Altimeter in a smartwatch offers unique value to mountaineers, hikers, and outdoor adventurers. It comes in combination with a compass and barometer, and the watches that have all of them are known as ABC watches.
Usually these smartwatches have rugged construction, have long battery life and a robust screen. Given that you spend handsomely on the watch, the accuracy of the altimeter sensor will meet that of a standalone altimeter.
Below we have curated a list of the best altimeter smartwatches of 2021. We have also added a comparison table, and buying guide to help you navigate through several choices. Also, we have reviewed each watch with respect to the reliability of ABC sensors, and specifically the altimeter accuracy in the smartwatch.
So without further ado, let’s get to the buying Guide.
Disclaimer: If you buy through affiliate links on this article, we may earn a commission without any additional cost to you.
Altimeter Smartwatches: Buying Guide
It is highly likely that you fall under one of the following categories if you are looking for an ABC smartwatch or specifically an altimeter smartwatch.
- Trail runner
- Backcountry skier
- MTB Biker
- Rock climber
An Altimeter watch comes in all shapes and sizes. And so is true about the price tag. While looking for such a watch try to find the golden mean between your budget and your preferences. Your need should dictate your purchasing decision, but it would ultimately be your budget that decides what you are going to settle for.
Make a checklist of the following features before buying an Altimeter smartwatch.
As mentioned before, Altimeter smartwatches have a barometer and compass as complementary sensors. A basic ABC watch doesn’t cost much and also it doesn’t have to be a smartwatch. Their use is abundant in triathlete sports, outdoor excursions, and backcountry adventures.
The added advantage of the smartwatch is the number of exciting apps that present the tracking data in an intelligible format. Though most of these apps are battery hogs, some of them are worth spending money on.
To cut a long story short, try to find a watch with all three sensors.
Due to their outdoor usage, this one feature should always be prioritized. Usually, smartwatches with advanced features like GPS, NFC, and Mapping profiles cut corners in battery life. For extended maneuvers, smartwatches that couldn’t last even 24 hours are not suitable.
2-3 days of battery life is a decent number. Plus, you will find nearly all altimeter smartwatches equipped with battery saving mode. It can seriously extend the timing to almost double. Keep in mind that in altimeter smartwatches, you are almost always going to find a lithium-ion battery. (it drains easily, but is rechargeable)
An onboard GPS is a must if you want the data to be highly accurate and precise. However, a built-in GPS puts a heavy dent in battery life, so you will have to use it cautiously. If you take our words for it, buy the smartwatch with built-in GPS even if you have to spend extra or compromise on the battery life.
Aside from that, if your smartwatch is compatible with a range of satellites (like Galileo and GLONASS) you can count on its coverage and accuracy. Other advanced features include downloadable routes, detailed contouring, and powerful applications that give the smartwatch an upper hand when it comes to outdoor adventures.
Unsurprisingly, Altimeter smartwatches are rugged in design and so chunky and heavy. A lightweight and compact design is hard to be found, and even if you find any, make sure you can fork out extra dollars for it.
A robust design should be your top priority. But how to ensure that?
- The watch should be scratch and temperature resistant
- It should be dust and water-resistant to a fair degree
- Metallic design
- MIL-STD-810G Rated
Large Screen & Buttons:
A touch-enabled, sleek display might look fine on a casual urban smartwatch, but for all practical purposes, the screen of an altimeter watch should be large and must be flanked by analogue buttons.
If the altimeter watch doesn’t have a touchscreen, it is totally fine as you would be navigating through the menu via glove friendly buttons.
Most outdoor adventurers are not gadget geeks, and if you are one of them, better spend money on the smartwatch that you can exploit fully. If you are looking for a basic ABC smartwatch, go for minimalist user interface design.
Features like navigation with the help of satellites and contour mapping will turn out to be an overkill, if you don’t use them enough due to the complexity involved in the process.
A lightweight design and premium quality straps contributes heavily to the comfortability of the smartwatch. But unfortunately with altimeter smartwatches, you would have to compromise on the weight.
Due to battery and screen size, and to make the watch rugged, an altimeter watch would always have to be large in size and heavy in weight as design limitations. However, for buyers with deep pockets, finding a comfortable altimeter smartwatch isn’t a big deal.
Provided that you can pay extra, Both Garmin and Suunto have compact watches that without compromising on durability and resilience, provide top-class comfort.
Top Altimeter Smartwatches in 2022
- Battery life: 1 day
- ABC Watch: NO (Don’t have the compass)
- Weight: 1.4 ounce
- GPS: Yes
- Screen: 1.2-inch OLED display
- Connectivity: Bluetooth, NFC
- Water resistance: 5 ATM
Probably not the perfect smartwatch, Fossil Sport is a midrange smartwatch that suits the needs of most outdoor adventurers. The company has not included a compass or barometer in the watch, but the altimeter is there.
The watch itself is very lightweight weighing only at about 25 grams. Being built of an aluminum frame, durability and ruggedness are not questionable. The watch is quite sturdy, built for extreme sports.
It also comes with a water resistance rating of up to 5 ATM, which makes it a suitable partner for divers and competitive swimmers. The AMOLED screen provides a bright display even on your brightest days out.
Fossil sport includes a GPS whose performance is somewhat average. It takes a good amount of time to kick in but works fine after that. Smart tracking service is also not an option which can be annoying for some users. Google NFC services are enabled to ease your transactions.
Due to its more efficient chipset, you can get about 24 hours on a single charge with all the sports features turned on. You can squeeze it up to a week if you would compromise on the features. Quick charging comes as a cherry on top that gives 50 percent juice with just a 30 minute charge.
As an altimeter smartwatch, Fossil sport has limited functionality. You cannot take it to extended hiking trips due to its short battery life. But as far as the sturdiness and resilience are concerned, the watch is pretty much solid by all standards.
- Battery life: 12-18 Months
- ABC Watch: Yes(plus thermometer)
- Weight: 64 g / 2.26 oz
- GPS: No
- Screen: Non-Touch Circular
- Water resistance: up to 100 feet
If extreme sports are your thing, and you prefer to keep a record digitally with longer lasting charge, you might want to give Suunto core a try.
The build quality is solid as it is manufactured according to military standards. The watch is completely waterproof if deep sea diving up to 100 feet or snorkeling is in question. Weighing at about 80 grams, it is not the lightest watch out in the market, but the weight speaks for its rigidity and strength.
The lack of GPS is compensated by an extremely accurate altimeter, barometer, and compass. The altimeter works by measuring the pressure, not coordinates as most watches do. It measures the altitude at the intervals of three feet or one meter.
The barometer also works great that detects pressure difference and enables the storm warning if sudden fluctuations occur. The watch also creates logs and graphs of the bearings for 7 days which is pretty nifty.
Suunto Core is equipped with a powerful CR2023 battery, which is said to last for about 12 to 18 months. Backlight enabled and compass drain the battery the most, so make sure to use them only when needed.
Garmin’s top-of-the-line Fenix 6 pro has a vast range of outdoor and indoor features that come in a rugged package. Worth every penny, it can surely handle every hardship you throw at it.
One of the most highlighting features of Fenix 6 pro is its durability. The screen is protected by Gorilla glass 3DX which prevents all sorts of screen damages. Made up of stainless steel and weighing at 63 grams, Garmin has made sure to provide sufficient water proofing along with sturdiness. So the watch is perfect for underwater sightseeing till the depth of 100 meters.
Fenix 6 pro comes with all the necessities you would need from a watch for outdoor adventures. GPS uses the Sony chipset which is more efficient and accurate than the previous Snapdragon ones.
Fenix 6 pro is also equipped with the barometric altimeter, which measures the slope and height using the air pressure. There is also a storm warning system triggered by sudden rises and falls in the pressure.
Battery timing is just great when smartwatch mode is turned on. The watch lasts up to two weeks on a full charge. The lowest battery performance which comes with the GPS turned on is also not bad with the watch lasting for 36 hours almost.
Apple has always been the market leader as far as the tech gadgets are concerned. This has not changed as evident from the Series 6 lineup.
There is nothing much to be skeptical about the build quality in a premium watch. The build quality is straight up solid, with the frame consisting of stainless steel that provides rigidity. Waterproofing is enabled up to the depth of 50 meters.
The watch is also quite lightweight. Weighing at around 40 grams which is quite comfortable to wear while you are hiking or swimming. Build wise, it is a pretty great option.
The Apple series 6 is equipped with an always on altimeter that gives you the elevation readings in real time. The feature is quite handy for hikers and mountain climbers. All of this is triggered by the barometric pressure sensor which measures the elevation using the air pressure. The GPS present is a bit harder on the battery but works perfectly alright .NFC support is also available
The battery situation in the series 6 watch is pretty compelling. In the normal day to day usage the battery lasts for more than 36 hours which is pretty decent. The battery juices up from flat to 80% in about an hour. Wireless charging provided also serves as a cherry on top.
The Casio ProTrek WSD-F30 shouts adventure from outside and inside. Packed with tons of functionalities this can be your ultimate watch for outdoor activities.
Casio protrek’s looks are enough to show its durability and strength. It is certified to the US military’s rugged standards too. With the water resistance of 5 ATM, this watch is great for swimming and other water sports.
The watch is built of a very hard plastic which decreases the wear and tear over the course of time. It weighs around 83 grams which is a bit heavy but it has a snug fit and does not wobble around.
Casio wanted this watch to be made specifically for extreme sports. The watch is equipped with an altimeter, compass and barometer that provide the readings at regular intervals.
All of these features along with GPS are fairly easy to access. The GPS is also supported by Google maps and mapbox maps which you can use to switch between terrain, satellite and standard views.
Battery timing is not something Casio should be proud of. In the normal day to day usage the watch lasts around 1.5 days. To be able to navigate actively throughout the day, you need to recharge it overnight. The watch also takes a good 3 hours to charge completely.
You need a watch specifically made for outdoor Sports and adventures? Coros Apex is what you should be looking for.
Solely built for the purpose of outdoor sports and adventures, apex has a pretty solid and rigid build quality. The dial is made up of Sapphire glass and is protected around by a Titanium alloy bezel.
It weighs around 48 grams only and feels pretty light on the wrist. The silicone bands are snug and comfy enough for running, hiking , cycling, swimming etc. The watch is also water resistant up to 10 ATM which is perfect for swimming and other open water sports.
Apex has a pretty spot on GPS and GLONASS satellite connections. It tracks the movements very well and has an always-on feature that marks your path. The barometric altimeter is also very handy that uses differential air pressure to display the altitude. Along with all that a compass is also provided.
Apex has a great battery stamina. With the always on GPS the watch provides the juice of about 25 hours which is great for a complete day of hiking and trekking. In normal usage The Apex lasts for 24 days. In the Ultra Max GPS mode the watch gives a backup of 80 hours.
If you have $600 to spare for a fully loaded sports watch, then Garmin instinct might be the watch for you.
Garmin watches are known for their strength and rigidity. Their Instinct line-up is no different. Weighing only 52 grams, with the fiber-reinforced polymer casing, it can handle anything you throw at it. The glass is chemically strengthened and protected by raised bezels.
The watch is capable of withstanding extreme temperatures and environments which you might face on an adventure. It is also water resistant up to 10 ATM which is perfect for water sports.
Garmin Instinct is fully loaded to be a perfect companion for outdoor Sports. It has the altimeter to show elevation for hikers and mountain climbers, GPS and compass for explorers.
GPS works great for keeping tabs while trekking. When you have no connection, GPS keeps recording the data and shows it on the Garmin connect app when you regain connection.
Normally an instance battery lasts for about two weeks but is reduced by the GPS with the GPS always turned on it lasts for about 16 hours. There is an Ultra Track GPS mode in which the GPS recording rates are decreased hence boosting the battery performance up to 40 hours.
If you’re into outdoor sports and adventures, there aren’t many brands that take care of your needs like Suunto does. Suunto 9 GPS is a prime manifestation.
Starting with built quality, rugged, robust, durable, reliable are some of the words that can be used to describe it. The large Sapphire crystal display withstands scratches and scuffs.
The watch is immune to climate fluctuations as it can handle both hotter and colder climates. It is also water resistant up to 100 meters which is quite handy for swimmers and deep sea divers. It weighs 81 grams which is a bit heavy but the fit is quite tight and comfy.
The altimeter is very interesting in Suunto 9. It uses the data from GPS and the Barometer to map out the altitude readings. This makes it more accurate than its competitors and more reliable too.
The GPS works great and has two modes. The Ultra mode decreases the reading frequency but also decreases the accuracy. An always on mode is also available.
Suunto 9 has 3 battery modes. The performance mode is in which the battery drains the fastest lasting for 24 hours but performs the most. The endurance mode lasts longer, about 50 hours but has a slightly decreased accuracy. The Ultra mode has the least GPS accuracy but lasts insanely long for about 120 hours.
If you are fascinated by the Garmin products, then the forerunner 935 is sure to strengthen your fascination.
The weight of the watch is noticeably light at 49 grams which won’t bother you while running or hiking. The silicone straps which are interchangeable are very lightweight and seem Unbreakable.
The build quality is quite robust and solid. It is also water resistant up to 5 ATM which means that water sports like swimming, snorkeling and diving up to 50 meters won’t be a problem.
As always the Garmin GPS performance is great. The bearing frequency at about 5 seconds per reading and its accuracy won’t disappoint you. The barometric altimeter is present, and performs exceptionally well along with its compass. All the bearings are stored in the watch offline and can be accessed by the Garmin connect app.
The battery life on Garmin forerunner 935 is very impressive. In the normal watch mode it lasts up to two weeks pretty easily with occasional running and exercises.
In the GPS mode however the endurance decreases to about 24 hours which is also better than most of its competitors. The ultratrack mode as always works great at the expense of a little bit of accuracy.
Be it an expedition for a mile long swim, Suunto Ambit3 will be a perfect companion for your grindings and hardships.
Ambit 3 is quite noticeable due to its size and weight of about 80 grams. But despite its bulky appearance it is quite comfortable to wear even for a whole day. It has quite a chunky bezel which helps protecting the display.
The watch is water resistant up to 100 metres. The good thing is that all the functionalities that work outside the water also work while submerged. This makes it perfect for deep water diving as well as open water sports.
Ambit3 has just the right tools for outdoor adventure. Its FusedAlti feature gives accurate altitude measurements by combining GPS with barometric altitude.
There is also a storm alarm which is triggered by sudden fluctuations in air pressure. It tracks and stores all your activities through the respective app which is quite useful.
Ambit3’s excellent battery performance is supported by its monochrome display. It drains less battery while performing more functions than its rivals. The battery lasts for about a week with the GPS turned on. It can go on for about 15 days in the normal watch mode.
Altimeter (ABC) Smartwatches: Frequently Asked Questions
What Is An Altimeter Watch?
Alti relates to altitude, and an altimeter is an instrument that measures elevation from a certain standard point. An altimeter watch can do the job of a standalone altimeter, plus ( if it’s a smartwatch) it can create contouring maps for hikers and backcountry adventurers. These watches are usually referred to as elevation or altitude watches/smartwatches.
The standalone altimeter can be either barometric or radio type. The first exploits the simple physics of air pressure to measure altitude: with rising altitude the air pressure decreases. The latter uses radio signals and GPS technology to measure the altitude of an object or person from sea level.
In watches however, the altimeter is of barometric type.
What Is An Alti Barometer?
Alti-barometer is basically an application available on Galaxy store. It uses the barometric sensors of the watch to predict the altitude of the wearer above the sea level.
Does Apple Watch Have An Altimeter?
The watch we included in this article, Apple Watch Series 6 is the most latest watch by Apple and It does have an altimeter in it. The watch features an always-on altimeter that with the help of GPS and Wi-Fi Connections creates the most accurate elevation profile while tracking.
What Is A Barometric Watch?
A barometric watch measures only the atmospheric pressure and nothing else. An altimeter watch/smartwatch measures pressure too but it is further developed to compare barometric (atmospheric pressure) levels and represent the changes as a change in altitude from sea level.
What Is An ABC Smartwatch?
A stands for Altimeter, B for Barometer, and C for Compass. A watch/smartwatch that has all these sensors is called an ABC watch. Usually, these watches have thermometers and GPS too as all these specs are meant for outdoor excursions.
Related Articles: Best Smartwatch For Construction Workers (Tradies) 
Related Articles: Best Rugged Smartwatch 2022