Garmin D2 Mach 1 Pro pilot watch - hands-on review

Garmin is well known in the fitness world for creating high end smartwatches for tracking all of your activities: biking, hiking, swimming, running, gym workouts, and more. And of course our favorite activity, flying, can be tracked too, using their line of D2 smartwatches. I've spent the last two weeks testing the latest model, the D2 Mach 1 Pro, and it can do it all.

Garmin D2 Mach 1 Pro watchBefore we dive into the amazing capabilities of this premium watch, we first need to admire the build quality. Lots of smartwatches, some Garmin versions included, are built with minimal size and weight in mind. But is that really the center of the bullseye for pilots? Many old school airline captains will reminisce on the days when a pilot watch was a right of passage—the bigger the watch, the better. There is even an old saying about high time pilots having one arm longer than the other due to the weight of their watch.  

The D2 Mach 1 Pro feels like a captain's watch. It features heavy-duty construction, with titanium front and back casing along with a scratch-resistant sapphire lens. It comes with two bands: titanium and silicone. The silicone is a sport-style band that is great for exercising and everyday use, while the titanium provides a more refined look. 

Here are 10 things I liked about the Garmin D2 Mach 1 Pro after using it for two weeks:  

  • It’s a really great tracking smartwatch. Garmin makes amazing fitness watches, and they put all of that cool tracking stuff into the D2 Mach 1 Pro. Choose from over 30 different exercises to track and your favorites are easily found with a press of the activities button.
  • The companion Garmin Connect app is really easy to use. It’s an easy fitness tracker with lots of graphs. I really like how you can access the settings for the watch via the app.
  • The METAR of my home airport is on the home screen. I always know the weather with just a glance. I really like the active runway displayed on the right of of the screen.
  • The color AMOLED screen is sunlight readable. Whether you are flying, running, walking, or hiking, the screen is easily viewable.
  • Automatic night mode. Disrupting your night vision is a hot topic for pilots, and the D2 Mach 1 Pro can automatically go into night mode. All text goes to red so you won't be blinded by the bright screen, but everything remains readable.
  • Built-in flashlight. The top of the watch has a built-in flashlight and can be operated by pressing the light button twice. A red light and adjustable brightness levels of white light are available—perfect for a hands-free preflight.
  • Impressive battery life. If you are a convert from an Apple Watch like me, you will appreciate not having to charge your Garmin watch every day. They claim an incredible 25-day battery life in smartwatch mode or 10-day battery life in always-on mode. Realistically, I can get 5-7 days—still pretty good compared to the competition.
  • Additional medical data. I didn’t realize how much I would use the heart rate monitor and oximeter. Those two items are really nice to have and the D2 Mach 1 Pro makes it easy to access. It also has a stress meter and a body battery feature.
  • Watch bands are easy to switch out. I find myself using the sport band (included with both models) pretty much all the time. But it’s nice to have the option of other bands for other occasions. Changing from one to the other takes about 10 seconds.
  • Shortcuts. You can tell that a pilot was the engineer behind this watch. Everything from the menu progression to the button shortcuts will make sense to pilots. For example: NEXRAD is displayed by holding the down button and start/stop button. 

Overall, I really like this watch. It’s great to see Garmin evolve into a premium smartwatch company. This leverages their ability to make pilot-friendly devices with unmatched build quality. 

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