While the Garmin Enduro 2 is clearly my favorite GPS sports watch, I’ve come to enjoy the rugged design and second small window on the Instinct series. The Garmin Instinct Crossover takes away that cool window and adds in always present analog hands with cool hand movement to optimize your view of the display. Also: Why my Garmin Enduro 2’s LED flashlight is my favorite feature The Instinct Crossover provides long battery life and rugged features with a classy iconic design. If you like wearing a watch primarily to always provide you with glanceable time and want a watch that tracks all of your health and activity data, then the Instinct Crossover may be just what you are looking for. It also helps that Garmin incorporated a new GPS chipset with much more accurate performance than the Instinct 2 series.


When you first look at the Garmin Instinct Crossover, you might think you are looking at a standard Casio or G-Shock watch with large analog hands and hour markers that glow in the dark, called Super-LumiNova, for a period of about an hour. You can also press the top left button to activate the typical Garmin Instinct backlight. Telling the time is my primary use of a watch so the Instinct Crossover meets my primary watch need. The display on the Instinct Crossover is only 0.9 inches in diameter with a sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel 176 x 176 pixels resolution panel. The small display provides the essentials and the glances actually look good even on such a small monochrome display. Garmin also has a solar version of this watch that offers more battery life than the standard model. The display is not a touchscreen as that would not make much sense with the analog hands and rugged design. The typical five physical Garmin buttons and navigation are present so if you have used a Garmin watch before then you will be able to pick it up and get going right away. Also: The 5 best Garmin watch models: Which is right for you? The Garmin Instinct Crossover looks a bit more refined than the Instinct with stainless steel highlights integrated into the polymer fiber bezel and watch body. The back has the heart rate sensor and standard Garmin charging port off to one side. Garmin’s Instinct watches ship with the softest and most malleable watch bands I have ever used so wearing the watch is extremely comfortable.

Garmin ecosystem

Whether it was due to external market pressures or proactive leadership at Garmin, the company made major strides in actively supporting its products over the past couple of years. We recently saw the release of the November Garmin watch updates that brought a host of new features to existing watch models. The Garmin Instinct Crossover launches with a ton of improvements over the Instinct 2 series, including recovery time, HRV status, and more. Running power is supported with a compatible Garmin accessory. The nice thing about a watch like the Garmin Instinct Crossover is that it functions primarily as a watch and then captures your health and activity data passively as you work out and live. Open up the Garmin Connect smartphone application and then you will find all of your data in full color with extensive capability to create reports and analyze your data. This includes blood pressure data from the new Garmin Index BPM device. Also: Garmin’s new Index BPM is the blood pressure monitor that I’ve been waiting for


I typically wear a Garmin Instinct device when fly fishing, hiking, or enjoying outdoor activities where I might need a watch to survive a fall or other incident, but for the past few weeks I’ve been wearing it for all of my workouts. These include hiking, trail running, running, walking, and indoor rowing. I also wore another watch and carried one so that I could compare the performance of the Instinct Crossover. It turns out that switching to a different GPS receiver results in improved GPS performance and now the Instinct Crossover can be a trusted GPS sports watch. For many more details on the performance of the watch, check out Ray Maker’s in-depth review. Garmin brought several more sport modes to the Instinct 2 earlier this year and the Instinct Crossover currently supports nearly 60 modes and utilities. I cannot wait to further explore the functionality of the fish, golf, and pickleball sports modes in the near future.

Bottom line

It takes a few days to fully appreciate the Garmin Instinct Crossover and for me it took viewing the watch in low light conditions where the hands and hour marks were always crystal clear, watching the hands dynamically switch whenever the content needed to be viewed, and the complete lack of thought about battery life. I continue to fall back on watches that last for weeks and will never fully embrace a watch that only lasts for one to three days again. I didn’t think any other rugged watch could trump the usefulness of the small round display on the Garmin Instinct and Instinct 2 device, but the slightly more elegant design (stainless steel highlights) and always present watch hands beat out the small second screen for my needs. I also like that apps like the Starbucks card found in the Connect IQ store work well on this watch. My only hesitation with the Garmin Instinct Crossover is the starting price of $499.99. The solar model adds $50 and the tactical edition adds $100 to that starting price. I do have my eye on the tidal blue solar model and if Garmin had included the awesome flashlight then this likely would be an immediate purchase for me. A flashlight would be a perfect addition to the Instinct lineup given that this series is designed for rugged outdoor conditions where a flashlight is a key tool to have in hand.

Alternatives to consider

The Garmin Instinct Crossover grew on me over time and may be a nice rugged GPS sports watch for the right customer. Take a look at these other similarly priced options if the Instinct Crossover’s and analog hands are not your cup of tea.