5 Great Counter Watches For Swimming Laps: Picks, Advice & Tips

Updated on December 30, 2016

Finding a Good Swim Lap Watch

I really enjoy a good swim. It's a whole body exercise that is gentle on the joints and leaves you feeling great. I'm terrible at keeping track of time and laps, however. Finding the best watch for swimming laps can really help you with your exercise and lets you set goals and push the limit for a better result.

Recently, a lot of swim lap watches have hit the market, and they're becoming really popular among avid swimmers. They're completely waterproof and let you keep track of how many laps you've done. Some of the fancier ones have extra features like wireless functionality and pace measurement. They encourage a swimmer to go faster and farther and they're reasonably comfortable to wear too.

Because there are so many brands entering this market, I wanted to write an article outlining a few of the best watches for swimming laps so that you can easily find a good brand name that will last. We'll be looking at five of my favorites, identifying the individual features and capabilities of each one, and mentioning any drawbacks that might be important to consider. Let's get going!

Common Features

There are a few common features that a lot of modern swim lap counter watches tend to have these days. Here are a few things that can be found on contemporary products. There might be something here you want to zero in on specifically.

Swim Stroke Count:

Most of the best watches for swimming laps will include a stroke counter of some kind. They all work differently, but most have gyroscopic technology which detects each time you lift your arms. This is valuable if you're into efficiency, and lets you find the perfect number of strokes per lap. Some will even detect the type of stroke you're using automatically!

Lap Counter:

All of the watches for swimming laps that I'll be reviewing will have the capability to monitor how many laps you have swum. Personally this is the key feature for me; I tend to get lost in my head when I swim and constantly lose track of how many laps I've gone. With a watch like this, that's not an issue anymore.


Many of the better watches for swimming will also track and monitor your pace for each lap, which is a great feature if you're trying to improve your time and track your progress. If you like tracking that sort of thing, it's worth looking for.

Misfit + Shine: High tech lap counting device

If you want a good, high-tech swim lap watch at a very reasonable price point, consider the Speedo Shine combined with a Misfit Wearables band.

Speedo's algorithm here allows you to focus on the swimming, not the counting, and it will track your laps with unprecedented accuracy. The band itself is sleek, modern and won't interfere with your strokes.

Out of the water, the Shine has powerful features. It will sync wirelessly with the Misfit app (for iOS and Android), which allows you to easily monitor and track your progress whenever you like. Your smartphone will then display calories burned, distance travelled, laps and more.

It also tracks activity outside of the gym, and even monitors your sleep if you wear it to bed.

It runs off a watch battery that only needs to be replaced every six months or so. No need to remember to charge it up.

I should mention, now that Shine has open-sourced their software, it can potentially be used with a myriad of other apps, in case you're not so into Misfit.

Sleek, modern and inexpensive, this swim lap watch and timer has everything you need and nothing you don't. It doesn't hurt that it looks so good too.

The only thing it doesn't do? Tell the time. Go figure!

Garmin: A Swim Lap Counter Watch with Connectivity

This particular watch is a best seller, and it incorporates a lot of great features into a refined product. This is one of the best watches for swimming laps if you're interested in tracking your progress, because it makes use of wireless Garmin Connect functionality, it will automatically connect to your computer when it's within range and download all of your swim data. You can then view and track your progress for each swim.

In addition to this wireless technology, you also have an array of great features. You can track how many laps you have swum, along with built in stroke count technology which also detects the stroke you're doing.

It also tracks distance and pace, so you've got a lot to work with, along with conventional timekeeping, stopwatch and other features you'd expect on a digital watch. There's even a pause button for if you need to take a break.

Some users have noticed that it can get confused if your strokes are a bit sloppy, and it will also give strange results if you break without hitting pause. Overall it is remarkably accurate and ready to use out of the box.

Comfortable and streamlined, this is one of the best watches for swimming laps in a pool and it looks great out of the water too. It's definitely worth your time to take a look at.

Swimovate: A High-End, Unisex Lap Swimming Watch

Swimovate has a clever name, and as it implies they're innovators in the field of swim technology. The Pool Mate watch is a sleek, comfortable and affordable timepiece with some awesome features, and I consider it one of the best watches for swimming laps for that reason.

The Pool Mate is perfect for anyone who doesn't have time to fiddle around with settings and buttons. It's really simple to operate and has algorithms that automatically detect just about everything. It will detect the number of laps taken, the number of strokes per lap, the type of stroke that you are swimming, and the pace of each lap.

It can store up to 400 sessions in its internal memory, and you can go through afterwards to monitor how you did. It even measures other stuff like you'd expect in a sports watch, such as calories burned, distance travelled, etc. There's stopwatch and timer functionality if you need it.

The one real downside as I see it is the watch does not connect and let you download to a computer. You have to monitor and record data manually, if you're interested in doing so. For anyone who likes to analyze their swim on a "big screen", this might be a drawback.

It's comfortable, sleek and has powerful functions for such a small little device. It's among the best watches for swimming laps and it's quite affordable compared to higher end brands and products.

Garmin Forerunner: A GPS Enabled, Multi-Sport Watch

This one is a bit pricier, but it has a wide range of use, and if you're a person who loves sports and fitness of all kinds, this is the watch for you.

First off, the Garmin Forerunner is a fantastic watch for swimming laps. It comes with the capability to keep track of pool lengths that you have swum, total distance travelled, stroke count, and it can identify the type of stroke that you're doing. Since it's GPS enabled with Garmin's technology, you can even track your swim on a map if you were doing open water swimming. Seriously, it's one of the best watches for swimming laps hands down.

Out of the water there is a vast range of data options on this watch. You can measure a run very easily, and it will keep track of distance, time, pace and speed. This watch will even keep track of altitude to let you know how much uphill and downhill running you did.

That is not all! This is also a capable cycling computer, and it will connect with a wireless cadence sensor for your bicycle to track your progress on wheels too. You can opt for the heart rate monitor package if you like. Also, like the swim watch reviewed above, this one works with Garmin Connect and lets you download to your computer.

The main knock against it is the high price, but it's one of the best watches for swimming laps, and outside of that it is remarkably feature rich. It's the ideal sports watch for an exercise junkie or triathlete.

SportCount: A Simple Lap Counter and Timer

I'm including this as an option even though it's not strictly a swim lap 'watch'. This is a lap counter and timer combination from SportCount. It's really tiny and it's intended to be worn on your finger as you swim. After each lap you just click the button to keep count, making it part of your routine.

This tiny device is in some ways better than a watch for swimming laps because it's smaller and easier to use. After your swim is done you can analyze the data, and it will tell you your fastest, slowest and average lap time. The timer function also keeps track of how long you have been swimming for.

It's actually very easy to use and it won't interrupt your swim stroke, and it is very inexpensive, but it's not for everyone, some people prefer a more automated approach.

Swim Lap Watch Poll:

Do you use a lap counter / timer?

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Questions about these or other watches?

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    • profile image

      Krisanda 7 weeks ago

      Thank you and I wear the watch a lot. H2o

    • profile image

      Luiz 7 weeks ago

      I bought a Garmin: A Swim Lap Counter Watch with Connectivity in the amazona two months ago. In the first time that was use, it drowned. I communicated amazom and garmin too. Nothing. Nor one, nor another. $100,00 in the trash.

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      Maryellen 3 months ago

      I've had very bad luck with the Misfit Shine. After the first one stopped syncing I got a warranty replacement, which died very quickly and new battery didn't help. And don't expect any help on the web site. There is virtually zero helpful information.

    • profile image

      David 4 months ago

      This article fails to discuss how lap turns are assessed by any of these watches.

    • profile image

      Lauren 8 months ago

      there are 6 different Garmin Forerunners on their site.

      which one are you referring to?

    • profile image

      Kate 10 months ago

      Thanks for this article. I just wanted to chime in on the Sports Counter finger-mounted option. It doesn't work well for small hands. The smallest setting was too big for any of my fingers (and my hands really aren't that small). I ended up strapping it around two fingers at a time and using it that way.

      The functionality is relatively limited, but it's easy to log a lap without altering your stroke. Going through the information after a workout is tedious. But if you have medium to large hands and are looking for a reasonably affordable, low frills option, it could work for you.

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