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Manufacturers of GPS Tracking Watches

Jul 24, 2008
You are looking to buy a GPS tracking watch and want to know who makes the best one. The answer to that may be simple, there are only three well known companies making them; Garmin, Timex and Suunto. That's not to say there aren't other companies out there making cheap knock offs, but we won't focus on them.

Some might say "What about Casio? They are a well known company." That is true and they make some fine products but they no longer make a GPS watch so that leaves Garmin, Timex and Suunto.

When looking at the models being offered by each company you will find a variety of available features. I think it is important to mention what these watches won't do since there may be some misconceptions out there.

Many of us have, or have seen a GPS system in a car or boat. These are really neat gadgets to have and can be a real time saver especially for those who travel extensively for work or pleasure. These units display your position on a map and may include landmarks like restaurants, gas stations, etc.

GPS watches have very small display screens so the mapping feature is not practical. Neither is the voice feature present to tell you when to turn!

GPS tracking watches use satellites to pinpoint a position, then with continuing updates of the position, they display data for speed, distance, elevation and more, depending on the model. Options might include a heart rate monitor or cycling cadence tracker.

You may quickly see a couple of important variations in the way the companies package their GPS watches. In all cases, the systems use a GPS receiver and a digital time piece to carry out the calculations. Being a watch they all offer the display of data in what appears to be a wrist watch although sometimes quite large.

The GPS receiver may be contained within the watch or, separately, strapped to the arm or possibly mounted on a belt.

It would be wise to give this issue some thought before making a purchase. I would prefer to have the watch and GPS receiver self contained and worn like a traditional watch, but opinions vary.

Garmin has the Forerunner 205, 305 and 405 which are all-in-one models, having the appearance of a digital wristwatch but of larger size. They also offer the Forerunner 101 and 102 which use a Velcro strap around the wrist but have the appearance more similar to wearing an iPod.

The Garmin line uses a receiver that is built in and wraps around the wristband, a bit, to keep it oriented to the sky for better reception. The units also include a USB to share data with your PC. An A/C battery charger is used to top off the battery which generally provide about 8 to 10 hours of tracking use.

Timex has been making watches almost forever and has offered athletic oriented models for decades. They use a separate watch / GPS receiver approach unlike Garmin. This does have some advantages, including the ability to wear the watch everyday since it is small enough to be practical. When the time arises you simply turn on and secure the separate GPS receiver and you are ready to go. Timex also offers an almost endless array of athletic watches.

The third manufacturer is Suunto which as you might guess offers several models. They generally have the appearance resembling a typical digital wristwatch. The GPS receiver is contained in a separate wireless unit so the watch can remain very compact. Typical options are; altimeter, barometer, countdown timers heart rate monitors etc.

The technology evolves continuously so smaller, cheaper models will likely become available in the near future. It will also be interesting to see if other companies will join in and offer their own line of GPS tracking watches.
About the Author
Dave helps individuals to learn about GPS tracking watches, like the Garmin Forerunner 305.
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