Best Watches For Rowing | Smartwatches For Tracking Row Data

man rowing crew boat (skull)
Photo: Matthew Fournier

In the early development of the smartwatches, there weren’t really any smartwatches that offered features for rowing.

But good news for all those rowers out there, to further push innovation and to serve other tracking needs, companies have developed newer models of smartwatches with rowing specific features, whether for outdoor rowing or indoor erging on a rowing machine.

When smartwatches were first manufactured, they were primarily developed to cater to active persons with features specifically for running, fitness & health combined with cellular functions and everyday apps that users are looking for.

That being said, smartwatches have become popular to active people, especially those who go running, for they make use the running cadence included in the GPS features of a smartwatch. Watch companies and app developers have expanded the functionality of these watches and now even have special apps for skiing watches and watches for obstacle races like the Spartan Race.

In this article we’ll take a closer look at the specific functionality available for rowing, some things to consider before you buy and also give you our curated list of best watches for rowing currently on the market.

 

Importance Of Rowing Data

rowing crew boat from above
Photo by Josh Calabrese

Tracking rowing data can give a clear picture of one’s overall workout or training performance. The rowing data tracked can serve as a reference for the details in regards to one’s workout or training.

Basically, it helps one to analyze one’s workout or training in regards to one’s strengths; weaknesses; and correlations of certain factors like stroke rate, speed, heart rate, and etc. Without this data, you are really training blind since you don’t have metrics to compare your past performance.

With all that said, for effectively tracking your rowing data, a smartwatch must have all the necessary features for analyzing your rowing workout or training, depending on whether you’re doing it outdoor or indoor.

For outdoor rowing: you will be needing a smartwatch with GPS that’s waterproof and can determine your stroke rate; stroke count; distance per stroke; speed; heart rate; time; and distance traveled.

For indoor rowing/erging: your watch should be able to track the stroke rate; stroke count; heart rate; and time. Also, there are some apps for indoor rowing that allow connection of smartwatches to rowing machines according to their respective compatibilities.


Best Smartwatch For Tracking Rowing Data

It’s All In The Garmins

When it comes to rowing data tracking, rowers often recommend smartwatches from Garmin.

Amazingly, there are particular smartwatches from Garmin that can supply all the data one will need in one’s rowing workout or training and can even be connected to Concept 2 rowing machines through the ErgIQ app.

There are a lot of smartwatches that include rowing specific features with their preconfigured rowing app that Garmin has developed. Even if a Garmin smartwatch doesn’t include such features one needs, a custom app can be developed through Connect IQ store.  But here, we are going to highlight some of Garmin’s best and most recommended smartwatches for tracking rowing data.

For each of those smartwatches, we will give an in-depth description for you to know which Garmin smartwatch might do for you.


Garmin Fenix

As a technology company, Garmin has prevailed to be very much reliable for its multisport smartwatches, perhaps even the best in the market. Among its smartwatch innovations, two models which have gained popularity among rowers for the convenience of an effective and detailed rowing data tracking that they provide; have received rave reviews on the internet; and have been highly recommended are from Garmin’s Fenix line. And they are the Garmin Fenix 3 and the Garmin Fenix 5.

But the said models were actually upgraded to the better Garmin Fenix 3 HR and the Garmin Fenix 5X Sapphire that has also become all the rage since their release. So we’ve decided to feature these upgraded versions for an even better rowing workout or training experience.

Garmin Fenix 3 HR

Garmin Fenix 3 HR, Gray
Garmin Fenix 3 HR

Stroke count; stroke rate; distance per stroke; speed; time; distance, you name it, Garmin Fenix 3 HR has all the rowing data tracking features you need. Along with its accurate rowing data tracking to monitor your performance, comes to its heart rate tracking as well to monitor your health.

Garmin Fenix 3 HR is made with the Garmin Elevate wrist heart rate technology, which allows the measurement of the heart rate without the need of the chest strap, as this technology can take one’s heart rate just at one’s wrist. Calories burned and the intensity of fitness activities are also provided by the Garmin Fenix 3 HR, basing from the heart rate.

A performance monitoring tool is also included in the Garmin Fenix 3 HR, called the Training Status wherein exercise history is recorded, while performance indicators inform whether you’re training productively; peaking; or overreaching.

One’s performance can also be shared through the automatic upload to the Garmin Connect online fitness community and live tracking and social media sharing through the Garmin Connect and Garmin Connect Mobile applications.

The Garmin Fenix 3 HR is a reliable rowing data tracking smartwatch, whether for outdoor or indoor rowing.

But for outdoor rowing, its outdoor navigation features including an omnidirectional stainless steel EXO antenna; a GPS; a 3-axis compass; a barometer; and the TracBack feature can come handy, as well as its waterproof feature of up to 100 meters. And its high-resolution, color, sunlight-readable Garmin Chroma Display makes it easy to read out in the sunlight. Moreover, the display also comes with a backlight for clear readability in any kind of light.

With a rugged construction composed of a reinforced housing; a protective PVD-stainless steel bezel and buttons; a high-strength domed sapphire lens; and a treated silicone band, the smartwatch is built to withstand the toughest conditions.

Apart from its features fit for rowing, it comes with smart notifications that allow you to receive emails; texts; and alerts.

In addition, its watch face can be customized to one’s liking with various watch faces; as well as data fields; apps; and widgets for a quick access to information at a glance. All of which can be downloaded for free from the Connect IQ store. One may also customize the watch face with a photo from one’s smartphone with the Garmin Face It app.

This model is compatible with Android version 4.3, iOS, and Windows OS.

Garmin Fenix 5X Sapphire

Garmin Fenix 5X Sapphire - Slate Gray with Black Band
Garmin Fenix 5X

Much like the aforementioned Garmin Fenix 3 HR, the Garmin Fenix 5X Sapphire provides all the necessary rowing data tracking features, whether for outdoor or indoor rowing and more.

Basically, this model that’s Android and iOS compatible and shares similar features with the Garmin Fenix 3 HR reviewed above.

Apart from providing rowing data tracking with its preconfigured rowing app, the Garmin Fenix 5X Sapphire also has the Garmin Elevate wrist heart rate technology.  In addition to measuring heart rate, it also determines the calories burned and intensity of fitness activities.

The Training Status allows you to analyze long-term training habits, as it records and evaluates exercise history, along with the performance indicators that determine productivity.

Performance sharing features allow sharing of progress to the Garmin Connect online fitness community automatically and to social media. Garmin Connect and Garmin Connect Mobile applications also allow your friends and family to track your activities in real time using LiveTrack”.

This watch features rugged construction with a reinforced housing, a PVD-coated stainless steel bezel and buttons, a silicone strap, and a sapphire lens.

The high-resolution, full-color, sunlight-readable Garmin Chroma Display with an LED backlight makes it easy to read even when rowing. The watch also offers smart notifications and watch face customization.

What sets this model apart is that in addition to its omnidirectional stainless steel EXO antenna; GPS; 3-axis compass; barometer; TracBack feature; and waterproof feature of up to 100 meters good for outdoor rowing also present in the preceding Garmin Fenix 3 HR.

The Garmin Fenix 5X Sapphire is the first ever smartwatch from the Fenix line to offer full-color TOPO US mapping for at-a-glance navigation and location reference along with other advanced mapping and navigation functions.

Read reviews of the 5X on Amazon by that mention “rowing”.


Click here to see a comparison table (on the Garmin website) for a side-by-side comparison of these watch models, showing the differences between them.

Garmin Vivoactive

Two other smartwatches from Garmin made it on our list, this time, from its latter smartwatch line, Vivoactive. To each their own, Garmin’s rowing data tracking smartwatches have their own strengths, but as Garmin continues to better their smartwatches, newer models come with some added enhancements.

So now, let us take a look at the two smartwatch models from the Vivoactive line on our list, the Garmin Vivoactive HR and the Garmin Vivoactive 3.

Garmin Vivoactive HR

Garmin vívoactive HR GPS Smart Watch, Regular fit - Black
Garmin vívoactive HR

Providing all the necessary rowing metrics along with the heart rate, calories burned, and intensity of fitness activities through its Garmin Elevate wrist heart rate technology; serving as guidance for outdoor rowing with its GPS, compass, and 3-axis accelerometer; waterproof for up to 50 meters;

As with other Garmin watches on this list, this one also lets you share your results using the Garmin Connect online fitness community automatically. Social media shares as in live tracking can all be done through Garmin’s app.

This model also comes with the easily readable Garmin Chroma Display,

The Garmin Vivoactive HR, in many ways, is similar to its aforementioned predecessors. Such features make the smartwatch good for either outdoor or indoor rowing. But apart from those said features, there’s more to Garmin Vivoactive HR.

Suitably with its name, Vivoactive HR, it actively tracks one’s activity and health 24/7, making it fit for the active person.

Yes, not only will it track one’s rowing stats with the preconfigured rowing app, but it also automatically tracks activities throughout one’s day with its Move IQ, such as the steps walked; floors climbed; or other workouts one may engage in; as well as intensity minutes.

In addition, this model is compatible with Android version 4.3 and iOS.

Related Video: Rowing with Garmin Vivoactive HR

Garmin Vivoactive 3

Garmin 010-01769-01 Vivoactive 3 GPS Fitness Smartwatch (Black & Stainless) + 1 Year Extended Warranty
Garmin Vivoactive 3

You can also count on the Garmin Vivoactive 3 as your workout or training buddy for rowing, whether outdoor or indoor. With the Garmin Vivoactive 3, rowing metrics can be accessed through the preconfigured rowing app.

Heart rate, calories burned, and intensity of fitness activities are also provided with its Garmin Elevate wrist heart rate technology.

Sensors to aid in outdoor rowing are also present in it, such as its GPS; compass; accelerometer; and thermometer. Its 50-meter waterproof feature and rugged construction composed of a reinforced housing, a stainless steel bezel, a silicone strap, and a Corning Gorilla Glass 3 lens are advantageous for outdoor rowing.

Here, one can also have access to the Garmin Connect online fitness community, as well as utilize its progress sharing features, whether to the Garmin Connect; social media; or through live tracking.

Moreover, in the Garmin Vivoactive 3, the watch face can also be customized, and on it, one can see alerts on text messages; social media updates; emails; and more with its smart notifications. And everything can be seen clearly with the Garmin Chroma Display also present in this smartwatch.

Same as the Garmin Vivoactive HR, the Garmin Vivoactive 3 also comes with 24/7 tracking, but this model comes with new features. Apart from coming in a round shape, in contrast to the rectangular Garmin Vivoactive HR, this latter model comes with new metrics, such as VO2Max estimation; fitness age estimation; stress monitoring; and heart rate variability.

Also, the Garmin Vivoactive 3 is actually Garmin’s first ever smartwatch to feature contactless payment with Garmin Pay.

This versatile smartwatch has compatibility with Android and iOS.


Other Smartwatch Options For Tracking Rowing Data

Apple Watch Series 4

Apple Watch Series 4 (GPS + Cellular, 44mm) - Space Black Stainless Steel Case with Black Sport Band
Apple Watch Series 4

A smartwatch from the leading smartwatch brand, Apple Watch, managed to make it to our list, and it’s none other than the Apple Watch Series 4.

As the latest version of the Apple Watch, it comes with new and improved features including a larger screen as compared to older Apple Watch models; a re-engineered Digital Crown with haptic feedback; improved fitness and health trackers: the accelerometer, the gyroscope, the electrical heart sensor, and the optical heart sensor; new ways to use apps with Siri shortcuts; and the new materials used for its case back—all ceramic and sapphire crystal.

All of that, in addition to its usual features, such as a GPS; a barometric altimeter; a cellular function; and Apple Music and Podcasts. But most importantly is that this version of the Apple Watch can also be used for rowing data tracking.

In its Workout app, wherein one can select the type of workout one wishes to do and have the smartwatch track, a rowing workout, called the “Rower” is included. However, this particular workout is only for indoor rowing.

The Rower workout feature tracks duration, calories burned, and heart rate. Unfortunately, it doesn’t track the more important rowing metrics like stroke rate; stroke count; speed; and etc. On the bright side, there are some other alternatives available for tracking necessary rowing metrics for an Apple Watch, which will allow more detailed rowing data tracking. Or one may also find a rowing machine that can sync stats via HealthKit.

Some rowers also recommend the ErgData, an iPhone app for additional performance statistics when using the Concept 2 rowing machine, which is then saved and uploaded to the Concept 2 Online Logbook.

To fully utilize this smartwatch, an iPhone 6 with an iOS 12 or later is required.

Polar  M400

Polar M400 GPS Smart Sports Watch with Heart Rate Monitor (Black)
Polar M400

From the pioneer of wearable sports technology that was the first ever to provide wireless heart rate monitoring in 1977, Polar, comes the Polar M400. The Polar M400 is another highly recommended by rowers for its accuracy in heart rate monitoring, as well as in GPS that allows it to measure split time and distance.

Usually, along with the Polar M400, comes a Bluetooth heart rate monitor chest strap, called the H7 Heart Rate Sensor. It is to be worn around the area below the chest muscles for precise heart rate monitoring. But you can also do without it if you prefer to go chest strap-less, as this model may also come with a built-in GPS.

However, this smartwatch isn’t really able to determine any metric on the act of rowing, such as stroke rate; stroke count; distance per stroke; and etc. Nevertheless, this smartwatch still comes handy with its reliable features that at the same time, isn’t too costly.

Moreover, alerts on incoming calls; messages; and app notifications can be received on the Polar M400 with its smart notifications.

It’s compatible with Android and iOS.


Conclusion

Portable timekeeping has drastically changed over the years and is continuously developing, especially as companies are constantly striving for growth and to create new and state of the art innovations. Imagine, from the very first pocket watch invented by Peter Henlein in 1510; to the first ever wristwatch invented by Patek Philippe in 1868; to the breakthrough development in timekeeping when the first smartwatch was invented by Steven Mann in 1998; and fast-forwarding to these modern times, the multifunctional smartwatch that does more than just tell time has been ever improving with more and more features being added, tailored for consumers’ needs.

So which brand to pick for tracking rowing data?

It’s really all in the Garmin They have everything necessary for tracking rowing data and more. So it’s tough to choose among them.

But after some consideration, we’ve come to the conclusion that if you prefer one with advanced maps and navigation tools in addition to all the other important features one needs for rowing, the Garmin Fenix 5X Sapphire is the one for you.

And if you’re looking for a smartwatch that provides more fitness and health monitoring features, as well as the contactless payment feature apart from the necessary rowing data tracking features, then the Garmin Vivoactive 3 it is.

Garmin Premium Heart Rate Monitor (Soft Strap)
Garmin

Although there is the more affordable option, that is the Polar M400, if you’re looking for something cheaper than the higher end models. But it’s just as reliable with its accuracy. Even more so with its H7 Heart Rate Sensor that comes along with it.

Wahoo TICKR X Heart Rate Monitor with Memory, Bluetooth / ANT+
Wahoo TICKR X

A heart rate monitor strap actually provides a much more accurate heart rate tracking rather than a heart rate monitor built-in a smartwatch, as in the case of wearing the smartwatch while working out or training, the built-in heart rate monitor may lose contact with the skin when the arm muscles contract.

But no worries, because there are also some heart rate monitor straps compatible with the other aforementioned models, Garmin and Apple Watch that can be connected to Concept 2 rowing machines according to compatibility if you choose to go with the said other brands.