Ten years ago, Garmin created a new category of portable avionics when it introduced the D2, a pilot watch with a built-in GPS and aviation database. That was followed by a slew of upgraded models over the following decade, the latest of which hit the market recently: the D2 Mach 1 Pro. This is Garmin’s largest and most powerful smartwatch yet, loaded with all the advanced features you’d expect from an industry-leading avionics company, including GPS, moving map, pulse oximeter, altimeter, fitness tracking, and smartphone notifications.
While the D2 Mach 1 Pro works great as a standalone navigator—it requires no outside connection for navigation, for example—the watch is also another node in Garmin’s Connext platform, which ties together multiple devices in the cockpit, from iPad apps to panel avionics. Here are five integrations we like.
Garmin Connect app
Connecting a Garmin watch to your phone or tablet is a great place to start. First, download the free Garmin Connect app on your phone. This is not an aviation-specific app, but it’s the main connection between your watch and the internet. This app will allow you to sync calendar appointments and contacts, track your workout data, and push email/phone/text alerts to your watch.
To make the connection, press and hold the menu button on the left side of the watch, then tap on the settings symbol, and choose Connectivity -> Phone. This will put the watch in pairing mode. On your phone, open the Garmin Connect app and add a device -> D2 Mach 1 Pro. Note that you won’t go to the main iOS Settings app as you would with most wireless devices. All pairing is done directly in the Garmin Connect app.
Once you’re paired, you can adjust options and set up personal information, from downloading music (the watch supports Spotify and Amazon Music) to enabling Garmin Pay (the company’s contactless payment system). One thing that’s worth spending some time on is the order of glances, the quick-access widgets that are accessible by swiping up or down from the main watch face. The Garmin Connect app makes it easy to add, remove, and reorder these glances to suit your preference.
The D2 Mach 1 Pro can display live METARs and TAFs anytime you’re connected to the Garmin Connect app on your phone and you have an active internet connection. This is an easy way to check weather without needing to look at your phone or tablet. You can even set a favorite airport and the main clock face will show weather data for that airport.
Garmin Pilot app
To unlock all the aviation features, download the Garmin Pilot app and sign in. If you’ve already paired your watch to your phone with the Garmin Connect app, you should see the D2 Mach 1 Pro available under the Devices menu. This is the place to find all external devices, from GDL 50 ADS-B receivers to Flight Stream panel-mount devices. Tapping on the D2 Mach 1 Pro will show details about the watch, including connection status and battery life.
This is also the place to sync flight plans. In the screenshot at right, we have it set to automatically transfer flight plan updates, but you can also manually push a flight plan from the phone to the watch. Note that flight plan sync is not available with ForeFlight or other apps.
One other setting on this page is the SPO2 warning threshold. This uses the watch’s built-in pulse oximeter, which tracks oxygen levels and pulse. But you can also set an alert in Garmin Pilot to pop up a notification in the app if your oxygen level drops to an unsafe level.
Finally, note that automatic flight logging is available with the D2 Mach 1 Pro. The watch can start recording above 200 feet and stop recording when groundspeed gets below 30 knots. This will record GPS position and speed, and a basic map and graphs are available in the Garmin Connect app. For more detailed analysis, the flight logs are uploaded automatically to FlyGarmin.com. From here, you can see all the details.
In an emergency—engine failure, smoke in the cockpit, passenger medical issue—time is of the essence. The D2 Mach 1 Pro can save you time in that situation, with one-touch access to nearest airport information. Simply press and hold the top right bezel button for about five seconds to activate Emergency Mode. No matter what screen you’re on, the watch will show the nearest airport with a large arrow and distance to the runway. You’ll also see glide information to help you plan your arrival, and it’s instant since the airport database and GPS are built-in. You can push the top left button for more airport information, including frequencies.
If your watch is connected to your phone or tablet, the D2 Mach 1 Pro goes one step further. After pressing the button, Garmin Pilot will also enter Emergency Mode, which presents a delcuttered map view and highlights nearby airports. You can tap on an airport for distance and course, plus read important airport details. Tap the direct button to navigate to it.
The D2 Mach 1 Pro can also connect to Garmin’s popular inReach satellite communicators, for the ultimate in emergency support and connection. To set this up, you’ll want to add an inReach glance to the watch. A glance is a quick-access feature that can be found by swiping up from the main watch face. You can add a glance from the Garmin Connect app (from the home screen, tap on your watch at the top right, then Appearance -> Glances), or on the watch itself by tapping the pencil icon at the bottom of the glances.
After pairing, you can press START to selection an option: initiate SOS (which should only be done in an emergency), new message (to create a custom text message), or send preset (to quickly send a message you composed on your phone or tablet before flight). The last option is the easiest from a watch, and is great for simple updates on ETA. The SOS option sends a distress signal through the Iridium network, which will alert search and rescue services.
For more complicated messages, it’s best to use Garmin Pilot. This creates a dedicated messages page in the app, and makes it easy to type a custom message.
This summer, Garmin introduced an innovative new system called PlaneSync, a modern approach to database updates and avionics connectivity. This combines permanently-installed hardware, wireless subscriptions, and tablet apps to keep an airplane permanently connected—even when it’s parked in a hangar. One of our favorite features is Remote Aircraft Status, which allows pilots to “wake up” the airplane to check database status, fuel level, oil temperature, battery voltage, and more. It uses a built-in LTE radio in the airplane (just like your cell phone) so it can connect from almost anywhere, but it will not work in flight.
Garmin Pilot has a dedicated screen for this, but this information can also be reviewed on the D2 Mach 1 Pro. The easiest way to do this is by adding a glance: swipe down from the main watch face, tap the plus symbol, and choose PlaneSync. You’ll first need to have your airplane equipped with a GDL 60 and set up on FlyGarmin.com (using the same Garmin account that is used on the watch); assuming that is done, you should see the N-number listed.
Tap on the glance for detailed information, including fuel level, database status, and more.
The D2 Mach 1 Pro is available for $1399.99. The Garmin Connect app is free to download for iOS and Android. Garmin Pilot is free to download (also for iOS and Android) but requires an annual subscription to unlock most features.