After a two-month test, marine journalist Hugo Andreae reviews the Garmin Marq Captain - the flagship of Garmin’s range of boating smartwatches…
Garmin Marq Captain smartwatch review: Smart by name, smart by nature
As befits its £1,699 price tag, the Garmin Marq Captain arrived in a hefty steel presentation case with a magnetic seal that eased open like the lid of a sarcophagus to reveal the watch, a quick-release blue jacquard strap and a spare black silicone one.
For the first day or two I found its substantial size to be a bit of an encumbrance. Its 46mm blue enamel bezel and 14.7mm-thick titanium casing ensures it gets noticed but also means it weighs 88g – more than twice the weight and thickness of my previous Lorus watch.
However, I soon got used to it and even though its size makes it prone to accidental scrapes, its robust build and slightly recessed sapphire lens is showing no sign of scratching.
This is the first sailing smartwatch I’ve owned so it took me a while to get used to the constant buzzing of notifications that ping onto its tiny screen from a Bluetooth-linked phone. You can of course turn these off but ideally I’d like some of them to continue appearing on my phone but not on my watch.
I also found the Marq’s system of buttons and menus rather unintuitive. Admittedly there are a dizzying number of functions, many of which are customisable, but even after a couple of months I still find myself struggling to remember which button to press, for how long and in what order.
To be fair, it is an astonishingly high-tech device that does everything you could possibly want it to do and more. Its satellite positioning receiver links to all three of the major networks (GPS, Glonass and Galileo).
This is complemented by a compass, altimeter, gyroscope, accelerometer and thermometer, as well as pulse and blood oxygen-level monitors, allowing it to track almost any activity in remarkable detail.
All this information is fed back to a Garmin Connect app on your phone, so you can view it on a larger screen. Standard functions include sleep and fitness tracking, step count, pulse rate and in the Captain’s case, a dedicated regatta app for timing the perfect race line start.
You can also download specialist widgets for activities such as running, swimming, golf, tennis, sailing, skiing and dozens of others.
Its 32GB memory can store up to 2,000 songs for streaming to Bluetooth headphones or marine speakers. You can also link it to your boat’s Garmin nav gear and Fusion sound system, allowing you to control a wide range of functions from basic things such as volume to major ones like the autopilot’s heading.
How often you’d use your watch for this is hard to say as most of the time it will be quicker and easier to use the boat’s MFD controls but I can see how useful it would be to have features like the anchor alarm linked to your watch when eating ashore or sleeping down below.
And while it’s cool to have charts on your watch, the 240 x 240 pixel screen is too small for it to be of much practical value except in an emergency.
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Even after two months I am still discovering new uses for it such as checking tides and tracking speed, distance and routes when cycling, skiing or windsurfing as well as boating. It’s also fun being able to change the look of the watch face, although I find it a little dark and two-dimensional compared to a real one. Charging it is a bit of a bore with a very fiddly cable and lots of buzzing as it synchs its various apps. Thankfully the battery lasts for around six days of typical use or 28 hours when using GPS. On the plus side, it’s one of the most stylish and feature-packed smart watches around that is also admirably robust, waterproof to 10 atmospheres and fitted with a comfortable, quick-drying strap. In short, I have become unexpectedly attached to it.