Garmin Forerunner 201 | Image source: Garmin

Garmin brings back watch-face to mark 20 years of Forerunners

Yes, it has been 20 years since the first Garmin Forerunner was launched. To celebrate the occasion, Garmin is bringing back a watch-face akin to the one that featured on the original device.

Two decades of innovation

Very few people were interested in wearable tech back on March 2nd of 2003 when the first Forerunner came out. This was some two years after Garmin trademarked the name. The 101 marked the beginning of a line of smartwatches for runners and triathletes.

Garmin Forerunner 101
Garmin Forerunner 101 | Image source: Garmin

No, the pic above has not been Photoshopped. That is what the Forerunner 101 looks like! Can you imagine wearing that? Some might compare it to strapping a small brick to your wrist. Something resembling the wrist TV-radios from the old Dick Tracy comics…

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The thing measures a whopping 8.28 x 4.35 x 2.3 centimetres. The only good side of that is that it is capable of housing a large display (3.65 x 2.34 cm, 100 x 64 pixels). And to its benefit, at 72 grams it wasn’t that heavy.

Mind you, no rechargeable tech in the 101. Instead you were required to fit two alkaline AAA batteries into its body. And this was only good for 14-15 hours of life! So you were best off purchasing rechargeable batteries as the alternative was paying on arm and a leg for new batteries.

Other specs included built-in GPS, maps (routes, history, waypoints/favorites/locations), along with a handful of training, planning, analysis and cycling features. Some reviews described the Forerunner 101 as a device for “runners who feel there’s no such thing as too much information”. The words “informational overkill” were thrown around.

Which sounds laughable when you compare it to the wealth of stats you get today from the cheapest watches and fitness bands! But back then you were happy if something on your wrist could time you and measure the distance you travelled accurately.

Interestingly, you can still find the Forerunner 101 on Garmin’s website. The price listed is $114 which is what it sold for originally. But, of course, you can’t buy it. Unless you find someone on eBay who is still holding on to it. Highly doubtfull, though, it would still be in working order. And that you would be able to purchase it for $114.

A wealth of devices followed

Listed in chronological order by release date, the 101 was quickly followed by the 201 and 301. Garmin didn’t manage to reduce the form factor much. Here’s what the 301 looks like.

Garmin Forerunner 301
Garmin Forerunner 301 | Image source: Wikipedia

Then came the 205, 305, 50, 405, 60, 405CX, 310XT, 110, 210, 410, 610, 910XT, 70, 10, 220, 620, 15, 920XT, 225, 25, 230, 235, 630, 735XT, 35, 935, 30, 645, 645 Music, 45, 45S, 245, 245 Music, 945, 745 and most recently the 55.

You could probably say that the first decent looking watch in the range was the Forerunner 405 in 2008. With this device, Garmin debuted the circular form factor. Which is still around to this day. Mind you, there have been a few exceptions along the way, such as the Forerunner 25, 30, 35 and 920XT. But it seems Garmin sees the round design as the way forward.

Garmin Forerunner 405
Garmin Forerunner 405 | Image source: Garmin

Here is Garmin’s recent Tweet with a short video illustrating the devices over the years.

Forerunner Throwback watchface

To mark the 20 year anniversary Garmin has released the Forerunner Throwback watch-face. It is inspired by the original watch’s interface. When you move, the little pacer on your watch moves right along. You can also customise some of the data that shows. The watch-face can be found on this link.

All of this makes you wonder just how much fitness and health tracking tech will progress in the next 10-20 years. Particularly taking into consideration Moore’s Law – the fact that tech is seeing exponential rather than linear progress.

Will we be popping Forerunner pills or stopping at a Garmin store to get the latest Forerunner digital tracking tattoo? It is not only entirely possible – it is very likely!

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Marko Maslakovic

Marko founded Gadgets & Wearables in 2014, having worked for more than 15 years in the City of London’s financial district. Since then, he has led the company’s charge to become a leading information source on health and fitness gadgets and wearables.

7 thoughts on “Garmin brings back watch-face to mark 20 years of Forerunners

  • Shame no picture of the 305 which was more watch-like albeit it sort of wrapped around your wrist. Unless you had a very small wrist, you didn’t really notice it when you were running. I still miss the stop start button on the front which is much easier than trying to remember which of the 5 side buttons on my Fenix to press when you’re tired at the end of a race!

    • Forerunner 305

  • I had that first forerunnner. Have it somewhere still. It was an amazing device for its day

  • Awesome evolution of pace measuring devices

  • This was a nice trip down memory lane, although I was disappointed the article didn’t really show many examples from the history of Forerunner devices (like wikipedia has here: Myself, I’ve owned devices spanning much of this history, including the 201, 305, 310XT, Vivoactive HR, and 935. I’ve gotten about 4 years of good use out of each. That means it’s about time to sunset my 935, whose battery used to last 2 weeks but now barely lasts 2 days. I’m debating whether to get the 945 LTE or wait for the 955. Speaking of the 945 LTE, the author left that off the list in this article. It’s effectively what we were expecting the 955 to be, but Garmin decided not to name it that.

  • One of the pre-Garmin originals was ahead of it’s time. The FitSense with foot pod. It was accurate within a few feet which was amazing given it wasn’t GPS and based distance off foot strikes. You could calibrate it on a track and adjust the calculation to perfect accuracy. I still love my Garmin Descent though, I never leave home without it…


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