Super portable GPS

GPS and more on your wrist!

When the press release about Garmin’s new marine-oriented Quatix sport watch hit my inbox, I opened it with lukewarm enthusiasm — but the more I read about it the more excited I got.

Two basic advantages of a watch with built-in GPS are that you don’t have to set it manually when you cross into another time zone and it can be accurate to within about a billionth of a second or, say, within one second every 30,000 years.Quatix watch features include time, date, timer and chronograph as well as alarms that chime or vibrate. As I read on, I realized the Quatix is really a computerized personal navigator and a remote display and control for other electronics and it simply offers these time-keeping features as side benefits.

Like a good handheld GPS, the new Quatix contains data sets like tide tables, sun and moon stats and hunting and fishing calendar information that you can reference on its 70×70 pixel transflective monochrome screen. Its GPS component provides your course and speed over ground (handy for shutting up that buddy who says his bass boat will go 70 mph). You can also set it to alert when you reach a certain speed and even warn you when your anchor drags.

Quatix also has a GPS area calculation feature.

Garmin bills Quatix as the first navigating marine GPS watch, and you can, of course, navigate with it. You can actually load it with routes and waypoints from your home computer, mark waypoints and form routes with it on the water, and it can guide you to destinations and then get you back to your starting point again. It also does what Garmin calls “Sight and Go” navigation: You pick a point in the distance that you want to go to, set the watch and it will keep you on course until you reach it.

The Quatix also includes high-end handheld GPS features like an altimeter, barometer and compass. Okay, the altimeter may read sea level most of the time, but it was free thanks to the built-in barometric pressure sensor. A device that measures barometric pressure needs only the right software to give you altitude (which, accuracy-wise, is the measurement that GPS has the most trouble with). Monitoring barometric pressure also helps you spot weather changes in real time.

A three-axis electronic compass sensor provides your bearing even while standing still (something a GPS can’t do by itself).

If your boat is equipped with Garmin electronics and you add a Garmin GNT 10 NMEA transceiver ($199.99 MSRP) the Quatix watch can communicate with them. They can stream NMEA 2000 data to the watch, and you can view wind speed and direction, water depth, temperature and almost any other NMEA value right on your wrist. If someone accidentally falls overboard while wearing a Quatix watch the device automatically sends a man-overboard alert to your boat-mounted Garmin GPS. If you have a Garmin autopilot you can control it from the watch as you manage your downriggers and lines or fight fish. During a man-overboard incident a Garmin chart plotter can engage a Garmin autopilot to navigate back to the MOB position.

You can use Garmin’s HomePort marine planning software ($29.99 MSRP) on a Windows or MAC computer to plan or review your fishing trips. You can even create waypoints and routes and download them to your Quatix before an outing. Quatix can’t show maps or charts on its display, but it can wirelessly connect to an iPad or iPhone 4S or 5 that is running Garmin’s BlueChart Mobile app. If you run a Garmin GPS unit on your boat you can also add a Marine Wi-Fi adapter kit ($199.99 MSRP) and view the same BlueChart data showing on its screen right on your BlueChart Mobile-equipped iPad or iPhone.

Quatix also offers specialized competitive sailing features. It can set up a virtual starting line between two GPS waypoints and then combine it with the built-in timer to calculate both your distance to the line as well as desired speed and burn time available. This enables you to cross the line at maximum speed at the exact starting time. Once the race begins the watch switches to Tack Assist mode and indicates whether the boat getting headed or lifted based on the optimal tack angle provided.

So, how tough is this thing and how long do the batteries last? Its high-strength housing with mineral glass lens is lightweight and secures to your wrist with one of two polyurethane wristbands included in the box. The LCD screen is backlit for use in low light. Don’t worry about getting it wet; Quatix is waterproof to a depth of 50 meters. Power comes from a built-in rechargeable cell that runs the device for up to six weeks in watch mode and up to 16 hours in GPS mode between battery charges. Both a USB charging cable and an AC adapter with plug come with the watch. Suggested retail for Quatix is $499.99 and it is scheduled to be available during the first quarter of 2013. For more information visit