The 5 Best Heart Rate Monitor Watches For 2013
Monitoring your heart rate has always been a key component in high-level fitness training.
In my youth, our coach used to take our heart rates using a contraption which resembled a giant mechanical octopus, however, in recent years, heart rate monitor watches have become increasingly advanced; they’re now now sleek, stylish, and packed full of useful (and useless) features and data.
Strapping on one of today’s models is like having a Personal Trainer on your wrist; the only problem is that, like Personal Trainers, some are, quite frankly, a bit useless.
The market right now is a quagmire of different brands and various models, with the quality scale ranging from ‘utter shit’ to something so scientifically advanced that Stephen Hawkings would be proud to wear it to his local disco.
In light of this, I decided to compile a list of the five best heart rate monitor watches available in 2013, helping those looking to invest in a watch make their decision.
Garmin Forerunner 610
This Garmin Forerunner 610 was one of the first heart rate monitor watches to adopt a touch screen.
This interface is very easy to use and, unlike many other touchscreen watches, is responsive in the rain (crucial in England) and if you’re wearing gloves (again, crucial in England).
This GPS heart rate monitor watch, which is also light and comfortable to wear, boasts a smörgåsbord of great features.
Firstly, it has the ability to easily guide you back to the start point of your run, which is an extremely handy feature if you’re someone like me who tends to go exploring, get lost in the arse end of nowhere, and, in the process, ends up doubling the distance they meant to run.
There is also a nifty ‘Virtual Racer’ mode, allowing you to race against your previous best times for certain courses, and even download other people’s times and race against those too!
The only criticism I have with the Garmin Forerunner 610 is that the battery only lasts around seven hours when using GPS mode.
Summary: Reliable, light, easy-to-use, and has lots useful and unique features.
The Suunto Ambit is a GPS watch which provides way-point navigation in addition to a tonne of advanced training features, including, for example, a unique 3D compass.
In terms of quality and features, this heart rate monitor watch is one of the best watches I have ever tried, and you certainly get what you pay for.
Some of the advanced features have a bit of a learning curve, but, on the whole, the Suunto Ambit is very intuitive to use, and it even has an ‘easy exercise interface’, where you simply choose your sport, acquire satellites, and, bam, you’re off!
The GPS is also one of the best I’ve tried – it’s extremely accurate and very quick.
Although very durable, the only downside of the Suunto Ambit is that the watch itself is very big, meaning that if you wear it on a day-to-day basis to the office or the supermarket, you’re going to look like a bit of a twat.
Summary: Very accurate GPS, durable, and teeming with lots of advanced features.
Polar RS800CX GPS G5
Polar has long been one of the industry leaders when it comes to heart rate monitor watches, and with the RS800CX it’s easy to see why.
This particular watch, in addition to the RS400, is a superb quality heart rate monitor.
It’s highly accurate, slim and comfortable to wear, suitable for all outdoor sports, and the software, which easily transfers to a PC, provides so many reports and stats that even Bill Gates would be forced to nurse a semi lob on.
The fact that Polar watches like this one are favoured by some of the world’s top athletes, in addition to some of the leading performance laboratories, is a testament to their quality.
Summary: A data-packed, industry leading watch, perfect for all outdoor sports.
The Polar RCX5 was designed, chiefly, as a multi-sports watch, making it the model of choice for triathletes.
Along with pacing and zoom features, it provides an intuitive and quick-to-operate multi-sports interface, allowing you to switch quickly between sports.
And, as it is designed with triatheltes in mind, the RCX5, unlike some of the other brands, provides reliable heart rate data when in water.
Being an ex-swimmer, I’ve tried a number of heart rate monitors which claim to work effectively in water before, and I can say, with certainty, that the Polar RCX5 is the most reliable of the bunch.
It’s also comfortable and easy to wear, lightweight, and has a pleasant, slimline design.
What’s more, it’s the cheapest heart rate monitor watch on this list, making it, for what you get, excellent value-for-money.
Summary: Reliable, intuitive, works perfectly in water, and great value-for-money.
Wahoo Fitness Blue HR
Not technically a watch, but nonetheless a great heart rate monitor which transforms your smart phone into an all-in-one training device.
The Wahoo Fitness Blue HR is a strap (very comfortable to wear) which connects to any Bluetooth Smart compatible app, such as an iPhone 4S or 5.
It also looks very sleek – you could probably wear it to a Shoreditch nightclub and someone would no doubt ask you wear you got it from.
There’s a lot of people on the interweb complaining that this device is difficult to set up. Now, I’m not a particualrlaly tehcnolgically minded person, but, using the instructions, I was able to get it working quickly and easily in 5 minutes, and get it synchorised to my phone.
It’s very reliable and from an accuracy point of view I can’t fault it.
The similar Polar H7, slightly cheaper at $59.51, is also a great option.
Summary: The ideal option for anyone looking to integrate a heart rate monitor with their smart phone.
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There we have it, the five best heart rate monitor watches currently on the market.
As with most things in life, you get what you pay for with heart rate monitor watches. There are cheaper alternatives to the five on this list, but they will not be nearly as accurate or durable.
If you’re serious about your running, getting one of these watches is going to be a great investment.
So what do I recommend?
If you’re serious about training, and you’ve got some cash to spare, go for the Garmin Forerunner 610.
It’s accurate, durable, and has so many features it’ll keep you occupied for hours.
If your budget is slightly less – and especially if you’re planning on using the watch in the pool – opt for the Polar RCX5.
A superb, versatile bit of kit which is great value-for-money.
Finally, if you’re strapped for cash but still want an accurate, reliable heart rate monitor, then the Wahoo Fitness Blue strap is perfect (so long as you have a smart phone!).
Get in touch!
If you own or have tried any of the heart rate monitor watches on this list, or if there are any watches that you think should be on this list but aren’t, I’d love to hear from you!
Just leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you.