In the past, it was at most runners who did their laps with a heart rate monitor. In the meantime, however, the helpers have found their way into all kinds of sports - including mountain sports. The functions go far beyond the heart rate monitor. The sports watch jungle is dense and confusing. We try to get an overview.

The popularity of wearables, i.e. technical aids that are worn in the form of watches and that collect health, movement and environmental data, continues unabated. In 2020 alone, around 445 million units (*) were sold over the counter - and the trend is rising.

The term wearable covers a broad spectrum. From smartwatches that complement the mobile phone to wristbands for everyday use, such as pedometers, to serious medical health trackers that permanently measure blood pressure, there is almost everything. We limit ourselves to sports watches.

Data galore

People seem to be hungry for data, especially when it comes to athletic performance. The motto is higher, further, faster. A sports watch collects a lot of data. Last year's figures from Strava, an online platform that collects runs, bike rides and much more from different sports watch manufacturers, show that the interest on the part of users in this information is gigantic.

People seem to be hungry for data.

The portal has over 70 million users, with an additional two million every month. In the last year alone, over a billion activities were uploaded around the world. Athletes record a lot. But why? 

Data octopus on the wrist

The why probably has a deeper, psychological reason. However, what we can find a plausible answer is to the question of what. What kind of sports do I do? What do I want to record? What is indispensable? What are nice bonus features? In mountaineering in particular, there are various technical properties of a sports watch, which are more or less pronounced depending on the model.

  • Movement and fitness data
    These are especially important when the focus is on athletic performance. Distance, altitude, average speed but of course also pulse, blood pressure monitor or calorie consumption. In addition, some of these models are equipped with ready-made training plans.
  • Navigation and external data
    The main focus here is on efficient GPS integration. Models with a navigation focus score with detailed maps. In addition, factors such as altimeters, barometers or SOS services play an important role.

What is the technology on the one hand, is the handling on the other. Here, too, it depends a lot on the intended use.

  • application
    For trail running a light model That makes sense, while for mountaineers and climbers who often come into contact with craggy rocks, scratch-resistant glass is advantageous. And if you like to hop into a mountain lake, it's worth it waterproof watch.
  • Service
    A matter of taste: If you want by Touchscreen Be able to make settings as simply and intuitively as possible or does the clock have to be completely manually configurable and operated with physical buttons? The same applies to the heart rate monitor: do you prefer on the wrist or via a chest strap?
  • Battery life
    How important is long battery life? Is even a solar operation relevant? At best, more power means weight.
  • specification
    Multi-sport mountaineers use models that cover many disciplines, but may be restricted in profound functions. For people with a clear focus, specific models make more sense. There is still a lot of potential for the latter, and a lot could happen here in the future - see, for example Climbax watch from Mammutthat was developed exclusively for climbing.

GPS watches can be very helpful on ski tours

The egg-laying woolly milk sow does not exist

With all these characteristics, it is important to pick out the most important ones personally. The egg-laying woolly milk sow does not (yet) exist among sports watches. Respectively, models that cover a wide range are often located in the higher price segment.

Anyone who opts for a sports watch should also ask themselves what to do with the data in the first place. This is sometimes the big crux of big data in general: We can record and measure everything possible with enormous granularity, but then don't really know what to do with the mountain of information. Therefore, you should also consider the following before buying.

  • What do I ultimately want to achieve with the recorded data? Am I pursuing a specific, sporting goal? Would I like to have my routes saved in an archive? Is live data on the weather useful for my tour?
  • To what extent am I willing to record background information (sleep rhythm, step counter in everyday life, etc.) and provide it to the watch manufacturer?
  • Is connectivity to other devices important to me, so that I can, for example, read the news or control music playback via the sports watch?

In the end, the classic agony of choice remains a bit far. If you find a watch model after the elimination process and are aware in advance of what the watch has to do in terms of essentials, the purchase decision will be easier.

You can find a large selection of sports watches that are particularly suitable for all aspects of alpine activities at Bächli mountain sports.

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Credits: Cover picture Bruno Aguirre / Unsplash, Text Bächli Mountain Sports, Statistics I