At last year's Wareable Tech Awards we chose to have a Sports Wearable of the Year category, but with the calibre and the number of great sports watches that have launched (and we've reviewed) this year, it felt like we had to change things up with a dedicated Sports Watch Award.
That increase in quality has been largely driven by Garmin, but Polar and Suunto have also significantly raised their game in delivering top notch, GPS-packing training and race partners. TomTom deserves a mention here too. It might not have the same sporting heritage as the big three but despite the company's decision to back away from wearables, the Adventurer and the Spark 3 are two of the best sports watches we've used here at Wareable. So the outdoor-friendly Adventurer rightfully earned its place alongside the heavyweights.
Read this: Wareable Tech Awards 2017 winners
Then there are the sporty smartwatches, which continue to improve every year. Apple's Watch Series 3 has come on leap and bounds since the first Watch as far as tracking fitness is concerned. It's a great running companion, delivers reliable swim tracking and it's also really addictive trying to close those Activity Rings. The Vivoactive 3 signalled Garmin's intent to offer a worthy alternative to Apple's smartwatch and while the Fitbit Ionic still feels like a work in progress, there are plenty of positives that suggests the future is bright for Fitbit's smartwatch.
Our winner in the end though was a Garmin, the Forerunner 935 to be precise. One of the most expensive watches on the nominee list, but putting that price to one side, this watch represents everything good that Garmin is doing with its watches right now. It's essentially the Fenix 5 and all of its features crammed into a slimmer design, but we should applaud Garmin for being able to achieve that alone. There aren't many watches out there that can match the Forerunner 935's specs sheet and do it without being a big hulk of a device.
What particularly impressed us, aside from that design, were features like the new Training Effect and Status data. This takes the watch from a multisports tracking beast to a tool that can give you useful insights into recovery between workouts and getting the most from your sessions. Let's talk about battery life as well. It's a powerhouse in that respect even for those for whom training is an all week affair.
The Sports Watch of the Year contenders
- Garmin Fenix 5 reviewThe king of multisport watches is back with a bang
- Polar M430 reviewPolar's all-in-one GPS sports watch is a top Garmin and Suunto rival
- Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR reviewFinally, a Suunto Spartan watch worth shouting about
- Garmin Vivoactive 3 reviewA superb sports watch with improving smartwatch powers
- Apple Watch Series 3 reviewAn LTE smartwatch that doesn't phone it in
- TomTom Adventurer reviewTomTom's outdoor watch and skiing tracker is a real success
- Fitbit Ionic reviewUPDATED: Meet Fitbit's smartwatch riposte to the Apple Watch
We should also of course take some time to talk about the sports watch that missed out on the big award. The Polar M400, which was launched way back in 2014, remains one of favourite running watches and in the Polar M430 we got the upgrade that we had been waiting for. Barring some initial issues we experienced with the heart rate sensor on dark skin (which have since been rectified), this all-in-one GPS sports watch delivered on all fronts. It gave us multisports tracking, snappy GPS and one of the most reliable wrist based heart rate monitors we've put to the test. And it's significantly cheaper than the Forerunner 935.
Ultimately though, it came down to the watch the Wareable team and our guest judges felt was the standout irrespective of price. The 935 was our winner. But what this category proved is that the competition is growing and while TomTom has bowed out, we're expecting more good things from Polar, Suunto, Apple and Fitbit that should make next year's judging even more difficult.
Did you agree with our decision? Let us know in the comments below.