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Wearable Tech

Garmin Fenix Chronos: Big, beautiful and expensive GPS sports watch (hands-on)

Garmin's latest watch combines sport with style.

Garmin isn't the first name that comes to mind when you think of luxury, but the fitness company is trying something new with its latest sport watch. The Fenix Chronos is a $1,500 (£1,100) multisport GPS watch with a titanium body and band, an ultra-durable sapphire crystal display, heart-rate sensor and a ton of tracking features. It's strong, yet lightweight, but also very expensive and very big.

The Chronos also comes in a stainless steel option that is slightly more affordable: $900 (£850) with a leather strap or $1,000 (£950) when paired with a 316L stainless steel band. Aside from the titanium and stainless steel casing, all units are based on Garmin's high-end Fenix 3 HR watch and have the sapphire crystal display, heart-rate sensor and other features.

Features

The Chronos has an omni-directional GPS and GLONASS antenna for tracking a variety of different activities, including running, biking, swimming, triathlons, hiking, climbing, skiing, rowing, paddle boarding and golfing.

Other features include all-day activity tracking for things like steps, distance, calories burned, sleep and heart-rate, as well as smartphone notifications when connected to an iPhone or Android phone. The watch also includes auto lap, auto pause, running dynamics (a feature that can provide feedback on your runs when using a special heart rate chest strap), a recovery advisor, an altimeter, barometer and compass, and is waterproof up to 100 meters (about 328 feet).

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The Chronos is essentially a Fenix 3 HR (a watch I like a lot but find a bit too big) in a slimmer and more premium shell with some key differences. The optical heart-rate sensor on the back doesn't bulge out as much, which makes it a little more comfortable to wear. It also doesn't include Wi-Fi (it relies solely on Bluetooth to upload data) and has a smaller battery (180mAh on the Chronos compared to 300mAh on the Fenix 3 HR).

Battery life

You're trading style for performance with Chronos when it comes to battery. Battery life is good, but not as good as the Fenix 3 HR. The Chronos will last up to 13 hours with an active GPS signal (3 hours less than the Fenix 3 HR) and up to a week as a watch and activity tracker.

A special UltraTrac mode will extend battery life to 25 hours when using GPS, but it disables the heart-rate sensor and reduces how often the GPS is pinging the satellite.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Premium from the start

The Chronos is like no other Garmin device before it. Similar to the Huawei Watch and higher-end Apple Watch models, all three Chronos watches are packaged in a premium wood box. In addition to the watch, the box contains an instruction manual, charging cable and a second silicone watch strap (the straps have a quick release which makes swapping them quick and easy).

I've really enjoyed wearing the stunning Chronos the past few days. It has all of features that you could ever need for training, competing or walking around town, plus it doesn't look like a normal sport watch. The Chronos can easily be paired with a dress shirt or suit jacket, although it is big and could look a little funny on smaller wrists.

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Here's the Chronos with the silicone watch band on.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Should you buy it?

Almost everyone reading this is better off getting a Fenix 3 HR or one of Garmin's other watches. Technology is changing at a rapid pace, and $1,500 (or even $900) is a lot of money to spend on a device that will be outdated in the next two or three years.

The Chronos doesn't do anything new, but if you put a premium on design and have some extra cash laying around, the watch has everything a budding athlete with a large checking account could ask for.

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