The Fenix Chronos is Garmin’s attempt to cater to the upmarket outdoor crowd. With the core function of a Fenix, the Chronos features a metal housing topped by a sapphire glass and polishes the EXO Antenna with a Tachymeter. The appearance is something we’d associate with luxury watches but the functionality is downright Garmin. This is a watch that’d have no issues accompanying you on all your activities from the sweaty outdoors to the sombre meeting boardroom.Garmin is selling three variations of the watch, one with leather strap ($899.99), a brushed stainless steel strap version ($999.99) and the priciest titanium version retailing for $1499.99 USD.
I had the Garmin Fenix Chronos with brushed stainless steel band for 3 weeks and here’s what I have to say.
The Fenix Chronos was provided by Garmin Singapore for the purpose of this review. The staff were extremely helpful with the software updates and provided answers to my queries about the Fenix Chronos where possible.
FENIX CHRONOS IN SHORT
- 24/7 fitness tracker. Tracks steps, distance, calories, floors climbed and sleep
- Optical heart rate sensors measure all day heart rate and heart rate during tracked activity sessions
- Plethora of activity profiles with option to customise and create more, including multi-sport modes
- Altimeter, barometer, electronic compass and in built temperature sensor
- EXO antenna GPS+GlONASS inscribed with Tachymeter
- Full metal casing with stainless steel bezel
- Sunlight readable Chroma display with LED back light and sapphire lens
- 3D Speed and Distance with customisable auto lap distance
- Vibration and audio beeps enabled for smart notifications, alarms, move alerts
- Expand and read messages on display
- Pick up phone calls from watch
- Heavily customisable in terms of display fields and usage within each activity profile
- Garmin Connect IQ compatible for apps, widgets and watch face downloads
- VO2 Max score, recovery advisor, race time predictor, stress score, performance indicator, lactate threshold, odometer.
- Navigation functions
- Training functions such as intervals, Virtual racer, racing past activityand more.
- Water resistant to 10 ATM
- Up to 1 week worth of use in watch mode, 13 hours in GPS mode and 25 hours in Ultratac mode.
- Create workouts, plan training on Garmin Connect web platform
- Compatible with Vector power meter for cycling
- ANT+ and Bluetooth enabled
- Plays music, controls VIRB camera and Dog Track
- No record of stress test or recovery HR tracked over time
- Lack of variety in changeable watch straps
- Light vibrations which is unadjustable
- Small fonts in certain aspects such as review of activity
LOOK AND FEEL
The Fenix Chronos ships in a wooden box that slides to reveal the prized watch within. Whichever variation you purchase, Garmin will throw in a silicon band which is necessary for workouts. Beautiful isn’t it?I like the look of the Fenix Chronos. It’s slightly smaller than a Fenix 3 and weighs a tad heavier but it’s definitely manageable. You need to strap up real tight as the weight of the watch will cause it to sag to the edge of your wrist during runs.
Due to the nature of my work, I use the silicon band for all day wear which comes in particularly useful during exercise.The Chronos should fit people with smaller wrists like without eliciting looks of bewilderment from onlookers. It’s also got that luxury look usually associated with watches that costs thousands but retains that ruggedness you get from that $50 bucks Casio G-Shock from 1995.
Plus it will survive the High Altitude High Opening Parachute jumps, the occasional non extreme mountaineering trips you might have in mind and some sunny sailing dinghy expeditions. (Water resistant to 10 ATM) Anything else you fancy doing?The display is identical to that of the Fenix 3 but the fonts differ. It appears sharper and gives the impression of a larger screen. Sapphire screen appears gorgeous under bright sunlight and back light with adjustable levels of brightness ensures ease of use in the night.There’s some inconsistency in the fonts which can get ridiculously tiny and faint such as when I wanted to view the details of my run. It isn’t un-viewable but bigger fonts would have enhanced the experience. Ironically fonts for smart notifications appear larger than than for training details.
Controls and scrolling are much more responsive on the Fenix Chronos compared to the Fenix 3. It’s nowhere near that of smart watches such as the Apple Watch Series 2 but it’s a welcomed improvement nonetheless. I understand this speed boost came up a faster processor.
The tachymeter inscribed on the EXO antenna gives the watch another avenue to appear luxurious. Even the rumoured Fenix 5 doesn’t feature tachymeter.The back of the Fenix Chronos houses the optical heart rate sensor (OHR) which is identical to that found in more recent series of Garmin watches. In this edition, it appears more flush compared to its predecessor. The orientation of the OHR has also changed and interestingly, the orientation is switched again in the Fenix 5 series.Here’s a press picture of the Fenx 5 series OHR for comparison. Perhaps Garmin is experimenting with the OHR position with regard to accuracy.
I was told by the Garmin product manager that despite the difference in appearance of the OHR, the innards essentially feature the same algorithm. Watch straps are fitted with a quick release latch, a first for Garmin. I’ve read rumours that the company is also in the process of finalising a QUICKFIT clasp system for watch straps. This has been confirmed with the Fenix 5 announcement. This should make changing of the straps even easier in future.
Whichever version you purchase, an extra silicon strap will be provided; the strap of choice for workouts with the slight stretch ideal for the optical heart rate sensors.Like all Fenix series, there are a total of 5 buttons which fulfil different functions. You can also designate 2 of the buttons as hot keys, offering quick access to a few select features such as chronograph, saved location and more. These are the functions of the buttons:
- Top right: START/ ENTER (Hot Key possibility)
- Bottom right: BACK (Hot Key possibility)
- Top left: Back light/ Power
- Center left: SCROLL UP/ Long hold to expand for more functions
- Bottom left: SCROLL DOWN
The adoption of a charging cable is a move away from the big chunky cradle from the Fenix 3. The new clamp design resembles that of the Forerunner series (230, 235, 735XT and 35) but it’s a different cable altogether. The cable is flat, presumably to prevent it from knotting up. The charging clamp has a wider mouth to cater to the thickness of the Fenix Chronos.With about 30 minutes of GPS and wrist based HR training per day, smart watch notification and all day HR monitoring turned on, I was able to go about 6 days. Your mileage may vary depending on the level of screen brightness, frequency of smart notification buzzes. If I had enabled GLONASS as well, that would burn the battery really fast.You won’t have to charge the watch daily but it is unable to give you that lengthy usage compared to the Fenix 3 simply due to the reduced battery capacity of the Fenix Chronos at 180mAh.
FUNCTIONS AND PRESENTATION
Wrist Based Heart Rate
I usually carry out 3 tests for optical HR sensors for the recent reviews which involves activities which most people will do aside from running. The results apply to me on this Fenix Chronos I used for this review. As always, your results will probably vary.
30 minutes 5km run on flat road
For running, I expected nothing less from Garmin’s Elevate HR tech and it didn’t disappoint. This has to be one of the more challenging tests I’ve done. It was a cooling evening before it poured, then drizzled, then poured again before the rain stopped. I actually thought the optical HR readings would be slightly affected but it wasn’t. It was great.
I’ve used the Fenix Chronos in temperatures ranging from 0 to 30 degrees Celsius for running and in all circumstances, it didn’t falter.
10 minutes bodyweight circuit exercises
This would prove more challenging for the Fenix Chronos and any optical HR sensors for the matter. Why? During bodyweight exercises such as push-ups which will cause the muscles on the forearm to contract and flex, thereby affecting blood flow momentarily. This will do doubt cause problems for the OHR and it did. My circuit also involved variations of squats which was tracked accurately in terms of heart rate readings. It’s the exercises that involve upper limbs that gives the most issues.
At present, optical HR sensors are doing pretty well for running but may not be the best piece of HR wearable if your activities involve gym workouts.
25 minutes interval training on stationary bike
With 5 minutes warm up, 20 minutes of interval cycling of 1 minute high intensity and 1 minute low intensity followed by warm down.
In biking, the arms are pretty much stationary throughout so this offers a different testing condition for the watch compared to the previous 2 events. There were 2 hiccups somewhere along the 7 min 55 seconds mark and at the end of the session.
Specifically for use in my experience, I thought Garmin’s optical heart rate measurement technology impresses the most during running based activities.
All day heart rate measurement
When enabled, the Fenix Chronos will take heart rate periodically throughout the day. I’d take the readings with a pinch of salt since the wearer is unlikely to strap the watch tightly during all day wear thereby compromising the accuracy. I use the readings as an estimation of my resting heart rate (RHR) over time.
I’m unsure if it’s the faster processor or tweaking of the Fenix Chronos hardware innards but GPS acquisition speed is remarkable. How fast? I’ve gone for multiple outdoor runs with the Fenix Chronos and not once did GPS signal acquisition take more than a minute. (30 seconds on average)
That’s very good by my standards considering my usual running route, or anybody residing in Singapore for the matter, circles countless tall buildings and HDBs. In comparison to the Fenix 3HR, the Chronos blows the competition out the water. I even had a 2 occasions when the GPS signal was acquired in 5 seconds!
I was told by Garmin representative that the antenna design was optimised in the Chronos. I’m not in the position to go into details since that’s pretty much engineering domain but comparing versus the Fenix 3 HR, this is a much appreciated quantum leap. Similar to the Fenix 3 HR, the Chronos also has 3D speed and distance measuring capability.
ABC + Navigation
For those adventurous types, there’s a compass, barometer and altimeter widget present in the Fenix Chronos. Or you can simply enable the ABC and do away with the other 3 widgets depending on need.
Garmin’s widgets are basically simple functions that serves to indicate with very interactivity. So information such as step count, intensity minutes, weather are all see-and-forget functions under widgets.Here’s the list of the widgets which are available:
- ABC (Combination of essential altimeter, barometer and compass readings)
- VIRB controls
- Music playback control
- Smart notifications
- Heart Rate
- My Day summary
- Intensity Minutes
- Last run
- Last ride
- Last swim
- Last Sport
Mighty impressive isn’t it? The good things about widgets is that it allows the user access to information and tracked stats without the need to open the Garmin Connect mobile device. You can also download more widgets on the Connect IQ store.
All Day Activity Tracker
As with all Garmin fitness devices, the Fenix Chronos comes backed by years of activity tracking experience.
Basic stats such as step count, calories burned, intensity minutes, floors climbed and sleep form the staple of this capable all day activity tracking GPS watch.
The tracked stats are then synced to the Garmin Connect mobile app for further scrutiny. The manual sleep function is available in the Fenix Chronos so naps can be tracked.
Apps are tiny functions that utilises the Fenix Chronos hardware. So sports activities such as running outdoors that tap on the in device GPS/GLONASS and optical heart rate sensors are considered apps.The app list is extensive and pretty much covers every event humanly possible for the general population, think activities such as sky diving, triathlon, climbing, open water swimming. You can even create your own activities or multi sport if it isn’t available.You won’t see activities for diving since the Fenix Chronos is only water resistant to 10 ATM. For a watch to be diving safe, it has to have water resistance level greater than 1.0 MPa (10 ATM). But it should suffice for your pool and open water swims.
Here’s the list of Sports Apps to blow your mind. The list is not complete as it’s simply too lengthy.
- XC Skiing
- Trail Run
- Run Outdoor/ Indoor
- Bike Outdoor/ Indoor
- Pool Swim/ Open Water Swim
- Row outdoors/ Indoors
You can further customize the stat display with up to 10 display screens at your disposal which differ for each app. Populate your display with information from fields such as pace, heart rate, weather, timer, distance and a whole lot more. I usually only use one or a maximum of two display screens at any one time but whatever floats your boat.
Both apps and widgets are available for download from Garmin Connect IQ. This is Garmin’s equivalent of Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store.The apps are more functional than widgets. You can tweak the apps and there’s some form of interactivity.Garmin Connect IQ is also where users can download watch faces to make the Fenix Chronos their own.The presence of altimeter, electronic compass and barometer in the Fenix Chronos opens up more possibilities in terms of apps and widgets availability compared to flag ship Forerunner devices such as the 735XT.
Both apps and widgets can be created by Garmin or any third party companies or individuals so QC (quality control) can be an issue.
You can see incoming texts, mobile app notifications right on the watch, with the capability to further expand the notifications.
The user can also customize the smart notification function to show either everything or just calls only with the notification.
This is where the user plans, creates and downloads workouts to the Fenix Chronos. This will require work on the user’s part.A function I particularly like is the “Race an activity.” I can pick a tracked event from history and run against it in real time. This is particularly useful when gunning for PBs during training.
The Garmin Fenix Chronos is able to connect to ANT+ sensors such as heart rate monitors, VIRB cameras and more.I was able to connect the Fenix Chronos to a HRM-Run and access advanced running dynamics such as GCT (Ground contact time) and oscillation right on the watch during training.
My Stats and Physiological measurements
Physiological stat crunching is provided by FirstBeat, a company solely committed to analysis and provision of physiological measurements.
I found most of the stats to be good indicators of progress over time or directly useful for planning training.When I returned from 4 weeks of complete rest after surgery, I was surprised how strenuous my runs felt and I used the Stress score app with Garmin HRM-Run to great effect.The recovery advisor was also useful though I’m embarrased to post this since my fitness levels is nowhere near mediocrity.Presently, after 2 weeks of 4-5 runs clocked each week, I’m starting to see my VO2 max estimation inching upwards slowly and it’s a great motivation.
These are the available measurements some of which require gadgets such as power meter.
- Stress Score
- Lactate Threshold
- Recovery Advisor
- VO2 max (Running/ Cycling)
- Race predictor
Garmin Connect Mobile App
This is Garmin’s mobile app that stores all the tracked stats. If you’re a fan of the Fitbit mobile app platform, you’d find the Garmin’s interface daunting and user-unfriendly. It just needs getting used to.The viewing of tracked activities (tracked running, biking etc.) on the Garmin Connect platform is a breeze. It gives sufficient information, with the possibility for further exploration on the Garmin Connect web platform.
I personally thought Garmin’s app, while ridiculously comprehensive, could use a tad of simplification in terms of all day tracking presentation. But that’s just my opinion based on my experience with Fitbit, Misfit, Jawbone, Polar and Apple’s app user interface.
The Fenix Chronos has been updated to receive all the training goodies found in the new Fenix 5 series as of March 2017.
2 minutes after a GPS enabled run, a recovery HR will appear on the display. You can use it as a gauge of fitness levels since a fitter person will recover quicker than an unfit one.
Unfortunately, the recovery HR is not recorded anywhere in app. Would have been nice to see it tracked really.
Similar to what you see in cars, the in watch odometer keeps the total mileage of workouts.
Find my Phone
When activated, this causes the phone to ring. So this may be helpful if you’ve misplaced your phone provided the phone is within Bluetooth connection range. And no, the Garmin Connect mobile app need not be running in the background for this feature to work.
The Fenix Chronos is unable to store or play music in device but it can be used as a remote to control music playback on the connect mobile device.
The data is pulled from the mobile device unless the user installs the Accuweather widget.
Manual sleep tracking
It seems manual sleep tracking is only available on high end Garmin fitness devices. I would have loved for this in the Forerunner 735XT but alas.
When activated, the watch will commence sleep tracking even if it’s in the middle of the day, outside of regular sleeping hours.
You can designate 2 functions which you use regularly out of a pre-set list as hot keys. The list isn’t extensive and include functions such as:
- Save location
- Dual Grid
- Lock Device
I found the feature to locate my current position immensely helpful in logging places which I would like to revisit on Google Maps later.
This is the sedentary alert. The watch will give a slight buzz followed by the words “MOVE” on the screen. Moving around for a minute or two will restart the sedentary alert feature.
This function is time locked so the user can set Move alerts from 9am to 6pm and so on.
The brightness levels of the back light can be adjusted from 10% all the way to 100%. Back light activation can also be based on wrist flick instead of button presses.I did notice the activation of the backlight inconsistent with wrist flick. Sometimes it’s near instant, other times there was a lag of about 2 seconds. I’ve referred this issue to Garmin and am awaiting clarification.
For those of you who golf, the Fenix Chronos is capable of measuring shot distance, track stats and functions as a digital scorecard. I didn’t manage to try this.
You can sync your calender to the Fenix Chronos and have your events show up directly on the watch which can be further expanded.
FENIX CHRONOS IN A NUTSHELL
You may be able to get yourself a luxury time piece but it’s unlikely to do a fraction of what the Fenix Chronos is capable of; Sapphire glass, water resistant to 10 ATM with all day activity tracking features and HR measurement! The fact that it looks great during physical activities and boardroom meetings is a huge plus.After 3 full weeks with Garmin’s Fenix Chronos, I’m impressed. I love the consistent and quick GPS acquisition speed, the quicker scrolling compared to the Fenix 3 series, and in particular the luxury appearance of the watch. It’s tempting. Garmin wasn’t kidding when they said this watch feels at home at work or training.
The Fenix Chronos is an impressive device that should satisfy the most stringent amongst us. After all it is the best that Garmin has to offer for now and I read that some features of the yet-to-be released Fenix 5 will be made available to the Chronos. Also, the Chronos can lay claim to being the only device from Garmin to feature full metal encasing.
You can purchase the Garmin Fenix Chronos from Amazon where there’s usually a small discount, great return policy, and free delivery depending on where you reside. In return your purchase helps to offset the costs associated with the running of this site. Thanks for reading!