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GPS Watches - What 52 OCR Athletes Think

Updated: Jun 20

Most importantly, a huge "Thank you" to everyone who filled out the survey for this article! We really appreciate everyone sharing their thoughts and opinions. It should help other athletes choose what watch might fit them best since this question comes up Constantly in OCR groups on facebook.

To view data from our most recent survey, visit: GPS Watches 2023

Remember, these are results from a survey. We are simply reporting the data given!

The subjects covered in this article are:

1: All brands the athletes have personally used

2: The brand they currently use

3: The model of watch they currently use

4: Reasons for their purchase choice

5: Our Thoughts (Biased Info)

1: The 1st question we asked was: "Which GPS watch brand(s) have you used? Select all brands that you've ever personally used."

Perhaps not surprising to anyone who has been participating in endurance sports for a while, Garmin came out on top. We were a little shocked by how dominant they actually were in this survey. Perhaps even more interesting is that Garmin holds a significantly lower percentage of the GPS Watch market compared to Apple and Fitbit, but it looks like they've really hit their niche in the market with OCR athletes and making watch lines that fit the needs of OCR athletes.

2: The 2nd question asked was: "Which GPS watch brand do you CURRENTLY use? If you currently use more than one, select the one you MOST use."

The data gets pretty wild here. Many of our respondents had, at some point, used Fitbit, Tomtom, Timex, and Other at some point. However, when it comes down to what they use NOW, only half of the brands made this part of the list. It would seem that the respondents didn't find a lot of long-term value in Timex, Tomtom, and Other options and moved on to another brand for their main use.

3: The 3rd question: "What is the MODEL of watch that you CURRENTLY use MOST?"

Three of the top 5 answers to this question, not surprisingly, were Garmin models. The Fenix crushed it overall with more people choosing that model than numbers 3, 4, and 5 combined. The Forerunner came in a strong second. We got a great photo submission from Sherry B. wearing her Garmin Forerunner at a Spartan Race.

We have some great feedback from respondents about why they are using the top 5 models currently:

Garmin Fenix: "Garmin Fenix 5s - perfect for OCR, durable, records all the data I want, useful for keeping an eye on pacing during a race."

Garmin Forerunner: "For the price, I love my Garmin Forerunner 235. It has excellent battery life and accurate GPS tracking. I do wish it had a mode to track weight training type workouts but that’s the only think I’m missing."

Garmin Vivoactive: "My Garmin Vivoactive 3 is great! It's durable. I've rolled around underneath barbed wire, dunked under walls, hit it against some walls, and every time it keeps going. My only complaint is that the roughly 10 hour battery life with GPS on isn't enough to get through a mountain ultra (yet) until I get a little faster!"

Polar M: "Good. Nothing fancy but gets the job done."

Apple Watch: "Apple Watch 3 with data; excellent so far. I’ve ran 6+ spartan races (sprints, supers, and beasts) in it and it’s as good as new. The only complaint I have is battery life on beasts, it dies before the end of the race unless you turn on workout mode which helps preserve battery life but turns off the heart rate feature."

4: Question number 4: "When purchasing the watch that you CURRENTLY use MOST, the top 3 biggest factors were..?"

This graph is pretty interesting. Just like with the Shoe Article we did, quality was the #1 reason why people purchased what they did. If you are selling a product, better make it a quality product if you want people to buy it. We thought Price would come in higher than Features and Battery Life, but we were wrong there. The top three reasons all make absolute sense though for what the watches are going to be used for.

Also interestingly, and just like the Shoe Article again, no one seems to care about ads for the products; 0/52 in this case. Looks aren't anywhere near the top reason to buy a watch - according to these respondents, and recommendations, both personal and online, don't carry a whole lot of weight.

5: Our Thoughts:

Overall, it looks as though Garmin has captured a solid portion of the market (at least based on this small sample size). At Trio Fitness OCR, we would not recommend Apple watches for OCRs in general. They might work for short courses, but long ones seem to be a bit beyond their ability with battery life. We also, personally, would not risk our "all connectivity" device on races as harsh as OCRs - we'd get something built for them.

The Garmin watches have tons of great reviews and features. They could make really good options for purchasers - though they do get very pricey. We also recommend Suunto's watches as they are, like Garmin, built for the grind and abuse of OCR. However, Suunto watches aren't cheap either.

No matter what direction you go, do your research. Figure out what your needs are, and find a watch that meets those needs! Having in-race data can be extremely helpful, just as having in-training data.

Thanks again to all those who responded to this survey!

Maybe you disagree with the responses given. Maybe you are one of the many who love Garmin. We'd love to hear what you think - so leave a comment below and let us know!

We want to help OCR athletes improve their strength, speed, and endurance. Sign up HERE to get started.

Trio Fitness OCR

Instagram: @triofitnessocr


Joel Hayes (Article Author)

Instagram: @joelsphayes

Luke Hayes

Instagram: @lukejshayes

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