Sports timepieces have come a long way since the digital stopwatches of the early 1980s. Top-of-the-range speed and distance models are not within everybody's price range, so what are the features you should look for in a mid-range version?
Chronograph and interval timer You should at least be able to time the total length of your run and keep a tab on individual lap times if you're interval training.
Log You don't always have time to review your data straight after training so your watch should be able to store multiple run data for future perusal.
Heart-rate monitor Not all entry-level watches come with them, but training within target heart-rate zones is a useful alternative to running at a target speed.
Functionality Using your watch should not require a session with the user manual before every run. The fewer buttons the better.
Visibility At a very basic level you need to be able to see the info your watch is giving you. The screen should be big with a large font, and the backlight should be strong.
Oregon Scientific VIBRA Trainer Fit (Editor's Choice)
Price £60 Contact fitnessmonitors.com
This was the cheapest model on test, but is packed with the most technology. It is a one-stop fitness trainer with heart-rate monitor, calorie and fat-burn measurement, chronograph and a vibration alert, which informs you when you stray out of a minimum or maximum heart rate zone.
It also has a Smart Training Program, which takes you through a number of training sessions including warm-up and cool-down.
It's water resistant for 50m and the heart-rate signal is excellent. It also comes with a bike mount, storage pouch and two spare batteries. Some of the functionality takes a bit of practise but overall it's a robust, common-sense, reliable device.
Adidas Response Light XL
Price £70 Contact adidas.com/uk/watches
The functionality of this one is intuitive, and it's a pleasure to use in every way. It is simple to programme, easy to use on the run, has a large screen and font for great visibility and is sturdy and comfortable. Features include a chronograph with different screen view options; 50-lap memory; an interval timer; a ventilated strap; and a Shadow Run feature, which allows you to race against any previous run saved in the watch.
Add Your Review
Price £70 Contact casio.co.uk
Best suited to those who want a multi-purpose watch. It has a digital compass and thermometer, and can tell you the time in 48 different cities. For runners there are the basic functions of alarms, stopwatch and a countdown timer, which makes it suitable for interval training. The 200m water resistance, shock-resistant face and tough strap make it very durable, but the screen is too busy and it's fiddly to work with.
Price £79.99 Contact polar.fi
This is Polar's entry-level device, and the company has made it as hassle-free as possible for beginners. It includes a coded heart-rate monitor for an accurate signal, measures current and average heart rate, has a minimum and maximum heart-rate-zone setting, and a 99-lap counter and chronograph. The strap and dial are made of lightweight, durable rubber, the functionality is extremely easy to get to grips with and the buttons are easy to access but not overly sensitive. The only downside is that the screen is tricky to view in low light and the backlight isn't the strongest.
Price £69.99 Contact suunto.com
Suunto normally operates at the premium end of the market so it’s good to see it offering an entry-level device. Features include heart-rate monitor (signal was occasionally variable but never cut out); heart-rate training zones; a lap counter; and a log to keep track of run data, such as overall time, lap splits, heart rate and calories burned. Screen visibility is excellent, although the button function names are very small. The watch is lightweight but has a plastic feel.
Timex Ironman 150-Lap Sleek
Price £79.99 Contact timex.com
This latest model retains Timex's hallmark simplicity but introduces a new twist: tap-screen technology. Five buttons are used for programming, but the tap screen controls lap and split-time function on the go. There is a 150-lap chronograph, and you can programme in up to 16 intervals, as well as setting target pace/lap times with 'too slow', 'on target' and 'too fast' alarms. You can also use hydration and nutrition prompts to remind you when to fuel up. It's simple to use, easy to view and it has an impressive number of features for the price.