Garmin collection

My Garmin collection (left to right, front to back): Edge 500, Edge 510, FR910XT, Edge 800, Swim, and FR70

I am a very active person. In particular, I train about 10+ hours a week (mainly swimming, cycling, and running) as I am part of a local amateur (but serious) triathlon team: PacWest Athletics. So as such, I have owned various sports watches, and in particular Garmin GPS sports watches. Pretty much every Garmin sports model since 2007—except for the Approach S models which are superb golf-specific watches. Currently, I have three of their watch models plus three more Garmin Edge devices dedicated for cycling.

So why do I start with this inventory of my Garmin watches and devices for this post. Simply to say that, while not perfect, I think Garmin understands how to make watches suited for specific activities—I call them Activity-focused smartwatches. That’s what makes me and many others come back for more.

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Garmin’s philosophy, is that they create different watches purpose-built for specific activities. So, my Garmin Swim watch is specifically designed for swimmers, lap pool swimmers. It is not meant for open water swims and Garmin is clear about that. So in addition to the Garmin Swim I also have the Forerunner 910XT which is specifically designed for triathletes: swim, bike, and run. While a pure runner would be best served by Garmin’s latest Forerunner, the FR620.

While, at first glance, you’d think Garmin should strive to create one watch for all activities, I think their approach is better. Each device is instead designed for the idiosyncrasies of its intended activity(ies) and that allows Garmin to better manage the interface (keeping it simple), size and weight, and most importantly battery life for the watch.

With this preamble, the watch I want to discuss here with the readers is their latest, the Garmin D2 (direct-to). This is a purpose-built watch for pilots with all the necessary functions and features that an amateur and professional pilot would need. Sure it’s not a mechanical watch in the tradition of the Breitling Navitimer 01, but this is one quartz GPS-enabled pilot watch you might want own. Let’s see why that is.

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Garmin D2 buttons

Garmin D2 dedicated buttons for nearest airport or preselected airport code

Garmin calls the D2 a “portable avionics in a wrist-worn package” and while not a pilot myself, the list of avionics features is impressive. Some highlights include:

1. Direct-to and nearest airport buttons that use a worldwide airport database
2. Altimeter with adjustable barometer setting and compass
3. Displays multiple time zones with Zulu/UTC reference
4. Various timers and vibrating alerts for inflight task reminders
5. Wirelessly receives flight plan from Garmin Pilot and controls VIRB—Garmin’s active video camera

Similar to its sports watches, the D2 is designed specifically for pilots. The feature list is highlighted with the kinds of functions a pilot would need.


From Garmin’s website, this looks to also be a wearable watch coming in at 49mm diameter and 17mm high. The display size is 31mm with a resolution of 70×70 pixels. The display type is transflective monochrome with negative LCD mode. All this comes in at a manageable 82g with a lithium-ion rechargeable battery that will last up to 50 hours in GPS mode and 2 weeks in sensor only mode. If you wear it simply as a watch then you get five weeks wearable time. The watch is also water resistant to 50m and has a USB interface for charging and downloading and uploading data, e.g., firmware updates.

The watch comes preloaded with a worldwide base-map and ability to specify way-points or mark locations (up to 1000). While the base maps cannot be extended, you can, however, save various tracks and routes as well. While I have not had a chance to use the Garmin D2 myself, based on my extensive (almost daily) experience with their products, I would have little reservations getting one if piloting was one of my hobbies. I am pretty sure the product you will get will match the advertised feature list and with firmware updates, any problem with the watch will be resolved in time.


Garmin Fenix watch

The overall look of the D2 is similar to the Fenix and new Tactix watches which all use the same case design. But unlike these other watches which are meant for mostly ground-based activities, the D2 is meant for the air with features that could save your life if you were flying and needed to locate the nearest airport in a bind. If you are an amateur pilot or a veteran pilot with your own plane, this might be the watch to consider, in addition to the cool pilot mechanical timepieces, which make for great backup (no electronics) and look much better when at the hangar. Price is $

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