Roger Hughes tests the Garmin Instinct all-round outdoors wristwatch and explains why it could make a useful boating watch


Like most new style multi-functional watches, (which seem to come out every other month), the Garmin Instinct is much larger than a normal watch, but only a bit heavier and not half as big as some of the best sailing watches on the market.

The actual diameter is 47mm (1 13/16” in) and the viewing face is 32mm (1 1/4”) diameter. Its weight is relatively light at 52g (2 oz) due to its fibre-reinforced polymer case, which looks like plastic.

The Instinct is available in six colours. The wristband is soft rubber graphite silicone, which feels like rubber, and is perforated every 5mm, which enables it to fit virtually any size wrist, including women and children. The clasp locks the watch on the wrist, also available in six colours.

The Instinct has a quartz movement and is chargeable via a USB cable, which plugs into the back. Battery life varies according to the way the watch is used. In normal smartwatch mode you can expect up to 14 days, but if you use activity tracking and heartrate monitoring, that drops to 40 hours and if you engage GPS mode that drops to just 16 hours. A solar powered version is also available, but costs around £75 / $100 extra.

There are five buttons on the perimeter, three on the left side and two on the right. They are easy to press and do not seem to obstruct each other’s functions.

Seven different built-in face configurations can be set, from digital read-outs, to standard analog faces with hands, and these can then be customised with other secondary data.

The Instinct comes with a comprehensive 25-page instruction manual and a detailed appendix, which you can download from the Garmin website.

What makes the Garmin Instinct a good boating watch?

The Garmin Instinct is waterproof up to 10 atmospheres of pressure. You can download charts to the watch, but it can’t be connected to a chartplotter.

If you want full NMEA 2000 connectivity, you’ll need to upgrade to the Garmin Quatix 6, which is roughly twice the price and much bigger and heavier.

Garmin Instinct verdict

The Garmin Instinct is a truly remarkable device that meets the needs of many different activities and sports, both indoors and outdoors. The features cover a wide range of activities, all of which are infinitely customisable for the user.

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