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The story of Polar – The producer of the world's first smart watch

Tags: About the brand | Polar | Men's | Women's | Smart

6.9.2022 | 5 MIN

The Polar brand has been with us for many years. And over the years, it has achieved many firsts, which ranks it among the TOP companies dealing with sports testers, i.e. smart watches. And how did it all begin?

In 1975, cross-country skiers in training thought it would be nice to be able to measure their heart rate. This laid the foundation stone on which Seppo Säynäjäkangas, the founder of the Polar brand, began to build. And already in 1977, they applied for their first patent, for a device measuring the pulse from the tip of the finger. In the same year, they built the first prototype in cooperation with the University of Oulu. A year later, this product went on sale.

A revolution in the sports sphere

4 years later comes probably the biggest twist in the technological sector of sports history. Polar released the world's first watch that can measure heart rate (using a chest strap) and record it in real time to the watch. This fact slightly changed the development of the history of sports, because it started to train more effectively. What's more, another 4 years later (1986) the first training data analysis software was released. It's laughable considering that the majority of the population didn't even have a PC at home.

První sporttester na světě s měřením tepové frekvence pomocí hrudního pásu

The first sports tester PE 2000 in the world with heart rate measurement using a chest strap

Heart rate zones and heart rate variability

People often ask me how to set heart rate zones and what a VST value is. I won't dissect it here, below is my colleague's article.

Heart rate sensor – everything about it and how can it help you
15.6.2021
Heart rate sensor – everything about it and how can it help you

Polar watches have been measuring heart rate variability since 1995, and heart rate zones began to be addressed in the same year. In 1997, Polar launched one of its features that, based on user data (heart rate and VST evaluation), could calculate the ideal heart rate zones for each sport.

589,00 € (delivery by 14.10.)

A run down of the watch world

So that it's not just history, let's take a look at a little timeline of the Polar brand. And since someone clever (Javier Ortiz) has already edited it, let me attach it here:

Je to trošku rozostřené, ale přečíst se to dá.:-))

A bit out of focus, but still legible! :-)

From the entire table, I would point out the first watch measuring heart rate (1982), the first cycle computer measuring heart rate (1990) and the first GPS watch (2012).

How Polar lost its market leadership

In my opinion, the emergence of GPS watches from Garmin (2001) is to blame. In the same year, Polar and other brands boldly made watches with only heart rate measurement and thought that would be enough. Not that Garmin took the lead right away, but they had already mastered GPS technology and could develop it further. At that time, other companies were just starting to deal with it.

Polar released its first GPS watch in 2012, when Garmin came up with the iconic Fenix ​​series, and the gap between Garmin and other companies widened.

For comparison... the Polar RC3 GPS could measure only a few sports and lasted 12 hours on GPS. The first Garmin Fenix ​​was already a multi-sport outdoor watch that lasted 20 hours on GPS after a second and up to 50 hours in GPS power saving mode.

Srovnání Polar RC3 GPS vs. Garmin Fenix

Comparison of Polar RC3 GPS vs. Garmin Fenix

A Finn who stayed in Finland

Unfortunately, brand migration is a growing trend. For example, Suunto migrated to China and so did Coros (kinda too much China, right?). Polar is still a purebred Finn. Polar Electro Oy is still based in the Finnish town of Kempele, where it all started. And the bloodline is even reflected in the management, as the acting director is Sari Säynäjäkangas.

Na fotce zakladatel Seppo Säynäjäkangas

In the photo, Polar's founder Seppo Säynäjäkangas

Team player

There is no doubt that Polar is a team player. It is the only one that offers sets of watches for entire teams and an evaluation system where coaches can track information about players in real time. Football or hockey coaches will find the greatest use, but it can also be found, for example, by a fitness coach.

And how is Polar doing today?

In terms of sport? Great. In terms of "smartness"? Eh.

Today's world is very fast and it seems to me that Polar has not caught the latest trends at all. So you won't find any smarter functions with it, such as replies to notifications, a music player, maps or payment by card.

I don't blame Polar for choosing to go the route of a purebred sports tester, but unfortunately, it's not completely wearable anymore, and every athlete wants to have a device on hand that has balanced functions for both normal life and sports.

Za mě Polarovský majsterštik

For me, the Polar Masterpiece

But Polar is still a TOP brand in sports. As a pure sports tester, there is not much to complain about (except for starting and turning off the activity with other buttons). A big advantage over other brands is the heart rate accuracy, which is amazing. The same letter is the measurement of watts from the wrist. Which is another first for them.

První hodinky od Polaru (a na světě), které uměly měřit Watty ze zápěstí

The first watch from Polar (and in the world) that could measure Watts from the wrist

And so, what it makes up for in sports, it lacks in smartness. As far as the smart functions go, we must be satisfied with notifications, accepting and rejecting a call or perhaps skipping a song.

What about the future of Polar?

I would say the same as with Suunto. I have a hunch that it will definitely not transform into a smartwatch and start spewing one smart watch after another. They have been pioneers in sports tester functions since the beginning and it is still their domain. Perhaps one could understand from the article that they fell asleep, but this is not the case.

For example, watts... Polar was the first to implement them in the running world. There are more such examples, and I think that in a few years we will be writing other pioneering firsts in sports tester functions from this brand.

Personal running evaluation

Honestly, after Garmin and Coros, Polar is the third brand I would reach for. This has actually happened in the past, because for a time (about a month) I was the proud owner of a Vantage M model. I returned to Garmin because of the established logistics in the watch and settings purely through the watch.

But back to Polar. It's great to see this brand add more features to the sport tester and how masterful it is to review, which I appreciate the most.

I'm a little disappointed with the battery life and the Bluetooth functionality that keeps disconnecting. We even joked in the chancellery that Polar lasts so little because of the constant disconnection from the phone and trying to reconnect. So improve BLE stability and everything will be great. Personally, my choice now would be the Polar Grit X Pro watch. Although I've never been much of a design person, apart from the functionality, this watch is beautiful and that's why I'd choose it.

What is your Polar favourite that you'd reach for? And what do you think of the brand?

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