We love watches for many reasons around here, chief among them is their ability to provide us a practical service in a fashionable package. It’s difficult to argue that they are a necessity, however. We are surrounded by technology that allows us to see the time and date pretty much wherever we look. Ironically, a mechanical watch offers an escape from such digital reliance. In some cases, these two worlds come together to provide a wrist bound tool that also serves a higher, more focused function. Among these are the dive computers that divers use, smart watches that athletes rely on for their training, or more commonly, to keep us motivated to hit our stand and move goals on a daily basis. Whatever that means.
As a runner myself, I’ve become enamored with options from the likes of Apple and Garmin to help maintain mileage, however these watches rarely if ever make appearances on my wrist outside the context of their intended purpose: to track my running activity. When delving into Casio’s G-Shock catalog recently, I was surprised to find a model I was unfamiliar with called the MOVE ref. GBDH1000 which seemed to house all the features prized by runners: heart rate monitoring, VO2Max calculations, and GPS capabilities allowing for route tracking and pacing. I was curious enough to request a sample to work into my routine to see just how it would hold up against similar offerings from Apple and Garmin that I already use. Casio was kind enough to oblige by sending me their latest colorway of the watch, the GBDH1000-1A4.
Before going any further, I will acknowledge that this trio of watches is far from the norm in terms of what we usually cover here at Worn & Wound, but I hope to provide some useful perspective on these tools through the lens I would normally apply to the kinds of mechanical watches you’d regularly find on my wrist. If you’re looking for details on all the tech features and battery life, you won’t find them here as these aren’t watches I wear beyond the activities for which I find them useful.
These three watches are distinctly different in their approach to what a smart watch can and should be, and while they offer a similar feature set, they take very different routes in getting there. I’m going to cut to the chase here right off the bat, if you need a go everywhere, do everything smart watch, the Apple Watch is in a different league than both the G and the Garmin. It’s got tens of thousands of apps (maybe more), a beautiful screen, looks good enough to go from the gym to the boardroom, and has arguably the best UI of any smart watch on the market. However, if you’re reading this publication, wearing a smartwatch all day everyday is probably not in the cards. That leaves these watches locked to the realm of whatever activity we may need them for. In this case, it’s running.
Garmin has earned a stellar reputation for their smart devices, including watches which cover a broad range of activities from golf, to diving, to running. These are watches built for activity and not much else, which is perfect for anyone with a box full of mechanical watches that cover daily duty. For runners, the Garmin Forerunner has long been a fan favorite, and for good reason. They pack a ton of functionality into a clean wearable package with an easy to navigate UI. Additionally, data is easily synced via bluetooth to your Garmin Connect account, where you can view activities, challenges and history. Garmin Connect is easy to use, with an intuitive interface that provides the data you need without much in the way of filler. This means you don’t have to go digging for the pertinent information.
The Forerunner I use is the 45S, which measures in at just 39mm making the smallest of the bunch. The strap integrates directly into the case with no lugs to speak of so that 39mm is just 39mm all around. It wears small, which is a good thing when distance running. The screen is nothing fancy, with a resolution of 208 x 208 pixels providing enough clarity to view pertinent data and not much else.
As simple as the 45S comes across, it’s got an impressive feature set that offers some practical usage should you so choose. It will receive texts and emails from your phone, display your calendar and even the weather. For my purposes, none of that really matters, though. The small frame also houses a GPS (with GLONASS and GALILEO), a heart rate monitor, and an accelerometer; all great tools for running. Best of all, using it is dead simple. I throw it on before a run, hit the Start button and I’m good to go. The only hold up that presents itself from time to time is waiting on a GPS signal, which can take a minute or two at worst.
While running, the screen displays total distance, elapsed time, and pace. I appreciate the simplicity offered here and since I’m not a competitive runner or training for any specific race, these three data points are more than enough. Accuracy is in line with that of the Apple Watch, and I’ll touch more on that later, but it falls within an acceptable range for my purposes. While running, the watch is not intrusive thanks to its sub 40mm size (and 11.4mm thickness) and comfortable silicone strap. The strap is easy to change with a screwdriver, I opted for a white case and picked up a black strap for some contrast, but purple and white are also available.
Overall the Garmin is a fantastic running tool that has a broad enough feature set to fit into many other areas of your life, active or otherwise. Garmin Connect is easy to use and navigate, providing a great training tool whether you’re just getting maintenance miles or pushing to hit your BQ pace. At $ 150, the Garmin is also the cheapest watch here by a wide margin. This is clear from the screen and materials at use, but if you want a streamlined option without the fancy bells and whistles, this is a clear winner.
The G-Shock G-MOVE GBDH1000 is marketed toward active individuals looking to track their performance using the proprietary G-Shock Move app. There’s a suite of tools within that help track training logs and pertinent measurements from each workout, including V02 Max readings, which the watch is capable of calculating. This is a serious take on an activity watch from G-Shock, but is it enough to penetrate a competitive field of equally capable competitors?
Let’s get this out of the way first, this is a big watch. Those with sensitive constitutions be warned, cover your children’s eyes, here are the dimensions: 63×55×20.4mm. Considering the similar set of features found in the Garmin and the Apple Watch, I can’t think of a reasonable excuse for these dimensions. I’ll admit, I became a bit self-conscious the first time I put this watch on to go out for a run, however, to my surprise, it wasn’t entirely unmanageable once I got out there. Heck, in the end, the size isn’t even my biggest complaint with this watch.
In action, the mass of the watch handles itself well thanks to a pair of orange ‘buffers’ that curve around the wrist helping the watch form to the wearer. These, coupled with the wide rubber strap keep the wobble to a minimum during a run. That said, you notice it on the wrist more than either the Apple Watch and the Garmin. It does feel more like a tool for off-road action, be it running or hiking more so than road (or paved path) runners. The shrouded case feels like it could take a knock against a boulder and fare far better than the other two here.
Like the Garmin, the G-Shock will sync with your phone and keep you up to date on texts and emails and even provide controls for music playback. It does all this on a generously sized screen that measures about 26mm in diameter. Numbers are large and easy to read, however there’s a lot of information packed onto the screen at any given time. Display options allow you to track your weekly training progress, different time zones, recovery rates, step counts and even heart rate on the go. It’s a lot to take in, and when using during an activity that’s not necessarily a good thing.
When hitting the road for a run, a press of the large button at 9 o’clock will put the watch into tracking mode, allowing it to receive GPS information. This is where the real issue with this watch presents itself. Acquiring a signal is inconsistent at best, in my experience, it took up to 10 minutes at times to fully acquire. When it’s 35º (F) out, waiting for that signal is the last thing you want to be doing. This may be due to my location, my route takes me through neighborhoods and around Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, none of which should present too much of an issue for a device such as this, but I wasn’t able to test in more rural areas thanks to the lockdown we’re all dealing with.
Further still, the actual accuracy of the G-Move had me scratching my head more than once. I took the watch on a series of 5 runs mirroring runs I also did with the Garmin and the Apple Watch. While those two are within a tenth of one another on distance, the G-Shock tended to track well behind. My usual route is 5.10 miles, which I did 4 times with the G-Shock, resulting in the following distances being reported: 4.99, 4.94, 4.45, and 4.68. Swings of more than a half a mile feel extreme, and lead me to believe that it had issues holding GPS signal, as the two shortest readings did not manage to load a map of the run in the Move app (as seen in the screengrab below).
The G-Shock is a robust and capable watch with a few unfortunate technical issues that prevented it from being viable for my needs. Hopefully Casio can make any tweaks needed to the software via update to bring the G-Move up to spec in terms of accuracy. The size won’t be for everyone, but it’s a G-Shock so it’s got more street cred built in than the other two. I would love to see a stripped down version of the Move in the body of a DW5600, which would wear more closely to the Garmin in terms of size. Factor in the $ 400 price tag it’s considerably more expensive than the Garmin, and just as expensive as some Apple Watch models with GPS functionality.
The Apple Watch
The Apple Watch is the most flexible watch of this group, and unlike the others can be worn both during and after activities. There’s a lot of great features in the Apple Watch which I won’t go into here, but as a tool for running, it does a great job, as you might expect. This example is a series 6 that measures 40mm, but that’s measured on the diagonal of the display. As measured from 9 to 3 o’clock it’s a mere 34.3mm, and 13mm at its thickest point. This is an easy watch to wear with loads of comfortable strap options.
For runners, there are plenty of app options for tracking, though I prefer the built in, default workout tool. There’s nothing fancy about it but it offers only what you need, and nothing you don’t. The Nike Run Club app is another good one, but I’ve experienced syncing issues with my phone when using this one. NRC is easy to use and has a nice auto-pause feature for when you get held up at a light or in traffic. One issue with the Apple Watch vs the Garmin and G-Shock is the touch screen. To begin and end the run you need to tap the screen and even scroll from time to time, which can be difficult with gloves on or with a sweaty hand. The others are operated by buttons making it easy to manipulate regardless of conditions.
The GPS of the Apple Watch is different from the others in that there is no indication for GPS signal. Both the G-Shock and Garmin give you an indication to wait for the signal, whereas the Apple Watch simply sets you on your way as soon as you tap go. As compared to Google Maps, the Apple Watch also seems to be the most accurate as well, so I’m not sure what’s going on behind the scenes but it’s the most convenient to use as a result.
The display here is focused and easy to read, with only the time elapsed, total distance, and pace being displayed. Pausing or ending the run requires a swipe to the right, while other media controls are available to the left. Other readings are available here as well thanks to the built in sensors that track things like heart rate and even blood oxygen levels, but I find myself rarely paying attention to such readings. If you’re training for a race or following a plan these may be more useful to you, and it’s certainly nice to have them for the broader health benefits they can potentially provide. Like the G-Shock and the Garmin, you can get a V02 max reading in your activity dashboard. This is a reading of your body’s maximum oxygen consumption, and is generally tested in a sports lab with an oxygen mask to get an accurate reading. I’d take any results from these wrist devices with a grain of salt.
The Apple Watch is an undoubtedly impressive device, with a beautiful screen, well designed case, and lots in the way of personalization. It’s easily the best of the bunch as an everyday companion, but as a pure running tool, it could be seen as overkill. The price of this model is $ 550 but without the cellular features, can be had for $ 450. That’s pretty steep if you only plan on running in it, but there are plenty of other features that may be attractive to you for other reasons.
In total, these three watches offer very similar features for runners to enjoy. The G-Shock is stout and feels like it would make a great hiking companion, but becomes a bit overkill for the average individual looking to remain active. Pair that with the high price and concerning GPS issues, it’s difficult to recommend the G-Move until it’s had a chance to work out more of its kinks.
The Apple Watch is a slick bit of tech that integrates nicely into your day to day life. Maybe a little too nicely as it can be tempting to wear more often to get maximum benefit. It’s a joy to run in and tracks the appropriate amount of data easily and efficiently, with plenty of options when it comes to third party tools. For a runner, it’s almost too much and the price reflects this. If you need cellular and would use even a fraction of the other tools outside of running, this is an easy one to recommend, but in this test, it comes in second.
Finally, the Garmin. This is the least expensive watch here, tracks just as much data as the others, and delivers it to you in the wonderfully simple Garmin Connect app. It’s easy to use, easy to wear, and doesn’t threaten the watches in your watchbox as something you’d want to wear outside of activity. As a result, the Forerunner 45S is the clear recommendation of this group.
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