Wet Watches: A Product Review for Swimming with the Nike GPS Sportwatch and the Garmin Forerunner 15

Are you scared to really test out that “Water Resistant” claim that your watch company made on your $150+ GPS watch?

Don’t worry! I did it for you!!

As a bit of a disclaimer here, this won’t be a full product review.  I will only be reviewing the performances of the watches in relation to their manufacturer’s water resistance rating…specifically while swimming. (I’ve only had the Garmin Forerunner 15 for a couple of days, so I’m still getting a feel for it.  The Nike GPS Sportwatch, however, I’ve put a few hundred miles on.  If you want to see a full product review on it, comment below!)

So, here we go:


  • Nike+ Sportwatch GPS with optional Polar heart rate sensor
From left: The Garmin Forerunner 15 and Nike+ Sportwatch GPS after coming with me for 1000m+ swim at the local pool this morning! Still going strong!

From left: The Garmin Forerunner 15 and Nike+ Sportwatch GPS after coming with me for 1000m+ swim at the local pool this morning! Still going strong!

  • Garmin Forerunner 15 GPS Running Watch

What the companies say:

  • The Nike Sportwatch is, according to its user manual, water resistant up to 5 atm! Generally, this means that it should be water resistant up to 50m.  Yet, in the guide, it explicitly suggests that you don’t try swimming with it. Confusing?! It was to me, too.  Probably just Nike trying to save it’s own butt.
  • Garmin Forerunner 15 GPS, however, actually states in the manual that you could even take it for a swim, if you wanted!  Garmin should be proudly advertising this, as many of its previous models had, well, frankly awful water resistance ratings.  Here though, Garmin rates its Forerunner 15 at 5 atm, just like Nike, which is about a 50m water resistance.
  • It is important to note, however, that both say up to 5 atm.  What does this mean? Well, it refers to atmospheric units, which is a measurement of pressure.  Swimming doesn’t tend to build up too much force, no matter how strong or fast you think you are.  This means, however, that you probably shouldn’t take your shiny-new training tool out with you for a day of water skiing.  A hard crash there would probably far exceed the 5 atm threshold that the companies claim the watches have, and you’d have no argument to try and get them to replace it.  Your loss!
  • Every watch manufacturer tells you not to use the buttons on a watch while it is completely submerged.  This will increase the likelihood of water getting into the hardware and almost certainly ruining your watch.

What actually happened when I took my watches to the pool:

  • This is actually the second time that I went swimming with the Forerunner 15, and it has worked perfectly both times.  Last time I used it as a chronograph, this time I just used it as a normal watch.  Both times, I had no problems.  I’m still waiting on the Garmin HR transmitter to come in so I can test that out in the water, though my hopes are not high (It bugs me that every watch company needs to have their own code for their HR monitors.  This will be my third different transmitter).  On another neat note: the GPS even picked up inside the building!  I didn’t use it to save the battery, but that’s certainly something the Nike GPS watch wouldn’t do.
  • I won’t lie.  I was hesitant to bring the Nike Sportwatch into the pool with me.  It wasn’t cheap, and they explicitly tell you not to swim with it.  But, I have an extra (a long story that I won’t go into right now), and I wanted to know.  Of course, I searched for some articles that were bound to be on the internet telling stories of disaster and triumph with the watch.  I saw one that said it was fine, so I went for it! Haha the Nike GPS watch is fine! I’m wearing it right now, hours later.  I even used the Heart Rate Monitor along with it! This was less of a success.  While it worked, I found that the HR Strap would slide whenever I had a strong kick off the wall, and sometimes just while I was swimming.  I also noticed that the watch wasn’t too good at picking up the signal underwater.  When the transmitter itself was submerged and the watch was out of the water, the watch had to be within probably about two feet of the chest strap to get a read.  This was great, if you were only looking to get your starting and ending HR for a lap/swim.  It didn’t do much for looking at your overall statistics, or any sort of recovery times during the actual swim itself.  Basically, the watch was saying I was dead for about half of my swim.  But, again, it did work and is still kicking!

The key takeaways here:

  1. I am NOT responsible for your watch being a dud.  Mine worked, it’s one case, but my watches did what they were supposed to do according to the manufacturer.
  2. DO NOT press the buttons when the watch is underwater.  Suck it up and start your watch a little early and end it a little later.

  3. HR Monitors, from my research, all tend to have the same result right now with water readings.  Under water, most HR monitor watches have trouble reading a signal.  When the watch is out of water and the transmitter is submerged, the watch probably needs to be within a foot or two to read properly.
  4. DO NOT take your watch out for Jet Skiing, Wakeboarding, or anything of that genre.  A hard crash could result in a pressure hit greater than the 5 atm these two watches are rated at.  Bye-bye pretty watch!
  5. Make sure your watch is DRY before you try to charge it or plug it in! This is per manufacturer suggestion, and for good reason.  Be grateful that your super-watch is waterproofed in the first place!

If you have any questions or comments, want another product review, or just like this one, let me know in the comments below or shoot me an email!



3 thoughts on “Wet Watches: A Product Review for Swimming with the Nike GPS Sportwatch and the Garmin Forerunner 15

  1. This is a useful info! I will swim with my forerunner 15 then. Previously, I used nikewatch too, but the water from the rain got into it first before I was about going to test it for swimming.
    Thank you, Matt. Good luck on your ironman.


    • Hey Raissateles! I personally love the Forerunner 15 still in my swims. I’ve used it countless times now, and I never have to worry about anything happening to it. The other guys at the pool use the Polar FT4 and really like it. It’s a more simple watch, but it seems to work best through the water with the HR monitor. Hope this helps! I’m glad you found the article useful! 🙂


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