A boatie’s ul­ti­mate watch


Boating NZ - - Contents - BY NORMAN HOLTZHAUSEN

A wrist­watch like no other, Garmin’s De­scent Mk 1 is a great-look­ing unit with mul­ti­ple uses.

As an avid boatie and gad­get junkie, I’ve long searched for the per­fect watch with fea­tures that sat­isfy my boat­ing, fish­ing and div­ing needs. I am also a run­ner, back­packer and hunter, and want fea­tures for those ac­tiv­i­ties as well.

Sadly, th­ese are con­flict­ing re­quire­ments and, un­til re­cently, I could not find a sin­gu­lar de­vice that pro­vided all the re­quired ca­pa­bil­i­ties, while still be­ing stylish enough to wear to the of­fice ev­ery day. I ac­quired an Ap­ple Watch to give me smart apps, GPS, and to track my run­ning routes. A great de­vice, but it has lim­ited wa­ter­proof­ing, which re­ally means it’s only ‘show­er­proof’. The flat glass screen is also prone to dam­age and not ro­bust enough for wear­ing while work­ing in the work­shop or on the boat.

Then I bought a Cit­i­zen Pro­mas­ter dive watch. That served me well as both my ro­bust ac­tiv­ity watch and also a sim­ple dive com­puter, be­ing a true dive watch with built-in depth gauge and dive-log­ging func­tions. Un­for­tu­nately, with my age­ing eye­sight I couldn’t read the tiny dig­i­tal dis­play. I needed a big­ger, brighter screen.

Next, a Mares wrist dive com­puter. It has a big, back-lit dis­play and the dive func­tions I need, but it lacks ba­sic watch func­tions and has a non-rechar­gable bat­tery. So – three dif­fer­ent wrist de­vices – none ideal. En­ter Garmin. Most boat­ies will know the brand for its ex­ten­sive chart­plot­ter and fishfinder tech­nol­ogy. And its etrex range pretty much de­fined the mar­ket for hand­held satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion de­vices for tram­pers and hunters. Equally strong in the fit­ness wear­ables mar­ket, Garmin launched one of the first Gps-en­abled run­ning watches a decade and a half ago.

But a gap ex­isted in the range – a true dive watch. While many of its fit­ness de­vices were wa­ter­proof to 100m, none pro­vided the sorts of fea­tures that divers (both scuba and free divers) re­quired.

Says Adam Howarth, Garmin Aus­trala­sia general man­ager: “We wanted to build a dive com­puter that looked

so good and had so many fea­tures packed into it you’d never want to take it off.” The De­scent Mk1 is the re­sult. In­tro­duced late last year, the watch has re­ceived rave re­views. It comes in two ver­sions: a stain­less case with rub­ber wrist strap; and the pricier ti­ta­nium model with ti­ta­nium strap. Both ver­sions are fash­ion state­ments and are cer­tainly suit­able for ev­ery­day busi­ness and leisure wear.

The De­scent packs an as­ton­ish­ing num­ber of fea­tures into a sin­gle de­vice. It com­bines the tech­nol­ogy of a watch, dive com­puter, al­time­ter, heart rate mon­i­tor and GPS nav­i­ga­tion into a pack­age with a bright day­light-read­able colour screen, plus Blue­tooth and Wifi con­nec­tiv­ity.

It’s the com­bi­na­tion of GPS track­ing with the dive ca­pa­bil­ity that makes this watch unique. It pro­vides for com­plete track­ing of your dives. Of course, GPS does not work un­der wa­ter since it re­quires line-of-sight of the satel­lites, but when in Dive-mode the watch en­gages track­ing to note your point of de­scent and where you sur­face again.

With its wire­less con­nec­tiv­ity pro­vid­ing au­to­matic up­load­ing of dive in­for­ma­tion to your smart­phone or com­puter, you im­me­di­ately have a log of your en­tire dive pro­file. And un­like many other dive com­put­ers, you can view graphs of depth, wa­ter tem­per­a­ture and heart rate im­me­di­ately af­ter the dive.

It’s also a very good dive com­puter. The bright colour screen, with back­light for deeper dives, is eas­ily read­able even for my eyes. The three-axis com­pass works no mat­ter what your ori­en­ta­tion in the wa­ter, and the depth and tem­per­a­ture sen­sors plus heart rate mon­i­tor all keep track of your crit­i­cal pa­ram­e­ters.

The soft­ware han­dles mul­ti­ple gas op­tions, with free­d­iv­ing, scuba and var­i­ous tech­ni­cal dive pro­files avail­able. Alarms and safety in­for­ma­tion such as no-de­com­pres­sion times and sur­face in­ter­vals are cal­cu­lated and dis­played as re­quired, and the dis­plays are con­fig­urable to suit your pref­er­ence. FOR NON-DIVERS

Not all boat­ies are divers, so the boat­ing fea­tures are per­haps of more in­ter­est to read­ers. The De­scent is a typ­i­cal Smart­watch, able to down­load apps and wid­gets that pro­vide ac­tiv­ity-spe­cific fea­tures. Since it’s built on the same soft­ware plat­form as the Garmin Fenix 5X Smart­watch, many of the apps de­signed for those de­vices also work with the De­scent.

Al­though there are far fewer apps than for the Ap­ple Watch, more than 1500 dif­fer­ent apps and wid­gets (sim­pli­fied apps) are cur­rently avail­able.

Nav­i­ga­tion is of course crit­i­cal for boat­ies, and the on-screen map is bright and easy to read. You can zoom in or out and scroll around the map, and dif­fer­ent map op­tions are avail­able, in­clud­ing the de­fault world map or Google or Open Street maps.

A de­fault nau­ti­cal chart is also avail­able, with third-party charts avail­able for pur­chase and down­load. With Garmin’s ac­qui­si­tion of Navion­ics last year, we can ex­pect to see th­ese as an op­tion shortly, al­though they are not yet avail­able.

Fea­tures of the app in­clude course nav­i­ga­tion, plot­ting your track, show­ing points of in­ter­est and a hotkey com­bi­na­tion for in­stantly drop­ping a man-over­board pin on the map.

This full nav­i­ga­tion ca­pa­bil­ity is of par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est to ocean swim­mers, pad­dle­board­ers and other wa­ter sports where there is no op­tion for a fixed-mounted screen or a hand­held mo­bile phone. The chart can show you vis­ually where you are, while track­ing how far you have swum or pad­dled and how far you still to go.

Swim­mers know how dif­fi­cult it is to judge dis­tances when your eyes are down at wa­ter level and be­ing able to log ex­actly how far you have swum as well as your speed and heartrate can be in­valu­able for train­ing.

For the golf-mad, down­load­able maps of the world’s golf cour­ses are avail­able so you can see the en­tire course, pin lo­ca­tions, dis­tances and haz­ards. Of course, it also al­lows you to keep score and mea­sure the dis­tances be­tween shots, telling you pre­cisely how long (or short!) your drives and shots were.

An­other app I found very use­ful was Tides, which uses GPS to pin­point your lo­ca­tion and then dis­play the ap­pro­pri­ate tidal in­for­ma­tion. Boat Data is also use­ful. It will sync with com­pat­i­ble Garmin ma­rine prod­ucts on your boat and dis­play up to four screens of data such as wa­ter depth and tem­per­a­ture. Also avail­able are nav­i­ga­tional info, en­gine mon­i­tor­ing like RPM and coolant tem­per­a­ture and up to 10 user-con­fig­urable fields.

Sev­eral sail­ing apps pro­vides the sort of pa­ram­e­ters that com­pet­i­tive sailors re­quire, in­clud­ing start se­quence count­downs, and cal­cu­la­tions of speed, course, dis­tance and ve­loc­ity made good (VMG). There are apps to sup­port just about any imag­in­able out­door ac­tiv­ity, such as run­ning, tramp­ing, ski­ing, hunt­ing, golf, triathlon, row­ing and walk­ing.

And, un­like some other smart watches, the bat­tery lasts up to 12 days be­tween charges, de­pend­ing on which fea­tures are be­ing used. A handy cra­dle both charges the watch and syncs data to your com­puter if you don’t have Wifi avail­able.

It has to be said the watch is not quite per­fect, how­ever. The De­scent does not have a proper touch screen, al­though some apps like Dive mode re­spond to taps on the screen. To max­imise bat­tery life, it also does not sup­port mu­sic play­back di­rectly to a Blue­tooth speaker or head­set.

Both of th­ese are likely to be ad­dressed as tech­nol­ogy evolves. Also, the user in­ter­face of both the watch and the match­ing Garmin Con­nect soft­ware is less in­tu­itive than most smart­phone users have come to ex­pect. In­stalling apps is easy enough, but or­gan­is­ing and nav­i­gat­ing through those apps on the de­vice takes a bit of get­ting used to.

So, is the Garmin De­scent Mk1 the ul­ti­mate present for the ac­tive boatie, fish­er­man, diver, swim­mer, sailor or spearfish­er­man? Ab­so­lutely! Luck­ily for me Christ­mas came early, and any­thing else I may get will pale by com­par­i­son.

Al­though not cheap, this is a prod­uct that will pro­duce smiles for a long time. The De­scent Mk 1 is avail­able from Hunt­ing and Fish­ing Stores, most dive stores and se­lected ma­rine re­tail­ers. BNZ

We wanted to build a dive com­puter that looked so good and had so many fea­tures packed into it you’d never want to take it off.

TOP The De­scent Mk 1 packs mul­ti­ple ap­pli­ca­tions into a sin­gle wrist unit.

LEFT Use­ful as nav­i­ga­tion tool when you’re in an un­known area.

RIGHT Yes, it will also give you the time of day.

BE­LOW It of­fers mul­ti­ple func­tions for divers.BOT­TOM LEFT It will show your heart rac­ing when you slip the watch onto your wrist.

RIGHT Handy for ex­plor­ing a new an­chor­age.

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