Garmin Fēnix 5 Plus Sapphire watch: what is it?

Straddling the line between techy multisport watch and high-end wrist-candy, the latest in Garmin’s Fēnix series is that rare beast: a proper adventure wearable that you won’t want to take off once you’re back in the ‘real’ world.

The 5 Plus Sapphire sits between the more compact 5S Plus and the beefier 5X Plus, not only in terms of size but also price and specs, though each of them shares the same core suite of functions (the 5X Plus also gets a built-in wrist-based pulse oximeter for measuring blood oxygen saturation at altitude) and a rugged fibre-reinforced polymer body with metal back and bezel, plus that super-tough sapphire glass.

The Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Sapphire is part adventure multisports watch, part premium wearable

The Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Sapphire is part adventure multisports watch, part premium wearable

As you’d expect from a wearable, it’s easy to connect the Fēnix 5 Plus Sapphire to your Android or Apple phone (we tested it with an iPhone 8), though the watch interface itself is intuitive and clear, and you can record and sift through masses of data – both real time and historical – and view some phone content, including messages and calendar notifications. There’s a healthy 16GB of music storage (that’s about 500 songs), too, and excellent battery life that means you can actually enjoy it on the go without fear of the watch dying mid-activity. With the addition of contactless Garmin Pay, you can leave home without your phone or wallet without fear of being cut off from the world – or, more importantly, stuck if something goes wrong.

Garmin claims up to 12 days in restrictive smartwatch mode (20 for the 5X Plus and 7 for the 5S Plus), and while we didn’t try that, we routinely got several days of normal usage between charges, with constant wear during the day, plus bike commutes to and from work with GPS and other regular activities. There’s no touchscreen, though, and the resolution’s a little lacking compared with the latest pure smartwatches.

Garmin Fēnix 5 Plus Sapphire watch: Why do I need it?

Because you’re a data-driven full-time adventurer – or just someone who likes doing a lot of different activities and wants to get a bit better at them, and doesn’t want a shiny lump of plastic on your wrist. Either way, the Fēnix 5 Plus Sapphire is a pretty amazing piece of kit that’s spilling over with clever functionality – some of which you’ll find yourself using everyday, some you’ll never even explore. Whether you’re a runner, cyclist, skier, swimmer, hiker, triathlete, SUPer, golfer or gym-bunny (or all the above), it’ll have you covered.

Among the most useful functions is the highly detailed, full-colour TopoActive mapping, with turn-by-turn navigation and plenty of points of interest. We travel a lot and often found ourselves looking to run or cycle in places we don’t know, so we loved the ability to create routes based on Trendline Popularity Routing (based on the most popular routes ridden, run or walked by other Garmin users) – enter your desired distance and compass direction and the device will calculate three possible routes for you to choose from. Connection to GPS, Glonass and Galileo means you’re less likely to lose satellite connection in previous trouble spots.

The Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Sapphire Ti uses TopoActive mapping with Garmin's own Trendline popularity routing

Seen here in the titanium-bezel version, the Fenix 5 Plus Sapphire uses TopoActive mapping with Trendline popularity routing

There’s also masses of performance analysis, with on-the-go training functions (and downloadable training programmes) that give you access to some pretty sophisticated metrics, including heart rate zones, VO2 max, stress index and training load, and even a ClimbPro ascent management feature that helps you measure your effort when the road or trail starts going up.

On the wrist, the Fēnix 5 Plus Sapphire is – unsurprisingly given how much they’ve packed into it – a pretty big watch, though that fibre-reinforced polymer body means weight’s kept to a minimum (86g, or 76g for the titanium version, vs 65g for the 5S Plus Sapphire and 96g for the 5X Plus Sapphire). You’ll know you’re wearing it, but crucially we weren’t conscious of its mass on our wrist when running or cycling. As you’d imagine, the dials and displays are pretty much infinitely customisable, so the watch can transition from a classic analogue-style dial to full-on adventure instrument instantly.

Garmin Fēnix 5 Plus Sapphire watch: should I buy it?

If you want a watch that's loaded with functionality, with the looks and rugged construction to stay on your wrist from desk to adventure, the Fēnix 5 Plus Sapphire – in 5S, 5 or 5X guise – is hard to beat. If, on the other hand, you want a serious multisport watch that you’ll only wear when you’re being active, there are more focused (and cheaper) products out there. But then the Fēnix 5 Plus Sapphire probably has as much in common with watches like this as it does with classic tool watches – and that makes it a hugely versatile and desirable watch, if you’ve got the cash to drop on it.

The new Fēnix 5 Plus Sapphire series is exclusively available at Cotswold Outdoor until the end of August. With over 40 years’ experience, leading outdoor brand, Cotswold Outdoor, is committed to ensuring its customers are offered the best brands and products along with exceptional service and advice from its in-store experts. £700 (5 Plus Sapphire in black);