Garmin reveals tough new Instinct 2 watch with potentially infinite battery life

BMX rider wearing Garmin Instinct 2 watch
(Image credit: Garmin)

Garmin has unveiled its latest rugged multi-sports watch: the Instinct 2. The new watch is a follow-up to 2018's Garmin Instinct, and is now available in two case sizes: the original 45mm and a new, more compact 40mm model.

The original Garmin Instinct Solar is one of our top-rated Garmin watches, largely thanks to its remarkable battery life, and the Instinct 2 is no different. It's available in both standard and solar versions, and with a regular dose of sunlight, the solar models can keep running indefinitely in smartwatch mode.

The Instinct 2 is also packing new training tools, including a VO2 max function, which was widely requested by owners of the original watch. 

Like the original Instinct, it's water resistant to 100 meters, making it suitable for
splashes, rain or snow, showering, swimming, diving into water, snorkeling, and high-speed water sports.

Garmin Instinct 2 watches in lime green, navy blue, and poppy red

(Image credit: Garmin)

The watch also has a new look. Whereas most of Garmin's recent releases have been available in tastefully muted shades of black, gray, and taupe, the Instinct 2 is available in colorways such as Electric Lime, Poppy and Neo-Tropic (a type of seafoam green).

Special editions

Like the original Instinct, the Garmin Instinct 2 comes in several special editions designed for specific environments and activities: Surf, Tactical, and Camo.

The Instinct 2 Surf Editions (available in both standard and solar versions) include a special tides widget and keep you up to date on surfing conditions. They're also compatible with Surfline, so you can track your sessions and review them at a later date.

Two surfers wearing Garmin Instinct 2 watches

(Image credit: Garmin)

The Instinct 2 Solar Tactical Edition is designed with military personnel in mind. It includes a kill switch that allows you to quickly reset the watch to factory settings and erase all your personal stats (a useful feature if your location data is sensitive). There's also a stealth mode, which turns off location tracking and all wireless data transmission, night vision goggle compatibility, dual format position co-ordinates, and Jumpmaster activity mode for skydiving.

Finally, there are the Instinct 2 Camo Editions. These don't throw any extra features into the mix, but have have Graphite and Mist patterns to blend in with desert and urban environments.

If none of those options appeal, you can also customize your Instinct 2 using Garmin's Your Watch Your Way tool, which lets you pick and mix cases and bands.

At the moment there's no counterpart to the Garmin Instinct E-Sports Edition, which launched in March 2021 and was able to display a player's heart rate on-screen during streams. It's possible that an updated E-Sports Edition might arrive in the coming months, but alternatively the company may choose to stick with watches for real-world adventures.

Analysis: what's next?

Garmin started 2022 with a bang: the Garmin Venu 2 Plus smartwatch arrived in early January, followed by the long-awaited Garmin Fenix 7 and the super-luxe Garmin Epix just a few weeks later. 

The arrival of the Garmin Forerunner 55 last year suggested that the rest of the Forerunner series might soon get an update. We've already seen a hint that a Forerunner 955 triathlon watch might be on the cards: in January, a page briefly appeared on Garmin's Australian website showing a listing for a Forerunner 955 LTE bundle priced at AU$1,049 (about $750 / £550).

This page may have just been a dummy or placeholder, and we definitely have our doubts about the price, which seems low for an LTE watch – particularly one sold in a bundle with one or more heart rate monitors.

Nevertheless, we're cautiously optimistic. The Forerunner 945 launched in April 2019, and Garmin typically leaves two or three years between watch launches, so we're keeping our fingers crossed.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of TechRadar's sister site Advnture. 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)