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Garmin has just released its smallest ever GPS multi-sports watch – and that's a big deal

Woman running wearing Garmin Forerunner 255S watch
The Garmin Forerunner 255S is gender neutral, but its dimensions are similar to those of a typical 'women's' watch (Image credit: Garmin)

On June 1, Garmin released the Forerunner 255 and its smaller counterpart, the 255S. The larger version has slightly longer battery life courtesy of its bigger battery, but both are fully featured GPS multis-sports watches, with music playback as an optional extra. Garmin has released most of its recent watches in a choice of sizes, but at just 41mm in diameter, the 255S is the company's smallest full triathlon GPS watch to date – and that's important, particularly for women and those who prefer to present in a feminine way.

Of course, anyone can wear any watch, but tradition is tough to shake and watches are conventionally gendered, with women's designs being much smaller than men's. According to watch retailer Watches of Switzerland (opens in new tab), a typical men's analog watch has a case measuring between 38mm and 46mm in diameter, while standard a women's watch is between 26mm and 36mm.

Things have to be scaled up when rechargeable batteries, GPS, and other electronics are involved. A GPS watch needs a battery of a certain capacity (and therefore size) in order to offer reasonable longevity. There's also the matter of the GPS aerials that transmit and receive signals, and must be a certain distance apart to avoid interference; The smaller the watch case, the harder it is to keep them separated.

That presents a problem. Although a typical 47mm GPS watch is gender-neutral, its sheer size means it's likely to read as 'male' by default. That means many people looking for a 'feminine' watch for activities like running and hiking will pass it by.

According to Keywordtoo.io (opens in new tab), 27,100 people each month search Google for 'Garmin watches for women', showing that even though watchmakers might not target their products at one specific gender, many customers are still making a differentiation and see the typical sports watch as masculine.

The best of both worlds

In January 2021, Garmin responded to the demand for a specifically 'feminine' watch with the Garmin Lily (opens in new tab). It's a neat, compact device measuring just 34.5mm in diameter, and I was generally impressed when I reviewed it for Adventure's sister site TechRadar (opens in new tab), but it had one major drawback: with no on-board GPS, it couldn't be called a true sports watch.

Thankfully, the Garmin Forerunner 255S seems to be signalling a change. Although it's not quite as petite as the Lily or the lifestyle-focused Vivoactive 4S, but at 41mm in diameter it's very close to the size of a traditional women's watch, but with all the serious sports and health tracking tools of its larger counterpart.

It's not clear how Garmin has achieved this, but it certainly looks like a big step, meaning wearers no longer have to choose between size and function. Hopefully soon the sheer size of GPS multi-sports watches will no longer be an issue, and nobody will have cause to think 'that's not for me'.

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 13 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better).