The Athlete Approved Guide to Stopwatches for Swimming

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Our favorite thing about swimming: it is objectively measured by time. This means one swimmer can definitively say they are faster than another swimmer – you cannot argue time.

Or even better, a swimmer can track personal improvement based on the times of past personal records.

Similarly to how a swimsuit and goggles are a vital tool for any competitive swimmer, a stopwatch is a must have for swim coaches. There are several types of stopwatches you can find on the pool deck. Use this guide to help you find the one right for your coaching needs.

Our Athlete Approved Guide to Stopwatches for Swimming includes:

The Best Overall Stopwatch for Swimming: Finis Stopwatch

The Finis Stopwatch is our top overall pick for swim coaches. The functionality, ease of use, and durability makes this stopwatch second to none.

The first thing you will notice with this watch is that is comes in two models:

  • Black 3x100M: Stores 100 splits (or laps) with 3 row LCD display
  • Yellow 3x300M: Stores 300 splits (or laps) with a 3 row LCD display

The four modes on the Finis Stopwatch are what makes this training tool so cool:

  • Time/Calendar Mode: View the current time and date.
  • Stopwatch 1 Mode: View your splits in the top two rows and the master time on the bottom row.
  • Stopwatch 2 Mode: View your splits in the top two rows and the current lap time time on the bottom row.
  • Stroke Rate Mode: Measure the number of stokes per minute.

As swim coaches, we find ourselves using the Stopwatch 1 Mode most often!

Finis Stopwatch Tech Sheet

It is also water resistant. Therefore, it can withstand rainy weather or “that swimmer” who excessively splashes.

It is listed as “waterproof” on Amazon… Please do not drop it in the pool and expect it to work.

This stopwatch does not have a backlight, so you will will not be able to see it in the dark (sorry coaches who train outdoors at 5 am with limited deck lighting).

This stopwatch can time up to 10 hours in 1/100 second. The battery life is approximately 5 years! The battery can be replaced in a few easy steps.

Athlete Approved Note: The Finis Stopwatch is very similar to the Ultrak Stopwatch.

The Best Large Display Stopwatch for Swimming: Accusplit Pro Survivor A601X Stopwatch

The Accusplit Pro Survivor A601X Stopwatch is a solid pick if you are looking for a stopwatch that is easy to read with a large display.

This stopwatch is a swim coach favorite. It is listed to have a “magnum XL” LCD display to be exact. It is also simple to use.

It can store up to 100 splits. The battery will last about 1.5 years. It comes in unique colors including black, blue, pink, yellow, and green.

It may not have all the bells and whistles, but this stopwatch gets the job done!

The Best Stopwatch with a Backlight for Swimming: Adanac Professional Stopwatch Timer

Do you coach outdoors before the sun rises or after sunset? Or have a poorly lit pool deck?

If so, then the Adanac Professional Stopwatch Timer is for you. This stopwatch is backlit and with a large LCD display which makes time keeping easier in low light conditions.

It has a split mode that can time laps while the master time continues to run. It also has calendar mode that shows the date and time, as well as an alarm clock.

If that is not enough, it comes with a 40 inch break away safety lanyard… In case you come across any unruly sprinters who don’t want to do anything over a 100 meter swim.

The Best Budget Stopwatch for Swimming: KingL Digital Stopwatch Timer

The KingL Digital Stopwatch Timer is great for swim teams looking for an inexpensive pick. It is also a perfect thrifty option that you can buy in bulk.

This lightweight stopwatch comes in a compact design. It is attached to a lanyard for easy access.

It has a simple interface that makes it easy to use for anyone: even that swim parent who begrudgingly volunteers to be a lane timer.

While it is a lower price point, the tradeoff is that it is not the most durable stopwatch. It can easily break if you are not careful with it.

So if you are the type of coach looking to throw your stopwatch after your swimmer breathes into the wall, you may want to find a different option.

If you are looking to save money and need a workable option, then this is for you. If you buy in bulk, you can get 10 of these for under $40!

How to Use a Stopwatch

Stopwatches can be a little tricky to figure out at first. However after some practice, they are easy to use.

In general, there are three buttons on stopwatches:

  • Top Right Button: Start/Stop the master time.
  • Top Left Button: Take a split (when master time is running) or reset (when the master time is stopped).
  • Top Middle Button: Recall split times (most of the time this can be used while masters time is running or stopped). Or this button may change the mode (some models have a fourth button to change modes like the Finis Stopwatch pictured below).
How to Use a Stopwatch
Most stopwatches function with the 3 buttons at the top.

How Swim Coaches Utilize Stopwatches

Now that you have the functions of a stopwatch mastered, use a stopwatch to enhance your coaching.

You may be thinking: “Most pools have a large pace clock for all swimmers and coaches to see, so why do I need a stopwatch?

Swim coaches should use both their personal stopwatch and a pace clock to run the best workouts. A stopwatch will help in a variety of ways:

  • Keep track of splits: Keeping your swimmers’ splits can give you a lot of important information. Split times can help you determine if your swimmers are pacing their swims too fast, too slow, or just right.
  • Help count laps: If your swimmers are doing a longer swim, use the master time on the stopwatch in case you lose count of their laps (it happens to the best of us).
  • Read precise times to the second, tenth or hundredth: In training, most swimmers need their time in total seconds only. College and elite swimmers need the tenth. Official swim meet racing needs the hundredth – although most official swim meets only use stopwatches as backup to electric touchpad systems.

Why Not Use My Cell Phone’s Stopwatch?

You may be thinking: “Why buy a stopwatch when I have one in my cell phone?”

First off, using your cell phone at any capacity when coaching is a bad optic!

Even though you may be using your cell phone’s stopwatch for the benefit of the swimmers, the last thing you want is swimmers (or parents) thinking you are not giving all of your attention to the pool.

If you expect 100% out of your swimmers, you want to reciprocate 110% back to them.

Secondly, your cell phone stopwatch will not be as accurate and you will need to take your eyes off the pool to operate it. It is difficult to watch both your swimmers at the same time you need to press the correct buttons on your cell phone (especially if you have a touch screen).

A stopwatch fits perfectly in your hand. This allows you to start/stop/split while you watch your swimmers.

Disadvantages of Using Your Cell Phone Stopwatch When Coaching
First Rule of Coaching: Don’t use your cell phone during workouts.

Should you forget your stopwatch for the day, just read off the pace clock.

You won’t have all the benefits of a stopwatch, but at least your swimmers won’t think you are checking instagram while they are working their tails off. #SwimCoach101

How to Replace the Battery on a Stopwatch

Stopwatches use a very little amount of energy. They do not have on/off switches.

They generally last between three to five years. Instead of purchasing a new one, we suggest replacing the battery.

While every stopwatch is different, most stopwatches use a lithium coin battery CR2032. You can pick one up for a fraction of the cost of a new stopwatch.

First carefully remove any screws holding your stopwatch together using a mini-screwdriver. Then pull it apart while being very cautious not to lose any pieces or touch the circuit board.

Once you open it up, you can easily switch out the battery. Then you are good to go for the next three to five years!

Stopwatch Games for Swim Coaches

If you are looking to kill some time at your next swim meet or between workouts, try these stopwatch games for swim coaches:

  • The Precision Game: Stop time exactly on the one second mark. For more of a challenge, try for one minute. For experts, try ten minutes! For coaches with a lot of time (and patience), try to complete with splits of 1 second, 10 seconds, 1 minute.
  • The Quick Clock Challenge: See how quickly you can start and stop the watch. Be careful not to break the buttons.
  • The Biological Clock Test: Start the time, close your eyes, then stop it as close as possible to a predetermined time.
Stopwatch Games for Coaches and Swimmers
Stopped at exactly one second. Don’t ask how many tries that took us.

Who knew stopwatches could be so fun?!

Conclusion on The Athlete Approved Guide to Stopwatches for Swimming

Overall, there are a number of stopwatches on the market for swim coaches.

Our list shares our top pick, as well as options for stopwatches that are simple to use, have a backlight, and are inexpensive.

Use our Athlete Approved stopwatch guide to help you determine which is best for you!

*Get the most out of your next swim with our Athlete Approved Guide to Lap Swimming Equipment! Equip yourself for success with our ultimate swim gear guide.*

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