Water and impact resistant casing. Useful lap calculation mode. Records multiple split times for multiple athletes.
Reports of spontaneous starting and stopping. Recall function has issues. Buttons require heavy pressure.
Easy to read display and quiet operation. Variety of color options. Buttons have good tactile feedback. Clock function syncs with GMT.
Not as comfortable in larger hands. Does not shut off between uses. Minimal or missing instructions.
Audible beep confirms button activation. Large number display. Water resistant casing.
Alarm/chime feature difficult to turn off. Does not save split times. No timer function.
Ergonomic design for different hand sizes. Water resistant casing for pool use. Lightweight and unobtrusive on lanyard.
Difficult to track multiple runners. Hourly chime function distracting.
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A stopwatch is the best tool for timing sporting events or other situations that require precise time measurements, offering a level of accuracy that can’t be matched by most digital watches or smartphone apps.
Besides accuracy, the most important aspect of a stopwatch is its ease of use. It should fit comfortably in your hand, with buttons that are easy to press quickly. While nearly every stopwatch has a split time function that counts up from zero, more advanced stopwatches may also offer lap time memories, countdown mode, or date and time functions. If you need a stopwatch that will work in the rain (or after being dunked in a pool) you will need one that is water resistant or waterproof.
Stopwatches may seem simple, but their features can vary greatly. If you need to find a versatile device that can measure down to 1/100th of a second, continue reading our stopwatch buying guide.
Any stopwatch can record cumulative time, counting seconds upward from zero. But when you’re recording athletic performances, you may need to record time in more ways than one.
A split function can record specific times while the cumulative time continues recording.
A lap function stops and begins with each lap, allowing you to separate lap times from the cumulative time. Note that this differs from split time in that rather than marking the time at certain moments, it starts a second timer in addition to the cumulative time.
Lap memory and comparison allows you to store recent laps and easily compare them. While some stopwatches only allow you to view the previous lap, others may have memories capable of storing hundreds of laps.
A countdown timer allows you to set a specific time and count down to zero.
A stroke or pace function allows you to time individual strokes to calculate the average number of strokes per minute.
A stopwatch should be made of durable plastic or rubber that is lightweight and easy to hold. Most designs are rounded and some have grips on the side, which helps you hold on to your timer in wet conditions.
The buttons should be plastic because rubber buttons have some give and may not be as responsive. The worst defect a stopwatch can have is unresponsive buttons, which undermine the accuracy of the timer.
Many stopwatches have an attached lanyard or a belt clip for easily keeping the timer on your person.
Stopwatches typically take lithium batteries, or “watch batteries,” which are inexpensive and easy to change. Most stopwatches will list the expected battery life — typically three to five years.
Some stopwatches may have solar panels, which can preserve the battery and even allow the stopwatch to function when the battery is dead.
Versatility and durability in one
With a stroke calculator, three line display, and 100 lap memory, there’s little missing from this stopwatch. While the buttons can be somewhat difficult to press, this stopwatch is otherwise high-performing and has a durable water-resistant case.
There’s a big difference between a waterproof stopwatch and a water resistant model.
A water resistant model can handle a bit of rain, sweat, or other moisture, but it will be damaged if fully submerged in water.
A waterproof model can be completely submerged in water. Most manufacturers do not list a specific waterproof rating, but customer reviews may reveal the effectiveness of the waterproofing.
A stopwatch with shock and drop resistance is designed to survive bumps and falls — a great feature to have at your disposal if you coach or play high-speed sports.
Dust-resistant stopwatches are more likely to withstand the test of time while providing long-lasting accuracy, as dust can affect the responsiveness of the buttons.
Most stopwatches make some sort of noise when you start or stop the timer. In addition, an alarm may sound at the end of a countdown or when a preset alarm goes off.
The volume of most stopwatches is not adjustable. However, many stopwatches also have a mute function, which can prevent you from bothering others — and yourself.
The display size of a stopwatch is important not only for readability but also because it determines how much pertinent information it displays. Some stopwatches are capable of displaying cumulative time and split or lap time. These often have three lines, which is why they are called “three line displays.”
Some displays have an anti-glare coating, which makes outdoor use easier. If you plan to use your stopwatch in dark environments, consider a model with a backlight.
Stopwatches may include additional functions such as date and time. While the lack of this feature likely isn’t a dealbreaker, it can be useful when recording data.
Not only are stopwatches more accurate than the timer on your phone, they’re also far more durable and less expensive to replace than smartphones.
Many stopwatches feature a countdown mode, which allows you to set a timer that counts down to zero. Some stopwatches may begin counting up after reaching zero and sounding an alarm.
While some stopwatches only record the most recent lap time, many stopwatches can store lap memories in the hundreds.
Low-priced stopwatches for $8 to $15 are basic in functionality and design. Some may have features like split time and lap, but lap memories are rare in this price range
Most stopwatches fall in the $15 to $25 range. These stopwatches may be water resistant or waterproof, and they can often survive bumps and falls. Many stopwatches in this range have larger displays and may have features like countdown timers and lap memory.
High-end stopwatches for $25 or more typically have large displays that can show recent laps or split times and memories capable of storing hundreds of laps. These are a good choice for coaches who need to collect as much data as possible. High-end stopwatches are almost always water, shock, and dust resistant.
Familiarize yourself with the buttons on your stopwatch. Most have three: one that starts the stopwatch, one that records splits and laps, and one that changes modes.
Before using a stopwatch to record an event or training session, you should practice using the timer to ensure that you are pressing the start and stop buttons quickly enough to get an accurate reading.
A stopwatch can not only track your performance but also inspire you to keep you moving from one exercise to the next while at the gym.
For a stopwatch with a large, readable display and an impressive lap memory, the ACCUSPLIT Pro Memory features a three line display for two lap or split times in addition to the cumulative time. Customers praise this watch for its durability and fast response time. It isn’t waterproof, but its various modes, the lock button, and lightweight design make it a worthy option.
Another comparable stopwatch is the Ultrak 500 Lap Memory Timer, whose name boasts its best feature. The generous three line display is ideal for laps and split times, and the inclusion of date and time proves useful. The lanyard quality could be better, and the size of this stopwatch is on the larger end of the spectrum, but it is an otherwise capable model with excellent features.
Q. How long can a stopwatch record time for?
A. Most stopwatches have a limit between 8 and 24 hours. The manufacturer should list the maximum time.
Q. Is a digital watch or a watch with a chronograph more accurate than a stopwatch?
A. While high-end chronographs may be more accurate, most stopwatches are more accurate than digital watches or chronographs.
Q. What is block memory?
A. A stopwatch with a block memory function allows you to store split and lap times as separate blocks so you can easily review distinct events. Some of the more expensive stopwatches can store several blocks.
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