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Last Updated: December 2020
If you are a hiking enthusiast, construction worker, farmer, mechanic, soldier, or member of law enforcement (and just about anyone in between), then you need a rugged watch. In extreme situations like severe weather, high altitude, darkness, and tough working conditions, a normal watch just can’t handle the situation. And the last thing you need is your watch breaking down when you need it the most.
A tough, durable, and feature-rich watch will get you through the toughest tasks, and it will last for years. With a little luck, it could even be one of those ‘buy it for life’ purchases.
When we set out to find the most rugged and durable watches, we focused not only on the longevity of the watch but also the style and price. What we found were watches that last and look amazing. No matter your price point, there’s something for everyone.
Take a look at how we made our choice and make a statement with one of the watches from our list.
3 Best Rugged and Stylish Watches
Do you need to choose between the two? We are here to say no! The most durable watches in the world are also some of the most stylish. Here are three of the best.
1. Citizen Men’s ‘Military’ Stainless Steel Watch
This watch from Citizen is as rugged as they come, but it is also extremely comfortable too. The dark green Cordura strap is flexible, and will not dig into your wrist. Cordura is also one of the most durable materials in the world, and is tear- and rip-resistant. The watch looks amazing, with a strikingly simple interface, and elegant look.
The watch is analog but features both 12- and 24-hour time. The Japanese Quartz movement means that the time stays accurate, no matter what you are doing, and the watch is water-resistant too. You can dive down to 100m, though the watch is not a certified diving watch.
The eco-drive is the best feature here. When light penetrates the watch face, it is turned into energy and stored in the permanent rechargeable power cell. The device works with any light, and the battery never needs to be replaced, meaning that the watch really can last forever.
A durable watch that you will want to keep for a very long time.
2. Victorinox Swiss Army I.N.O.X. Watch
Few things say “practical” like the words “Swiss Army.” This Victorinox watch balances good looks with adventure and ruggedness.
The watch has a sapphire crystal face, making it scratch-resistant and anti-reflective, especially useful for outdoor use. You can also take it diving since the watch is waterproof to 200m. Between passing 130 endurance tests and the watch’s quartz movement, no matter what you throw at this watch, it will keep ticking.
For those who want a more elegant design, this watch is the answer. Its face is beautifully minimalist, and the body has the classy curves you expect from a designer accessory. You can pair it with a selection of wrist straps in soft rubber, genuine leather, stainless steel links, or woven paracord, the latter being especially durable for outdoor use.
This watch is perfect for those who want to wear the same watch they go hiking in to job interviews or to nights out on the town.
3. Seiko 5 Automatic Stainless Steel Watch
Seiko is the brand that innovated automatic-winding quartz wristwatches, and they continue that tradition of quality with this watch.
For a secure and comfortable fit, the nylon wristband is perfect. Its color also matches that of the watch face which gives the watch as a whole a clean, two-tone aesthetic.
This watch is a slim 37 millimeters wide, so it is an excellent choice if you need a subtle watch that won’t weigh down your arm. For night use, the watch face has luminous detailing. It also includes a day-date calendar, so no more having to fiddle with your watch to correct it after the month changes.
The Hardlex crystal display is renowned for being shatter-proof, making this watch and ideal choice for activities like bouldering where you might take a hard fall. If you want to take a quick swim, the watch is waterproof to depths of 30m. It takes an active lifestyle to get the most out of an automatic quartz movement watch; you can also insert a battery if you find the watch doesn’t automatically wind itself enough for your needs.
3 Best Military and Tactical Watches
Soldiers have a demanding job and are among the toughest people in the world. To serve your country, you need expert training, a strong will, and toughness. You expect the same from your watch.
A military watch needs to withstand the toughest and harshest conditions while giving you functionality. To be a soldier, you need to be a special kind of tough.
If these heavy-duty watches are good enough for the military, then you are going to fall in love with them.
1. Garmin Instinct Tactical (Rugged GPS) Watch
The watch from Garmin has been created to withstand the toughest environments and conditions. It is constructed to military standards meaning that it is thermal, shock, and water-resistant. If you are looking for one of the toughest watches out there, then you may have found it.
There are a number of built-in features which make this a hard watch to pass up. You have a 3-axis compass and barometric altimeter, so you will always know where you are (or at least what direction you are headed). The GPS will help monitor where you are if you cannot figure it out. You also have a heart-rate monitor which will look after your activity and stress levels too.
With smart notifications, you will be able to stay connected and updated. The TracBack feature also lets you return to the same route and starting points when connected to the app. Combine all of this with a battery life of up to 14 days, and you have a watch which you will want to take everywhere with you.
2. SUUNTO Core Military Watch
One look at this watch and the image of a navy seal comes to mind. Can you see yourself stealthily moving through the dark with this watch attached to your wrist? You may not be a navy seal, but this is a perfect watch for hunting and almost everything else.
There is a digital watch face, showing you the time in a simple fashion, along with a lot of other important information. An altimeter tracks your vertical movement, a barometer keeps you aware of the air pressure around you, and the Suunto core keeps track of the weather conditions, with a graph that can tell you when a storm is coming, along with the sunset and sunrise times.
If you are an outdoor person, the information that is packed into this lightweight and comfortable watch can prove invaluable. The design is simple and elegant, too, with the integrated strap that is comfortable and rugged. This watch is a reliable companion for all of your outdoor activities and one that may just save your life.
3. Casio G-SHOCK (Military Series)
This watch looks rugged. As soon as you have this on your wrist, you know that it will last. The bulky g-shock case and rugged strap are built to last, and you can drop this watch all you want, but it is just not going to break. The strap is comfortable on your wrist, not digging into it, and the complete black case and strap help to showcase the bright metallic hands within.
The watch is shock-resistant, with tough mineral glass protecting the electronics inside. The watch shows you the time in both analog and digital, and you can program the watch to display 29 different time zones. You can easily switch between the current time and your home time, there is a daylight saving feature, and 4 daily alarms.
The LED light with afterglow means that you can see all of the information in any light condition, and that comes in handy when you are using your watch for various tasks. Along with reading the time, you have a built-in stopwatch, countdown timer, auto-calendar, and more. The watch is water-resistant to 200m and magnetic-resistant too.
A stylish, simple, and elegant watch that costs under $100.
3 Best Rugged and Heavy-Duty Smartwatches
Smartwatches come with all manner of features that are perfect for the great outdoors. You can track your activity, use GPS, check your altitude, go underwater, and much more.
The only problem is that most smartwatches are not built with the wilderness in mind.
Wearable tech is at the cutting edge, and many smartwatches are now more durable than ever. Here are some of the best on the market, the ones that showcase the best combination of functionality and durability.
1. Garmin Fenix 6
When it comes to wearable tech, Garmin have always been a leader. This smartwatch is stylish and durable and comes packed with functionality.
This model is 18% larger than previous models but still remains sleek and elegant on your wrist. The watch is ‘always on’ and has a display that is easily readable, even in glaring sunlight. The bezels are stainless steel for extra toughness, and there are titanium and carbon coatings.
There are lots of features packed into the watch, and you can monitor your heart rate with Pulse Ox to better support your health, and monitor your sleep patterns, especially when you are at higher altitudes. There are also a number of advanced training features, and the watch will keep track of the environment around you, adjusting your pace as needed to give you the best workout possible.
The outdoors will be a breeze with the preloaded maps, including ski maps, global navigation, compass, gyroscope, and altimeter. You can also use Garmin Pay to pay for your purchases, where accepted. With 10 hours of battery time in GPS or music mode and 14 days in smartwatch mode, this is a watch that will last.
Tons of durability, and all the functionality that you will ever need when you are in the great outdoors.
2. Suunto 9 GPS Sports Watch
When exploring the great outdoors isn’t enough, conquer it. Suunto has made a smartwatch built for exercising and exploring.
The smartwatch has a touch-screen interface and a titanium case, giving you access to your phone’s messaging and apps in a strong, protective shell. It comes with a suite of exercise features to automatically track your workout as well as your sleep habits and heart rate. The watch also has a barometer to watch for sudden changes in temperature or pressure to give you weather warnings about incoming storms, as well as notifications for sunrise and sunset.
One of the standout features of this smartwatch is the battery life: it can track your exercise routine and body vitals for up to 120 hours of continuous tracking. Even when using features like the Fusedtrack GPS or messaging, you can get up to 50 hours of use on one charge.
With all the tricks it has up its sleeve, this smartwatch is an ideal companion for venturing up a mountain for a morning jog. It keeps you safe in extreme conditions, and thanks to its rugged construction, you’ll always be bringing it home damage-free.
3. Garmin fēnix 5s
Garmin has packed this smartwatch with all of its latest innovations, offering some of the best biometric and outdoor features on the market.
On the face, you have a sapphire crystal display that is scratch-resistance, backlit, and uses Transflective engineering to maximize visibility, even in direct sunlight. A multitude of apps at your fingertips helps you track and improve your performance for dozens of different exercises.
The smartwatch monitors your heartrate using its Elevate tracking technology, which uses algorithms to eliminate signal interference for a more accurate reading. For location tracking, it has a GPS, satellite reception, and a 3-dimensional compass that not only steers you north/south, but uses gyroscopic and barometric readings to monitor altitude. Paired with a heart monitor accessory, this watch can even keep an eye on your stride length while you jog, to give you tips on how to reduce stress on your body while exercising.
This is the choice for serious athletes, or anyone who is looking for a smartwatch that is as adventurous and rugged as they are.
What to Know Before Buying a Rugged Watch
A rugged watch is shock-resistant, can handle drops, withstand impacts, and copes with the most extreme weather conditions. These watches are built with the best materials and cutting-edge technology for heavy-duty, daily use. Extra features like an altimeter, barometer, GPS, compass, and more, along with that extra durability are essential for men and women with active lifestyles.
When you buy a watch, you generally have a choice of one of three glass coatings. These are acrylic, mineral crystal, or sapphire crystal. The more you spend, the better the glass casing is going to be, but that does not mean you can’t find an affordable and tough watch. Let’s take a closer look at the casings.
Acrylic is plastic, and it is cheap. If you can find a watch under $60, then there is a good chance that the casing is crafted from acrylic. Acrylic can be tough, but it is not as tough as the other two casings. The main problem with acrylic is that it is susceptible to scratching. Acrylic can be repaired relatively easily but if you want a watch which will hold up to elements and wear & tear, then acrylic may not be your first choice.
Mineral crystal is glass. It is also a material which is incredibly tough and durable. It costs a little more than acrylic but well worth it, in our opinion. Mineral crystal is resistant to scratches but not immune to them. Mineral crystal is a great compromise between durability and affordability.
Sapphire crystal is the toughest of the three options. If you want something tougher, then you are going to have to be on the lookout for diamond casing (and that is not going to be cheap). Sapphire crystal is tough and will last you almost forever, with the right care. It is the most expensive of the coatings, but it is also the toughest. You will find it almost impossible to scratch the surface.
What do you do when you do not have a light on your watch to illuminate the face? The answer is tritium. This material is naturally found and radioactive but do not let that put you off. The material will glow when it is dark and when it is light. A watch with this material in the face is perfect for low-light conditions, like caves and underwater.
If you are looking for a durable watch, then there is a good chance that you want to use it around water. Even if you have not thought about it, you will almost certainly have the chance to take your watch boating, camping, or hiking with you. In this case, it is good to have a watch which is water-resistant.
Look specifically for the words ‘water-resistant’ and check the depth the watch is resistant, too. Now, because the watch is water-resistant and not waterproof, you should not expose the watch to underwater conditions constantly. If the watch is rated to 100m, then it will continue to work after being submerged to 100m but, over time, constant submerging will cause the seals to break down, and water can get in.
If you want a watch that you can specifically dive with, then you should be on the lookout for a diver’s watch. These can be submerged for long periods of time and on a regular basis.
If you are going to be out in the great outdoors frequently, then an altimeter can be extremely handy. Altimeters read the air pressure to gauge your current elevation, so you do not need to rely on technology or a power source.
With an altimeter, you can track when you are getting too high, and the air is getting too thin. You can also use it to gauge the elevation on your hike, tracking the amount of time it took you to get to a certain height and how much time you need to leave yourself to get back down.
If you love hiking, mountain biking, sailing, or any other outdoor activity, then being aware of the current weather and weather forecasts are essential for your safety (and enjoyment). Sometimes, you’ll have no carrier signal (possibly for days at a time) and, in this situation, you’ll need to have a reliable barometer (and other measuring devices) to take air pressure readings, and prepare yourself for possible storms.
Compass / GPS
Wherever you go on your adventure, knowing your location is essential. Thanks to GPS technology, knowing where you are and where you’re headed is easier than ever. However, in severe thunderstorms and snow storms, GPS can be patchy or stop working altogether. If you find yourself in deep caves or underwater, you’ll need to rely on your in-built compass.