Garmin Forerunner 201 | Image source: Garmin

A look back just how much Garmin watches have progressed in 20 years

As we anticipate the soonish release of the Foreruner 955, I thought it might be interesting to look back at just how much the Garmin Forerunner range has progressed over the past two decades.


The first Garmin Forerunner was released nearly two decades ago

Very few people were interested in wearable tech back on March 2nd of 2003 when the first Forerunner came out. This was some two years after Garmin trademarked the name. The 101 marked the beginning of a line of smartwatches for runners and triathletes.

Garmin Forerunner 101
Garmin Forerunner 101 | Image source: Garmin

No, the pic above has not been Photoshopped. That is what the Forerunner 101 looks like! Can you imagine wearing that? Some might compare it to strapping a small brick to your wrist. Somethin akin to the wrist TV-radios from the old Dick Tracy comics…

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The thing measures a whopping 8.28 x 4.35 x 2.3 centimetres. The only good side of that is that it is capable of housing a large display (3.65 x 2.34 cm, 100 x 64 pixels). And to its benefit, at 72 grams it wasn’t that heavy.

Mind you, no rechargeable tech in the 101. Instead you were required to fit two alkaline AAA batteries into its body. And this was only good for 14-15 hours of life! So you were best off purchasing rechargeable batteries as the alternative was paying on arm and a leg for new batteries each time.

Other specs included built-in GPS, maps (routes, history, waypoints/favorites/locations), along with a handful of training, planning, analysis and cycling features. Some reviews described the Forerunner 101 as a device for “runners who feel there’s no such thing as too much information”. The words “informational overkill” were thrown around.

Which sounds laughable when you compare it to the wealth of stats you get today from the cheapest watches and fitness bands! But back then you were happy if something on your wrist could time you and measure the distance you travelled accurately.

Interestingly, you can still find the Forerunner 101 on Garmin’s website. The price listed is $114 which is what it sold for originally. But, of course, you can’t buy it. Unless you find someone on eBay who is still holding on to it. Highly doubtfull, though, it would still be in working order.


A wealth of devices followed

Listed in chronological order by release date, the 101 was quickly followed by the 201 and 301. Garmin didn’t manage to reduce the form factor much. Here’s what the 301 looks like.

Garmin Forerunner 301
Garmin Forerunner 301 | Image source: Wikipedia

Then came the 205, 305, 50, 405, 60, 405CX, 310XT, 110, 210, 410, 610, 910XT, 70, 10, 220, 620, 15, 920XT, 225, 25, 230, 235, 630, 735XT, 35, 935, 30, 645, 645 Music, 45, 45S, 245, 245 Music, 945, 745 and most recently the 55.

You could probably say that the first decent looking watch in the range was the Forerunner 405 in 2008. With this device, Garmin debuted the circular form factor. Which is still around to this day. Mind you, there have been a few exceptions along the way, such as the Forerunner 25, 30, 35 and 920XT. But it seems Garmin sees the round design as the way forward.

Garmin Forerunner 405
Garmin Forerunner 405 | Image source: Garmin

All of this makes you wonder just how much fitness and health tracking tech will progress in the next 10-20 years. Particularly taking into consideration Moore’s Law – the fact that tech is seeing exponential rather than linear progress. Will we be popping Forerunner pills or stopping at a Garmin store to get the latest Forerunner digital tracking tattoo? It is not only entirely possible – it is very likely!

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5 thoughts on “A look back just how much Garmin watches have progressed in 20 years

  • Shame no picture of the 305 which was more watch-like albeit it sort of wrapped around your wrist. Unless you had a very small wrist, you didn’t really notice it when you were running. I still miss the stop start button on the front which is much easier than trying to remember which of the 5 side buttons on my Fenix to press when you’re tired at the end of a race!

    Reply
  • I had that first forerunnner. Have it somewhere still. It was an amazing device for its day

    Reply
  • Awesome evolution of pace measuring devices

    Reply

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