Dive in with the best Apple Watch for swimming
Beginning with the Apple Watch Series 2 in 2016, Cupertino’s wearable device has provided water resistance up to 50m, making it ideally suited for swimming. Our favorite Apple Watch for this type of adventure is the Series 4, which offers the newest features overall. We’ve also included other models to help you make a better-informed decision.
Best Overall: Apple Watch Series 4
The Apple Watch Series 4 features the first design change in the short history of the wearable device. Offering larger displays, thinner bezels, and more rounded corners than previous versions, the current flagship is available in 44mm and 40mm sizes. With an S4 64-bit dual-core processor, the Apple Watch Series 4 doubles the performance of the previous model, the Apple Watch Series 3.
This Apple Watch version is the first to include an electrocardiogram (ECG) system that’s capable of detecting cardiac abnormalities such as atrial fibrillation. There’s also a built-in fall detection tool that automatically contacts emergency services if you fall. The Apple Watch Series 4 also includes a louder speaker, which is ideal when receiving calls, an improved ceramic and sapphire crystal back, and more storage capacity. The last of these is great for loading up your watch with podcasts and (beginning with watchOS 6) audiobooks.
If there’s one downside to buying the Apple Watch Series 4, it’s the price. Depending on the model, the newer version is around $120 more than the Apple Watch Series 3, and that’s before the additional discounts you’ll often find on the earlier model.
The Apple Watch Series 4 is available in aluminum or stainless steel with GPS only and GPS + Cellular. Prices differ depending on the size of the display, material of the case, and type of watch band.
Before getting started, it’s important to note that both the Apple Watch Series 4 and its predecessor, the Apple Watch Series 3, offer similar water resistance under ISO standard 22810:2010. This means both models may be used for shallow-water activities like swimming in a pool or ocean.
Both models work with the native Workout app’s two swimming exercises, Pool Swim or Open Water Swim. Use the former for laps in a pool and the latter for swimming in places like a lake or ocean. When you start a swimming workout, your screen locks to prevent accidental taps. Both Series work with the many third-party swimming apps also.
- Larger display
- Faster than the previous model
- Includes ECG system, fall detection
Apple Watch Series 4
The current best
Apple’s flagship wearable device version includes an all-new look and features compared to previous versions.
Best Alternative: Apple Watch Series 4 Nike+
The Apple Watch Series 4 Nike+ is outwardly and internally precisely the same as the regular Series 4 model when it comes to hardware. With this model, you’ll also receive an already installed Nike Run Club app with audio-guided runs, and exclusive Nike+ Analog and Digital watch faces. None of these extras relate to swimming.
The Nike+ version is only available with an aluminum case, and there’s no gold finish option. The Nike-branded Apple Watch bands, Sport Loop and Sport Band varieties, are available to everyone, not just to those with a Nike+ watch. If you’re looking for something slightly different, consider the Apple Watch Series 4 Nike+.
- Same price, more faces
- Works with the same bands
- Only available with aluminum case
- No gold finish
- No extras for swimmers
Apple Watch Series 4 Nike+
More watch faces
If you’re indifferent to which Apple Watch Series 4 to choose from, you might want to get this one. For the same price, you’ll get extra watch faces.
Best Value: Apple Watch Series 3
The Apple Watch Series 3 includes a smaller display area than the more recent model and older internals. However, it still packs many of the same features that make it worth considering. These include an onboard optical heart sensor, a built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery that lasts up to 18 hours between charges, and a barometric altimeter.
The Series 3 version doesn’t include the ECG system or fall detection tool. It’s also missing a gold finish option, and it could prove challenging to find a model with a stainless steel body.
If the changes and extras Apple added between the Series 3 and Series 4 aren’t relevant to you, we recommend saving some money and buying the older version. And yes, it will support watchOS 6 when it launches later in 2019. You can purchase an Apple Watch Series 3 in 40mm and 38mm variants, with GPS only or GPS + Cellular, in space gray and silver aluminum with regular prices starting at $279.
- Look at those discounts
- Supports watchOS 6
- Also great for swimming
- Limited selection
- No ECG, fall detection
Apple Watch Series 3
It still packs a punch
The 2017 Apple Watch Series 3 is still a great choice. Best of all, it’s available at steep discounts through Apple and elsewhere.
Best Splurge: Apple Watch Hermès
Apple Watch is much more than something you wear when swimming. For the Apple Watch Hermès, it’s also a luxury item. Mostly identical to the regular Apple Watch Series 4, these watches start at $1,249 and go up to $1,499. Each features a stainless case and GPS + Cellular. The main differences are the display size (44mm or 40mm) and high-quality leather band you select. There are also distinctive Hermès watch faces.
No, you shouldn’t wear a leather band when swimming! For this, you can use the exclusive Hermès orange Sport Band that comes with every Apple Watch Hermès model. (Or buy another water-proof band.) If you’re looking for bling to go with your swimming routine, this is the Apple Watch for you.
- Unique watch faces
- Premium leather bands
- Exclusive Hermès Sport Band
- Very expensive
- Limited selection
- Leather doesn’t like water
Apple Watch Hermès
Whether as a gift or for yourself, the Apple Watch Hermès is the most luxurious version you can buy. Just don’t wear leather in the water.
For those looking for everything Apple Watch currently has to offer at a reasonable price, consider our favorite model for swimmers, the Apple Watch Series 4. This model offers the latest bells and whistles, including an ECG system and fall detection tool.
Available in multiple styles and price points, the Apple Watch Series 4 features the largest displays to-date on the wearable device and the best internals. It’s also the only Series 4 model that gives you a choice between aluminum and stainless steel. Find the one that’s perfect for you and get ready to make a splash!
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Bryan M. Wolfe is a dad who loves technology, especially anything new from Apple. Penn State (go Nittany Lions) graduate here, also a huge fan of the New England Patriots. Thanks for reading. @bryanmwolfe