Apple’s finally positioning the Apple Watch as a tool for adventurous types with the Ultra model, so companies that’ve traditionally dominated this category are now facing stiffer competition. This includes Garmin, which plans to fend off Apple with a major upgrade to its MARQ smartwatch, including a much improved screen and impressive battery life.
First announced back in early 2019, the Garmin MARQ smartwatch line was marketed as a collection of modern tool watches: timepieces designed to be functional for more than just telling time. In the past, this might have applied to something like an analog watch with an integrated slide rule, designed for aviators to calculate fuel usage. In a time when smartwatches rival smartphones in terms of their functionality, ‘tool watch’ is quickly becoming a mostly outdated term, although the Garmin MARQ line features five models, each customized for a specific adventurous pastime.
There were two features that made the original MARQ collection stand out against the competitor’s smartwatches available at the time. They were made from premium materials including titanium and sapphire glass and, as a result, ranged in price from $1,500, to $2,500. They also featured an always-on reflective LCD screen that helped maximize battery life, but it was really only viewable in bright sunlight—great for when you were outdoors, but very hard to see indoors.
It was an unfortunate design decision, because Garmin’s MARQ line brought some of the aesthetic appeal of traditional analog watches to the smartwatch world for those who wanted the extra functionality, but didn’t love the boxy look of the Apple Watch. Three-and-a-half years later, Garmin is introducing the second generation of its MARQ collection, which carries forward all the features of the originals, like smartwatch connectivity and notifications, fitness tracking, NFC payments, GPS location tracking, and an optical heart rate/pulse oximeter sensor, but now with a bright and crisp AMOLED display that will be visible indoors or out.
The upgraded line also adds support for multi-band GNSS and multi-frequency GPS tracking, as well as new Jet Lag adviser features that take into account past sleep history and upcoming travel to provide tips on an adjusted sleep schedule and light exposure to help minimize the effects of being in another time zone. Garmin has also modified the collection itself, which originally included five models: the Aviator, Driver, Captain, Expedition, and Athlete, but now swaps the Driver for a golf-specific model, and renames the Expedition to the Adventurer.
The MARQ Athlete remains the cheapest model in Garmin’s MARQ collection at $1,900 (but it’s still $400 more expensive than the original). In addition to a vented silicone rubber strap, it includes specific functionality for workouts and training, like a “Training Readiness” score based on recent sleep metrics and workouts. This will help an athlete determine if it’s a good day to push their limits, or if they should take it easy. It also includes specific metric tracking for everything from cycling, to skiing, to swimming, to even pickleball.
The $2,100 MARQ Adventurer might be the model to choose for those who care as much about functionality as they do looks, as it includes both a leather strap for casual use and an FKM rubber hybrid strap for when adventure calls. The smartwatch comes pre-loaded with TopoActive maps, providing information on changing elevations, which is useful to hikers, as well as specific trail information, including names and distances to upcoming trail intersections.
Garmin did not shy away from the theming with the newly added $2,300 MARQ Golfer, giving it a green ceramic inlay on the face and a tritone green jacquard-weave nylon strap. The smartwatch comes pre-loaded with maps for over 42,000 different golf courses around the world, which are auto-detected and loaded through GPS, and provides important golf-specific information like current wind data and precise distance measurements to the front, middle, and back of the current green.
The $2,200 MARQ Captain is designed for adventures above the water line instead of below it, but includes a striped jacquard weave nylon strap designed to survive a soaking. Racers can use a built-in Regatta Timer feature to ensure their boat crosses the starting line at the correct time while alerts and alarm will notify captains of hazards like changing tides and anchor drag. When paired with a Garmin nautical navigation system, the MARQ Captain can even be used to access a ship’s autopilot and change its heading or follow a specific pre-programmed route.
With a brushed titanium bracelet that matches the rest of the watch, the $2,400 MARQ Aviator is the most expensive model now, and is designed for pilots, with features that include the ability to navigate to “a location or waypoint in the worldwide aeronautical database” or find the shortest route to the nearest airport. It also features NEXRAD radar that can be overlaid on route maps so pilots can see the weather conditions they’re approaching, while aviation alerts allow pilots to specify flight conditions like winds they’re comfortable with. The watch will also notify them when it’s a favorable time to fly.
The second generation Garmin MARQ collection will be available starting sometime this month.