it’s perfect for swimming, cycling, running, orienteering, and more. Topographical maps in navigation mode and biometric tracking are some standout features, along with an LED safety torch.
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7. Garmin Instinct Crossover
The best hybrid Garmin watch
The Garmin Instinct Crossover is an excellent watch if you love the aesthetics of Casio G-Shocks, but want a genuine smartwatch. With Garmin Instinct 2 innards and analog hands with Revodrive satellite technology, it’s the perfect hybrid.
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Best for new runners
The best for new runners
The Garmin Forerunner 55 is a good watch for new runners: it’s very cheap compared to other choices, you still get GPS tracking and Garmin’s excellent running metrics. Its onboard storage holds 200 hours of music.
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Best for style
9. Garmin MARQ Athlete (Gen 2)
The best for style
Garmin’s MARQ range is designed to echo premium rotary watches, with rotating bezels and classic-looking dive watch-inspired faces. The MARQ Athlete (Gen 2) is the running-orientated model.
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The best Garmin watch overall
The Garmin Venu 3 is the best in this generation of smartwatch and sport watch blend. You still have all the GPS and GLONASS tracking smarts Garmin is famous for, combined with running, cycling, swimming and more sports options. Yet this also tracks lifestyle well with sleep, stress and the ability to link with third-party gym equipment. It’ll even let you see who’s at your Ring doorbell with an image preview on the super clear AMOLED screen.
On the smartwatch front, there’s offline Spotify allowing you to sync all your tracks to listen directly on bluetooth headphones, no smartphone required. You can view your day’s schedule at a glance, check your heart rate, water intake and stress level, log period symptoms, receive smartphone notifications, reply, and more.
This is all made possible by the super high-resolution 1.4-inch AMOLED display, with three brightness settings and an optional always-on mode that allows you to see a huge amount of data at a glance, without digging out your phone.
This third gen model also features a microphone and speaker allowing you to take calls from a connected smartphone. Also useful for audio guided meditations and yoga classes that are stored onboard for use without a smartphone.
Read our full Garmin Venu 3 review
The best cheap Garmin watch
If you don’t need a fully-fledged running watch like the Forerunner 955, but still want to get as much data as possible on your health and fitness, the Vivosmart 5 is the Garmin watch for you. It’s super small and lightweight, but still provides an impressive stream of stats for you to pore over. In our tests we were particularly impressed by its sleep tracking tools, and the device is so comfortable, you’ll forget you’re wearing it at night.
Its screen is a small monochrome affair. However, Garmin’s interface designers have done a truly impressive job of cramming in a wealth of data without things ever looking cramped.
Sure, its not quite as attractive as Fitbit’s latest devices, but it’s extremely practical and, best of all, there are no features hidden behind a paywall. Everything in the Garmin Connect app is free to access, with no need to subscribe to a premium service to get deep insights into historic data and trends.
Read our full Garmin Vivosmart 5 review
The best Garmin watch for runners
The Garmin Forerunner 265 was released as an update to the 255 series, which was less than a year old. The fact it’s a fairly iterative update, changing too little about its predecessor, and it loses some battery (no doubt rerouted into power for that new AMOLED screen) is the only thing stopping it from getting our elusive five stars. It’s the reason the 265 has supplanted our previous best watch for runners, the Forerunner 955 from our list.
It’s an excellent running watch by any metric, and would do well on the wrist of any runner. It packs a lot of features into a compact package, with an impressive range of workout modes, dedicated feedback on your training load including the new Training Readiness score feature, which debuted on the 955. Onboard storage comes as standard, so you can download music onto your phone or just use it to control Spotify.
If you’re primarily a runner and are looking to upgrade your entry-level watch to something more advanced, the 265 is well worth your consideration. Even if you’re a regular marathon runner, this will see you right. It’s lightweight and unobtrusive enough for everyday wear and is tough enough to shrug off rough treatment. With a gorgeous new screen, it’ll stand up to modern conventional smartwatches too, and won’t look out of place in the office.
Read our full Garmin Forerunner 265 review
The best outdoor Garmin watch for most people
We were big fans of the original Garmin Instinct, but it was always a very functional looking watch – chunky and stoic. The Instinct 2 keeps all the best features of its predecessor (including a shockproof fiber-reinforced resin case and exceptional battery life) and tucks it all into a slimmer package that’s now available in two sizes: 45mm or 40mm for smaller wrists.
It’s a full multi-sports watch, with carefully designed tracking modes for a wide range of activities, and runners, cyclists and swimmers are particularly well served. You get the advanced training tools you’d expect from a modern Garmin watch, including workout suggestions, recovery time guidance, and load monitoring so you can strike the right balance between effort and rest
The Instinct 2 also allows you to download new apps, data fields, and faces from Garmin Connect IQ, and is available in a choice of more fun colors than the original Instinct. It’s overall a more wearable watch whether you’re working our or not.
The standard Instinct 2 offers impressive battery life, but While the first-gen Instinct Solar could hypothetically keep running indefinitely on a single charge, the company says that it’s now a practical possibility if you spend enough time outdoors. We were certainly impressed by its performance in our tests; even with regular workouts, the power meter barely budged when we got enough sun.
The only downside is the fact that its monochrome memory-in-pixel display isn’t great for maps, and you’ll get far less detail than you would with a watch like the Fenix 7 or Epix (Gen 2). The Instinct 2’s mid-range price makes it very tempting though, and it comes highly recommended. If you want a cheaper version, the Garmin Instinct Solar, a version of the original watch, can be bought for a lot less than the updated model.
Read our full Garmin Instinct 2 review
The most advanced Garmin watch for athletes
The more time we spent with the Garmin Enduro 2, the more we appreciated its features and capabilities. The watch is not for everyone; the hefty price tag will surely put many people off from impulse buying the Enduro 2. But those who need the best battery life, the latest sensors and access to the Garmin ecosystem can’t get around not buying the Enduro 2.
That said, there are many alternatives to the Enduro 2, even within the ever-increasing roster of Garmin watches. If you’re after a more lifestyle-oriented yet rugged smartwatch, you might want to pick the Garmin Epix Gen 2, which also has an AMOLED screen, which is easier to read in broad daylight.
For those with smaller wrists, we’d recommend the Garmin Fenix 7S – that multisport watch has a rugged build but is also more stylish and, most importantly, fit on smaller wrists better. For running and triathlons, you’re better off using the Forerunner 955 Solar or the Forerunner 255S, the smallest of triathlon watches out there.
Once you have tried the Enduro 2, though, it’ll be hard to go back to either of the watches mentioned above, especially since it has most of the features of those wearables, plus insanely-long battery life and premium titanium construction. Not to mention the super-bright flashlight, everyone’s favourite feature.
Read our full Garmin Enduro 2 review
The most advanced outdoor Garmin watch
The Fenix 7 Pro is a sports watch aimed at serious athletes who enjoy getting stuck into multiple sports and want to push themselves to hit new records. It’s packed with advanced training tools, including some new additions like a real-time stamina graphic, which helps you pace yourself during events, and a graph showing how your VO2 max has changed over time.
The Fenix 7 was the first watch in the Fenix line to feature a touchscreen, and the 7 Pro takes this further with a more responsive, sensitive screen, although it’s automatically locked during workouts to prevent accidental touches. It’s extremely useful for panning across maps with the watch in navigation mode, especially with new features like Relief Shading, which shows real-time weather patterns.
There are now lots of free maps available to download, and Garmin has added a new map manager to the watch itself, which makes the process quick and straightforward. Satellite positioning is quick to establish a lock, and proved super accurate in our tests. The watch’s biometric tracking is also impressive, with a new optical heart rate sensor over the basic Fenix 7, and new metrics including the Hill Score and Endurance Score ensure your training is at its best.
It’s not quite perfect – the memory-in-pixel display still lacks contrast, and the choice of a blue backlight muddies its colors – but it’s a thoughtfully designed watch crammed with all the features you need to get your training on track, whether you’re a runner, swimmer, cyclist, triathlete, golfer, skier, or something else.
Read our full Garmin Fenix 7 Pro review
The best hybrid Garmin watch
The Garmin Instinct Crossover is a Garmin smartwatch with all the intelligence of an upgraded Garmin Instinct 2, but with analog hands supported by satellite technology to ensure pinpoint-accurate timekeeping. When you’re using the smart aspects, the hands rotate to get out of the way, and the watch connects to satellites when it’s time to rotate the hands back to the right time.
It’s a fantastic idea and a great mix between a serious outdoorsy analog watch such as G-Shock Mudmaster with satellite and smart tech. The Garmin Instinct 2 the Crossover is based on allows the watch to do things your average G-Shock never could, with recovery metrics such as Garmin’s Body Battery ensuring you can get ready for your next race.
It shines on trails with navigational tech such as TracBack, compass, stride length during running, and stroke counting during swimming. Due to its analog hands and sacrifices made to its screen, it doesn’t have any topographical maps, which means due to its higher price point, it’s tough to recommend if you’re looking for a watch to guide you through rough terrain much easier.
However, if you want something more traditional-looking and feeling, which can still offer advanced health and fitness metrics, this is the watch for you. It’ll take any knocks you can throw at it and last for weeks, especially if you spring for the solar model.
Read our full Garmin Instinct Crossover review
The best Garmin watch for new runners
The Garmin Forerunner 55 is Garmin’s new entry-level running watch, and is almost identical to its predecessor, the Forerunner 45 in terms of design. It’s the same size, and has the same five-button interface (there’s no touchscreen here).
However, once it’s on your wrist, you’ll discover an array of excellent new training tools inside that’ll help you monitor your fitness and optimize your training. These include new suggested workouts based on your past activities, which help give your training some structure even if you’re not following a dedicated plan. After a workout, you’ll also see advice on how long to rest and recover before your next effort.
The Forerunner 55’s standout feature is Garmin’s signature GPS accuracy, which makes it a great entry point for anyone upgrading from a Fitbit to a dedicated sports watch. It also won the prize for Best New Running Watch award in our 2021 awards.
Read our full Garmin Forerunner 55 review
The best Garmin watch for style
Some Garmin watches are pretty utilitarian in design, but the Garmin MARQ range is designed to look like it wouldn’t feel too out of place under a shirt cuff, with an ultra-premium, stylish finish. The MARQ Athlete (gen 2) offers a rotating bezel designed to help you mark target running times, a gorgeous AMOLED screen with sapphire crystal lens, and a grade 5 titanium metal casing.
A stylish, super-premium alternative to the Fenix and Epix models, this is the athletic watch to get if you want to look the business and money is no object. What a watch.
Read the full Garmin Vivoactive 4 review
How to choose the best Garmin watch for you
When choosing a Garmin watch, there are three key points to consider: what sport are you interested in, what level are you at, and what is your budget?
If you’re starting your fitness journey and want a watch that will help improve your habits, that’s fantastic – a watch in the Venu line will suit you perfectly. They’re pretty small and discrete, making them great for all-day wear, and offer a good range of general fitness tracking tools. If your budget runs to it, the Venu 2 and Venu 2 Plus are our top picks, thanks to their onboard GPS and fantastic displays.
Suppose you’re a beginner or intermediate runner. In that case, the Forerunner 55 or 245 will work very nicely for you, and if you also enjoy cycling, swimming or both, the Forerunner 745 or 945 are superb triathlon watches that will serve you well. Worried about scuffs and scratches? Take a look at the Instinct 2; it’s built like a tank and has incredible battery life.
If you’re seriously into your training and want the most profound insights into your health and fitness, the Fenix 7, Epix Gen 2 and their newer Pro variations are excellent choices. The latter is perfect if you want to explore new routes, as its high-res OLED display is brilliant for mapping. It does come at a cost though, and the Fenix 7 (although not cheap) is a more budget-friendly option.
How we test
When testing a Garmin watch, we wear it night and day for at least two weeks so it can build up a full picture of our health and fitness and ensure battery scores live up to specifications. We slept, exercised, and recovered with all the Garmin watches on this list to determine which is best for what purpose. We weighed up the accuracy of their GPS tracking, the responsiveness of their heart rate monitors, and the quality of their training tools. We’ve even evaluated their battery life, display quality, and overall design.
We enable SpO2 tracking if available and track at least five workouts across those two weeks to give us an idea of how long the watch’s battery will last in typical use. If the watch supports app downloads from Garmin Connect, we can also use a battery monitor app to check how quickly it drains.
To test the accuracy of the watch’s GPS, we take it for several runs on pre-measured courses and compare the results to similar route-mapping software from our phones and a competitor watch, usually an Apple Watch Ultra. If it has mapping capability, we create a new route using Garmin Connect, sync it to the watch, and use it to navigate the route.
We’ll test the watch in a variety of situations, from running to indoor cycling, looking at the details of metrics such as heart rate variability and sleep scores. Does the wealth of information available match up to similar watches in its price range? Is the presentation dense or helpful? Check out our how we test section for more details.
03 July 2023: Reformatted this buying guide to conform to TechRadar’s new template, added the MARQ Athlete (Gen 2) to our list while removing the older VivoActive 4S.