When Martin Resch talks about the mountain hike with a few work colleagues to the Benediktenwand in 2012, you can still see his enthusiasm today, almost eight years later. At that time, however, the Bavarian Resch was less enthusiastic about the beauty of the alpine landscape. Because he probably looked at his watch often. A special watch. Voluminous, with large buttons on the sides. His employer, the US outdoor equipment manufacturer Garmin, was the first to pack a GPS sensor into a wristwatch and also display the route on the screen. “That was fascinating,” recalls Resch, now Garmin product manager for all outdoor devices, “having a navigation device on your arm was a quantum leap.” Unfortunately, the troupe started too late: “On the way down, the only light we had was the backlight of the clock,” he says with a smile.
Even today, Resch doesn’t get bored that easily in his job. The outdoor area is the most agile, this is where the most movement takes place. And Garmin is one of the leading manufacturers in the market. Many of the participants in the legendary Ironman triathlon in Hawaii use a Garmin watch to check their pace and heart rate. But how do you develop such watches?
The Fenix watches are operated by a button, which is more practical for athletes
Resch says the company never wants to lose sight of the target group of athletes. Even if you can now use some models of sports watches to pay at the supermarket checkout or listen to music without a cell phone and display notifications from the smartphone – the main focus is always on the core target group.
And they want watches that collect as much data as possible that can help you get better at your sport. Robust watches with long-lasting batteries and that don’t give up the ghost when you jump into the water with them. “We never wanted to lose credibility with real athletes,” says Resch, “it’s just not okay for the clock to run out in a triathlon.” They primarily serve the outdoor and sports segment, “we don’t sacrifice that to offer more smart functions or to make the watches even smaller.”
This explains why Garmin still uses large buttons on the sides of its Fenix watch series and does not work with touchscreens like Apple does. Buttons can also be pressed with ski gloves or with wet fingers.
However, the first Fenix - the watch for mountaineers tested on the Benediktenwand – did not prove to be a bestseller. The target group was too small: “Not even mountaineers go up the mountain five times a week,” says Peter Weirether, product manager for watches at Garmin. The rest of the week they are normal athletes. So for the next version, the Fenix 2, Garmin packed a bunch of sports features into the watch. With each subsequent generation, more functions and more sensors were added. Nevertheless, the clocks kept getting smaller. The current version six measures, among other things, the oxygen content in the blood and provides information on how much the battery is charged – not that of the watch, mind you, but that of the wearer.