Is this "ugly Fenix 6's baby" the long-awaited Garmin Instinct 3?

Man checking GPS watch during hike
(Image credit: Getty)

Images that may show a pre-production version of the long-awaited Garmin Instinct 3 sports watch have appeared online. The photos are intriguing, suggesting a big departure from the Instinct 2's design, but it's worth taking them with a pinch of salt because their origin is impossible to verify; the pictures are now circulating widely, but were first posted on Reddit by a user who claimed to have found them "in some Telegram channel".

The images, which you can see embedded below, show a watch that keeps the solid build and monochrome memory-in-pixel display of previous Instinct watches, but has a busier look with a chunkier appearance and visible screws on the lugs. It's an unusual look, which led the original poster to call it an "ugly Fenix 6's baby".

The presence of screws suggests that the outer section of the bezel and top of the lugs may now be metal rather than resin. This would add weight, but could mean that the new watch has an ECG sensor.

The prototype watch seems to have the same two-part display, with a small secondary screen at the top right to display stats or contextual information in menus, but there are now orange details printed on the bezel, which appears to be quite large for the size of the actual screen. However, as one commenter on the5krunner has noted, it's worth bearing in mind that the image of the screen could be a sticker rather than the display itself.

garminwatches from r/GarminWatches

A sticker on the back of the watch (which covers the heart rate sensor) suggests that this may be a unit provided for testing purposes so it can be approved for sale by bodies like the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the US. This testing ensures devices that transmit radio signals are safe to use, and don't cause interference on channels reserved for purposes like aircraft and emergency service communications.

The possible leak comes just a few days after listings for the hotly anticipated Garmin Fenix 8 appeared on a Finnish retailer's web store, together with details of something called the 'Garmin Fenix E' – possibly a version of the watch with extra-long battery life with 'E' standing for 'Enduro'.

So is it real? It's difficult to say. The images are extremely compressed, and a pre-production watch may be quite different to the final product, but it's certainly possible. The name 'Instinct 3' on the back of isn't quite centered, but neither is the charging port, which suggests the case back hasn't been fastened on straight, which is plausible for a prototype or testing unit. The lugs appear longer on the back of the watch than the front, but as some commenters have noted, that could be an optical illusion caused by perspective 

One leak usually follows another, so we'll be keeping a close eye out for any further hints about the Instinct 3 and Fenix 8, and will update you as soon as we know more.

Cat Ellis

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.