Saltwater is a sworn enemy of electronic devices. So we can fully understand your hesitation to take your smartwatch to ocean or sea swimming.
Chlorine and Salt are aggressive corrosion agents and as most smartwatches, these days have a metal casing or metal bezel. Many here would jump to conclusion that they should be avoided at all costs.
But then, why most water-resistant watches these days have swim tracking metrics? You would argue that these smartwatches can be safely worn in fresh-water, but would miserably fail in saltwater or chlorinated pools.
There are scores of consumers who reported problems with their smartwatches when they introduced them into chlorinated or saltwater. Some faced issues like corrosion of metal surface and scratches on the screen. whereas others had their watch completely damaged even on the first try.
Having said that, they also admit that they didn’t take the necessary precautions. Also, a few have faulty units and some went too far testing the water-resistance of the watch.
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Personal Experience: Putting Apple Watch Series 3 to the test in seawater
My personal experience with Apple Watch Series 3 (an old watch though) tells a different story.
As Apple has clearly mentioned on their website that the watch is water-resistant for ocean swimming. I was quite relaxed when I took it to sea swimming for the first time (plus, I had seen a few Apple watch users on the beach who were fearlessly going in and out of water).
I turned on the water lock and went right into the water. Nothing happened. I spend 1 hour in water submerging the watch no greater than 5m. As soon I was out of the water, I washed the watch with fresh water and turned off the Water-lock so the watch can eject entrapped water. I have repeated it for the 15 days in a row while swimming for no longer than 3 hours.
The salt water had no effect on the watch. The aluminum casing was intact, and so does the silicon band. The watch hasn’t faced any issues minor or major.
Does this mean that only the Apple watch is resistant to Salt-water?
Smartwatches by Samsung (like Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 and Active 2), by Suunto (Suunto 7 and Suunto 9) and Garmin (Garmin Fenix series, Vivoactive), or in general any watch that is water-resistant for at least 50 m in water would do perfectly fine. Better still, if the smartwatch has a plastic casing instead.
Here, I have added a video of the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 test under saltwater. It worked perfectly fine.
I scoured the internet for hours to find the best smartwatch for salt water. Put another way, the best smartwatch for sea or ocean swimming.
So if you are planning to buy an amphibian smartwatch to be your partner in sea water snorkeling, surfing or spear fishing, have a look at these options. Hopefully, you won’t have to look elsewhere.
Precautions you must take before taking your smartwatch to saltwater?
No matter if you surf in saltwater (pool, sea, or ocean) or snorkel for spearfishing, if you are wearing a smartwatch with a metallic casing, strap, or buckle, always rinse it freshwater as soon as you take it out of the water. As the entrapped saltwater or other chemicals may deteriorate the water-resistance of the watch.
In case you don’t know whether your watch is swim-proof or not, follow this link: IP68 vs 5 ATM Smartwatch
Always change the band of the smartwatch, if it allows for it. Metal and Leather bands should be ditched for nylon and silicone band for salt water swimming.
In apple watches, you have ‘Watch-lock’ feature which you activate whenever you get into water. It automatically turns off the touch sensitivity. However, if you forgot to turn it off, the watch would still be water resistance. When outside and before rinsing the watch with fresh water, you can turn off the ‘Watch Lock’ mode to eject entrapped water.
Other smartwatches have similar features too.
To avoid getting the screen scratched, you must always remove the sand particles by thoroughly cleaning with the fresh water. And with Apple watches, be sure to rotate the Digital Crown to remove any debris as you do.
Best Smartwatches for surfing, swimming, or snorkeling in saltwater swimming (pool, sea, and ocean):
Garmin Instinct Solar Surf edition
Garmin Instinct watches are rugged and bulky. The Solar Surf Edition can extend battery life to several weeks and is dedicated to surfing enthusiasts. And as you can easily guess, this watch is suitable for salt-water swimming or for any other activity.
The watch has a Built-in 3-axis compass and barometric altimeter. So it is an ABC smartwatch. Also, it has multiple global navigation satellite systems (GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo) to have better coverage. This allows the watch to accurately track your position with the least margin of error.
Coming to the Surf tracking, it can record the number of waves surfed, maximum speed reached, and distance traveled by using the surf activity profile. The watch also helps you to catch the perfect wave by keeping tabs on ocean conditions and displaying them on screen. Though the screen is quite basic.
The smartwatch can track swimming, running, biking, hiking, rowing, strength, and more. As a health device, it can monitor heartrate, sleep and stress as well as allows you to take pulse oxygen measurements.
Constructed to U.S. military standard 810 for thermal, shock, and water resistance, the watch can take an unusually high degree of abuse. Plus you can submerge the watch in water for up to 100 m. Another plus of the smartwatch is the TRACKBACK ROUTING feature that allows you to navigate the same route back to your starting point.
You can attach a couple of accessories with this smartwatch to improve accuracy like a chest band.
Garmin Fenix 6
Fenix 6 series is another powerful smartwatch series by Garmin that has three multisport and outdoor GPS watches with a no of outdoor recreation profile available (Namely, Hiking, Indoor Climbing, Bouldering, Climbing, Mountain Biking, Skiing, Snowboarding, XC Skiing, Stand Up Paddle boarding, Rowing, Kayaking, Surfing, Jumpmaster, Tactical).
This watch is a Swiss army knife for multisport athletes and outdoorsmen. And as you can guess, the company demands top dollars for it.
It has separate profiles for running, hiking and swimming and a couple of other activities, we are particularly concerned with swimming. It offers two modes: pool and open water swimming. The watch can track distance, pace, stroke count/rate, stroke distance, swim efficiency (swolf), calories.
Though the watch has built in heart rate tracker, you can also attach external HRM to improve accuracy.
Many smartwatch and health features go into the mix to make it an attractive option for a wide audience. (Garmin pay, smartphone notifications, sleep, and stress tracking). But like always, Garmin has remained focused on practical features rather than on bells and whistles (flashy display, standalone calling, and Voice assistant).
The smartwatch is rugged to the core. In fact, Fenix 6 series is considered the gold standard of ruggedness and durability in the smartwatch industry. Come hell or (salt) water, the watch can take anything without breaking except for breaking the bank.
Apple Watch Series 6
As per Apple’s recommendation, its smartwatches can be used in shallow water activities but not for scuba diving and water skiing. So swimming in a pool or ocean (read Salt-water) won’t damage your Apple watch. A lot of surfers also use Apple watches safely while riding the waves. The water-resistance level of Apple watches may change or lessen over time
While you can use any Apple Watch from Series 3 to Series 6, we have added here the best Apple Watch for you. Keep in mind, Apple Watch only connects to an IOS device.
Apart from swimming, the Apple Watch Series 6 also track surfing. You will have to install premium third-party apps for it (Dawn Patrol and Surfline). The app gives in-depth surf report and tidal data.
You can get the details in the video below.
Also, Apple offers special sports band for swimming and other activities, and you have the freedom to attach third-party straps with the watch.
Apple watch s6 doesn’t match Garmin watches we discussed above in water resistance and should not be submerged below 30m in water even if the company claim that the watch can withstand 50m.
Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2
Samsung released two watches for both android and ios users that are very identical in features to Apple Watch but have circular design. Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 is expensive and has premium built. Active 2, on the other hand, has plastic built and is inexpensive. And yet, it has all these advanced features like ECG, LTE connectivity, Sports tracking and Contactless payment.
Samsung Active 2 can track swimming, and here is how it performs under water. The following videos is uploaded by a random user on the internet showcasing Samsung Galaxy Active 2 while snorkeling in Sea Water.
For those who don’t know, Samsung Galaxy Active 2 is water resistant for up to 50 m (5 ATM rated), and is approved by military grade standard (810 G). So the watch is built for rough and tough conditions.
Active 2 has dedicated swim tracking features: You can view metrics like distance, strokes, lap time and SWOLF (to measure swimming efficiency) from the Super AMOLED display. The watch is fit for the pool and open water swimming. Like Apple Watch, it has a water lock mode.
Other highlight features include Samsung Pay, 4GB of memory, day-long battery life and offline Spotify support.
This watch by Suunto is a great alternative to Garmin Fenix Series, as both are multisport watches. Suunto 7 has tailored sport modes for swimming exercises in pools or in open water. The watch is waterproof for up to 50 m, and there are physical buttons to navigate under water.
Like Samsung and Apple, the watch disable the touch screen when using swimming sport modes.
Suunto App Heatmaps makes it easy to find popular open water swimming spots. You can check them directly on the watch. The advanced GPS tracking would allow you to track your swimming on a map, but it is a little tricky to use, as you might lose signals while inside water.
The watch has a built-in heart rate sensor, but for better accuracy you would have to pair an external HRM chest strap with it. While sea or ocean swimming, it would allow you to keep tabs on your duration and other key metrics like your stroke, pace, intervals and breaks.
There is an interval training mode in it for serious athletes. You can sharpen your techniques while open water swimming with detailed metrics. The watch can also give you SWOLF score after analyzing your sessions, swim style, and stroke rates.
Other than the swim tracking, there are loads of other sports to choose from. It can track running, hiking, and a number of another exercise. Also, the watch has pretty decent smartwatch features like contactless payment, calling and texting, and offline Spotify support.
We have enlisted a few of many smartwatches that can be worn while swimming, surfing or snorkeling in saltwater (pool, sea, or ocean) as long as you take proper care of them.
Certainly there are cheaper or expensive alternatives that we didn’t discussed here like the old Apple Watch Series 3, Samsung Galaxy Watch, or Garmin mk1 descent. However, the watches discussed here represent the cream of the crop.