By Tom Demerly.
The Timex Ironman watch is a fixture in our sport. An original sport watch that may have saved Timex from bankruptcy, it has become the best selling sport watch in history. The watch has transcended our sport and become an icon in politics and media. The current Ironman branding of everything from baby joggers to mattresses emanated from the success of the Timex Ironman watch series.
Timex has also been a stalwart in watch making as the company that arguably invented the wristwatch. It is hard to say who benefitted more in the Timex/Ironman relationship; Timex from the popularity of the watch, or Ironman from the “household” association with Timex that lead to licensing of the Ironman brand name in other product categories.
The latest chapter in the Timex Ironman wrist watch legacy is the Timex Ironman Sleek 150 Lap with TAP screen technology. The watch is sold in seven versions divided between the two gender designs; four women’s colors, three men’s colors including the bright day-glow orange version I tested.
Most triathletes have owned a Timex Ironman watch so the “logic loop” of how the functions work has become relatively easy to navigate. Other sports watch manufacturers have similar logic and function loops. That logic loop remains largely intact on the Timex TAP Sleek 150 from previous models with a couple of minor changes, one I found to be oddly annoying…
The new version of the Timex TAP Sleek 150 mimics that basic control arrangement with one exception. Since the entire screen of the watch becomes a “button” when the TAP function is turned on there is no “START/SPLIT” button on the center face of the watch. In addition to the TAP screen capability the manual button that used to be on the front of Timex Ironman watches has moved to the right hand side, facing right on right handed, left wrist wearers. This is a clever arrangement as it does not place total reliance on the TAP screen.
“Our Timex TAP screen worked perfectly in the water and on dry land without any problems.”
Some early users reported problems with the TAP screen. The common complaint was that the screen actuated when either wet or even lightly touched. Early users reported erratic and random recording of laps while swimming. Some user reviews suggested the water touching the face of the watch may have recorded a lap. Others mentioned swimmers hitting the watch in an open water swim may have registered a lap. We tested the Timex Ironman TAP Sleek 150 in the water and found no accidental actuation of lap data. We did not get a single accidental lap recording while in the water swimming, when jumping into the water or when taking the watch to the bottom of our Endless Pool. In each of our trials the TAP function worked as described- when it was hit intentionally by the user while swimming, a lap was recorded. If the face was not hit with adequate force, there were no accidental laps recorded. Our Timex TAP screen worked perfectly in the water and on dry land without any problems. I wonder if the initial group that had problems did not read the instructions on page 16 of the watch user manual that specify, “We recommend you select your TAP FORCE depending on the activity you are performing: … Swimming (HARD).” We used the HARD actuation setting and had no problems. In a race you would simply hit the screen when you cross the timing mats. I even pulled a wetsuit sleeve off over the running watch repeatedly and did not accidentally record a lap.
Another unique function of the Timex Ironman TAP Sleek 150 is the pace alarm that you program before a race or workout. Input the mile split or other interval duration you are monitoring and when you hit the screen of the watch during a race or workout the watch will tell you if you are on pace, faster than pace or below pace with an audible alarm. A series of fast beeps mean “slow down”, one tone indicates you are “on pace” and a sort of two-tone slow, rhythmic beep means you are “too slow”. This function is novel and valid- a poor man’s GPS. You do have to know where your mile marks are on your workout courses but in a race they are usually marked. In any case, I’d rather wear a nice, small sportwatch like the Timex Ironman TAP Sleek 150 in a race than a full sized GPS watch that has to acquire satellites out of the water
The new bells and whistles don’t stop there: The Timex Ironman TAP Sleek 150 is ideal for ultra-distance Ironman athletes because of the unique new nutrition alarm setting. This separate alarm setting sounds a long tone for eating food and a shorter tone for drinking. You set the alarm interval for your optimal time interval between drinking and eating- separate alarms for each. If you want to be sure to drink half a water bottle every 30 minutes the alarm will remind you. This is another feature that makes this ideal for race day.
My one slightly annoyed concern with the watch is that you can’t seem to erase workouts from the 150 lap memory. I scoured the owner’s manuals and the online resources and phoned two technical support/customer service lines at Timex (11 minutes on hold- never got through…). I also sent an e-mail to their marketing agency with the question about whether past workouts could be manually deleted. No answer yet- signs point to “no”. I tried the previous routine of holding the button to erase and it produced no result.
The Indiglo back light illumination feature on this watch is manually operated unless you set it for one of the timing functions to light at night with a TAP or button push. Some previous Timex models had an interesting feature called “FLIX” that turned on the Indiglo backlight with a vigorous twist of the wrist. That’s gone on this watch and I miss it. Military users will appreciate it.
Timex has produced a nice video that quickly explains these features and their operation here:
From a watch lover’s perspective this watch is very nice with some interesting design cues. The band wraps the entire case- it does not use conventional mounting pins. This subverts the ability to replace the band but this band is so robust I wager it will never be a necessity. The clasp is also superb with all edges nicely rounded for guaranteed no-pinch donning and closing. My wrist is roughly medium in circumference for a full sized man and I am in the middle of the adjustment range. A nicely molded “keeper” with an indexed “tooth” and miniature “M-dot” holds the extra band that wraps outside the clasp.
The watch body is large and the back of the watch is flat. This watch is designed for average to larger men with a smaller version designed for smaller men and females. The watch itself is 50 millimeters wide and 50 millimeters tall or about the same size as a 48 mm diameter diving watch. The brushed stainless steel back of the watch has a nice stamping with the Ironman logo and a wave motif along with the CR2016 battery specification and four jewelers’ screws to access the watertight compartment for battery changes. This is a delightfully trim fitting watch, very low on the wrist so a wetsuit does pull off over it easy (we tried several times during the TAP screen testing and had no issues). The watch is “water resistant” to 100 meters which is 300 feet but Timex does mention you should not use the buttons when submerged.
The display on the watch is very large with the center display measuring over a centimeter tall. If you use reading glasses up to 2.0 power (I do) you will have no problem reading this display at speed without glasses. The entire face of the watch is a molded, curved crystal clear polymer. I have worn the watch non-stop for two weeks including work, training, sleeping, showering and all activities and have not scratched the crystal.
Packaging on the watch (important if you are thinking about giving it as a gift) is nice with a carbon fiber print box with bright orange Ironman graphics that match the uniforms of the sponsored team. There are two owner’s manuals, a quick start guide- which is almost all the info you will need, and a complete owner’s manual. Additional owner’s manual copies in .pdf file formats and technical resources are on Timex’s website.
I love watches and was a Timex Ironman early adopter going back to the early 1980’s when the watch was introduced and you got a free one in your goody bag for doing Kona. For me the bar was set high and the new Timex Ironman TAP Sleek 150 clears that bar as a rightful addition to the lineage of Timex Ironman watches. It does take a licking and keep on ticking….