Wearables

A GPS running watch that's good-looking too

The Garmin Fenix Chronos' GPS antenna is said to be embedded around the bezel for faster reception of GPS signals.
The Garmin Fenix Chronos' GPS antenna is said to be embedded around the bezel for faster reception of GPS signals. PHOTO: GARMIN

You can wear the Garmin Fenix Chronos to a wedding dinner or a black-tie event

You can be forgiven for thinking that the Garmin Fenix Chronos is an analogue timepiece.

But it is actually a GPS running watch with a built-in, wrist-based heart-rate monitor (HRM).

Everything about its looks suggest otherwise.

It has a sleek stainless-steel bezel with tachymeter markings on it. The GPS antenna is said to be embedded around the bezel for a faster reception of GPS signals.

Around the bezel is a 1.2-inch circular display (218 x 218 pixels) with sapphire glass to protect it. It comes with a matching 316L stainless-steel band. The Chronos can really be a dress watch for wedding dinners or black-tie events. It is just good-looking.

To further heighten the luxury factor, the watch comes in a beautiful wooden box. Also included is a black silicone watch band you can swop with the stainless-steel band.

I find the silicone watch band to be more practical for most occasions. Plus, it does not reduce the Chronos' wow factor.

But the good looks comeat a price. At $1,599, it is a lot more expensive than many running watches and smartwatches in the market. That said, I can't think of any other running watch or smartwatch with a sleeker design.

  • TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: $1,599

    WATER RESISTANCE: 100m

    CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth and ANT+

    WEIGHT: 99g (with silicone watch band)

  • RATING

    FEATURES: 5/5

    DESIGN: 5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

The Chronos packs a built-in altimeter, barometer and compass to provide real-time information about your surroundings. It is water resistant down to 100m, and it can track your runs, swims, cycles and other exercises.

It also doubles as a fitness tracker and a smartwatch that displays notifications when paired with your smartphone (Android and iOS).

So, despite the price tag, it sounds like the perfect timepiece, smartwatch and fitness tracker all rolled into one. However, the Chronos is marred by one issue - Garmin's cumbersome interface.

The Chronos' display is not touchscreen. So, everything is controlled via its buttons. There are three buttons on the left and two on the right. Pressing the middle and bottom buttons on the left toggles through the digital compass, calendar, barometer, altimeter, thermometer, fitness tracking and notifications panels.

To get to the workout page, hit the top button on the right. To scroll up and down to select the workout, use the middle and bottom buttons on the left side.

To start, press the top-right button again.

While the interface now feels faster than its predecessor's, it is still confusing. During my time with it, I kept pressing the left bottom button to go back when the action is actually for scrolling going down.

The Garmin Connect app is no better. Changing the watch settings entails going through a few sub-menus from the main page of the app.

And while it is nice to change the watch face of the Chronos, the app does not make it easy for you to do so. You need to find the Connect IQ Store, which is hidden under the More option. When you download a watch face, it does not get installed on the watch immediately. You need to sync it to do so.

Thankfully, the watch shines when you take it outdoors. It took up only 10sec (Fenix 3 HR took 30sec) to lock on to GPS signals from the streets of my HDB estate. Plus, its distance tracking was spot-on, with a mere 10m difference from the actual distance of my usual street running route.

In terms of heart-rate monitoring, it differed by no more than 5 beats per minute at times, when compared with the readings of the Wahoo Bluetooth HR chest-strap HRM or my Apple Watch Nike+. But, most of the time, readings were pretty close to both.

As a fitness tracker, its step tracking proved rather consistent - with only a difference of up to 4 per cent compared with my calibrated Fitbit Charge 2.

Battery life is pretty good as well. When connected to my smartphone constantly, with display at full brightness and all notifications turned on, it lasted nearly four days before it had to be recharged.

•Verdict: The Garmin Fenix Chronos is a superb fitness watch and classic timepiece rolled into one. If you can bear with the cumbersome interface and the hefty price tag.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 04, 2017, with the headline 'A GPS running watch that's good-looking too'. Print Edition | Subscribe