The Garmin Instinct Crossover, released in November after months of tantalizing leaks and rumors, is a fun and unusual sports watch. Like other watches in the Instinct series it's built like a tank (something I love about the range), but unlike the rest, it has not only a digital face, but analog hands as well. It's a look reminiscent of certain Casio G-Shock watches, and it's certainly attracted interest in my running club while I've been testing it.
I'll share a full review once I've finished putting the Instinct Crossover through its paces, but for now here are my first thoughts on this handy new watch. Not sure if this is the one for you? See our guide to the best Garmin watches for reviews and ratings of all the latest models.
The Instinct Crossover shares a whole lot of DNA with its siblings, with the same round reinforced resin case, monochrome memory-in-pixel display (with blue backlight and no touch controls), five physical buttons, and no-nonsense buckled silicone strap. On the back you'll find the same optical sensor for measuring heart rate and SpO2. So far, so familiar.
However, the presence of analog hands means Garmin's designers had to get creative with that digital screen. One of the original Instinct's best features (in my opinion) is its little cutout display, which features an icon that changes to show what the top right button will do in any context. It also shows a little snippet of extra data on the watch's face at all times, such as steps, the date, battery life, or active zone minutes.
There's no room for that with the Instinct Crossover, but Garmin has made clever use of the hands to break up data on the screen, effectively using them as part of the digital interface. When you press a button, the hands glide to the nine and six positions to form a horizontal line across the watch face. When you scroll through menus, the currently selected item is above this line in a slightly larger font, with the next two items listed below. It's very neatly executed.
The hands themselves are nice and large, and like the hour markers, have a phosphorescent coating for reading in the dark. This is a welcome touch because to me, it seems that the Instinct Crossover's MIP display isn't quite as clear as that of the Instinct and Instinct 2. Perhaps it's just due to the shadow of the hands, but I found myself reaching for the backlight button more often when I wanted to check my daily stats.
It's also interesting to note that the bezel of the Instinct Crossover doesn't stand so high above the glass. This is doubtless to accommodate the hands, but may mean that the glass is more susceptible to scuffs if you're scrambling or climbing and snag your watch on a rock.
When it comes to fitness tracking features, the Instinct Crossover is extremely similar to the Instinct 2, with features particularly well suited to runners. The virtual partner is always a welcome tool to help keep you honest when training solo, and daily suggested workouts help you mix things up. The watch can also furnish you with stats like running power and stride length when paired with a Running Dynamics Pod or HRV heart rate monitor.
At night, it tracks heart rate variability (HRV), which it plots against a baseline measurement after it's recorded a couple of weeks' worth of data. This is a very interesting tool, and can provide a handy insight into your overall wellness and recovery. It can even give you an early inking if you're about to become ill.
So far battery life appears to be excellent, as we've come to expect from the Instinct line, and Garmin's own stats suggest it should last ever so slightly longer on a single charge than the Instinct 2. I'm testing the Solar edition, though I'm not sure whether that will have much impact on things during December in England.
I've yet to put the Instinct Crossover to the test on my usual pre-measured route to assess its GPS accuracy, but it was interesting wearing it with the Coros Pace 2 on my other wrist and noting hour their mile notifications gradually drifted further apart. The Garmin ultimately measured my Sunday run at 6.66 miles, while the Coros worked it out at 6.42.
I'll keep testing the watch both indoors and out, and will bring you a full breakdown of the results very soon.
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Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 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), usually wearing at least two sports watches.