Do you need a swim watch when you have a pace clock?

by Evan Morrison. 21 February 2011.

If you like gadgets and/or swim toys you may have found yourself, at some point over the past couple of months, Swimsense Performance Monitor. And after playing with one for a few weeks now, I’ll admit, it’s pretty cool.

Before you fork over $200, though, consider the question: What does the Swimsense - and swim watches in general (e.g., the Swimovate watch) - offer that a simple pace clock doesn’t?

At this point (early 2011), the features offered by swim watches basically boil down to:


Obviously, a pace clock is great at keeping time. Did you know it can also count laps? Assuming you keep a roughly steady pace, you can almost always use the pace clock to verify the lap count on a long swim. During my 10K Postal swim last fall, I had a direct view of a large digital pace clock at the end of each 100m lap. Whenever I pushed off the wall to begin a new lap, I glanced at the clock on my first breath. This helped me keep a perfect lap count for 10,000m, without having to consult my human counter. And, since I looked at the clock at the same point every lap (~5m off the wall), I also got my 100m splits to an accuracy of less than 1 second.

What about counting strokes? OK, pace clocks can’t count strokes. But really, is it that difficult to count your own strokes? (Especially in a short course pool.)

The Swimsense has some interesting additional features - the ability to upload workout data to your PC, for example - but that’s more about the “platform” than the watch itself. It still just keeps time, counts laps, and counts strokes. No integrated heart-rate monitor or anything (yet).

Pace clocks even have a few advantages over swim watches:

So actually, pace clocks are pretty awesome. Indeed, a swim watch would have to be quite a bit more awesome - $200 more awesome, in fact - to justify the purchase. Does the Swimsense clear the bar? Stay tuned. For now, I’ll list a few situations that might alter the calculus slightly toward investing in a swim watch:

On that last point - unless you’re training for a marathon swim, there’s really no reason to be doing lots of steady-state swimming (unless you enjoy it). Interval training is far more effective, and a lot more fun!

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Posted in: training Tags: gear


On 2011-02-22 19:43:06, Bo Martin said:
I've got a Poolmate. It's good at counting laps, but the strokes is only close. I can count and it's normally within 2 or 3 strokes. I have to agree on the pace clock. I glance at it to help count laps and keep my pace. Can't do that with a watch. And It always starts when I start a swim. I hate finishing a swim to discover I didn't push the button correctly when I started. But I have to use the watch at the Y i swim at. The pace clock is almost impossible to see from the lap lane. FYI.. I did a 2:13 200 at practice last week :) But Jim did a 2:07 (Ouch!!) I drafted on the 1st 100 and then he took off as usual.

On 2011-02-22 21:25:16, Evan said:
Hey Bo! Thanks for the info on the Poolmate. That's the only one of the current crop of swim watches I haven't tried. Nice job on that 200 - and the Miami meet, too!

On 2013-07-19 22:36:21, Phillip Luebke said:
How about a pace clock that is a swim watch? :) My PaceWatch is currently in production. I'm accepting preorders at and expect to begin shipping product in September.

On 2014-01-10 00:29:44, Advice for New Year Swimming Resolutionistas, whether for exercise, swimming improvement or weight loss | LoneSwimmer said:
[…] How To use the pace clock (Farther, Colder, Rougher) […]

On 2015-01-01 01:09:51, Advice on New Year’s Swimming Resolutions, whether for health, swimming improvement or weight management | LoneSwimmer said:
[…] How To use the pace clock (Farther, Colder, Rougher) […]

On 2015-01-20 10:29:04, Brix said:
Yeah the YMCAs around here put their pace clocks above the end of the lane instead of the side (near the end) so they're impossible to see whule swimming crawl. Several competition pool specs dictate placement on the side near the start end so I'm going to use this as ammunition to ask them to change.

On 2015-05-13 03:53:11, How To: An Introduction to the Pace Clock for Beginner & Improving Swimmers | LoneSwimmer said:
[…] a further secondary benefit, as Evan pointed out in an article some years ago, the pace clock also functions to help count laps. If you are making your interval, then all you […]

On 2016-01-01 03:47:05, How To: Advice on New Year’s Swimming Resolutions for Hhealth, Swimming Improvement and Weight Management | LoneSwimmer said:
[…] How To use the pace clock (Farther, Colder, Rougher) […]