Best Rugged Watch Reviews

Updated December 2, 2020

A watch is an accessory many people like to wear day-in, day-out, but if you’re someone who has an active lifestyle or a physical job, it can be tricky to protect a watch from damage.

Far more convenient than taking your watch on and off every time it may get knocked, is choosing a rugged watch that can cope with tough conditions.

The best tough watches will be able to withstand rough use, whilst still functioning exactly as they should.

Strong watches don’t have to compromise on design, either – sturdy watches can be found in a variety of styles.

We’ve rounded up some of the best options, whether you’re looking for the best tough watches for work, or rugged outdoor watches for your adventurous activities.

Read on for our reviews, and top tips on features to look out for.

See Our Top Tough Watches

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1 Timex - Men's Expedition Acadia Full Size Watch
Best For Low Budgets
Timex Men's Expedition Acadia Watch
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2 Casio - Men's G Shock Black Watch 26.8 GST-S110-1ACR
Best Overall
Casio Men's G Shock Black Watch 26.8
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3 Citizen - Promaster Tough Black BN0217-02E Citizen Promaster Tough Watch
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4 Victorinox - Swiss Army Men's I.N.O.X. Watch Victorinox Swiss Army Men's I.N.O.X. Watch
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5 GPW - German Military Titanium Automatic Watch GPW German Military Titanium Watch
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6 Garmin - Instinct Tactical Rugged GPS Watch
Best For Higher Budgets
Garmin Instinct Tactical Rugged GPS Watch
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1. Timex Men's Expedition Acadia Watch

Highlights
  • Durable resin case
  • Indigo backlight technology, activated by pressing the crown
  • Scratch-resistant mineral glass
  • Lightweight
Best For Low Budgets
Timex - Men's Expedition Acadia Full Size Watch

This Timex watch has a simple design with an almost military feel.

The case is resin, so it can take knocks and bumps, and we like the way that the crown is set into the bezel so it won’t snag or catch.

The face is black, with clear and bold hour markers and both 12- and 24-hour indices, as well as a date display.

If you’re trying to read the time after dark, you can activate the helpful indigo backlight feature by pressing the crown. The hour and minute hands are also luminous.

The fabric strap is durable, and has some attractive leather accents.

The lens is acrylic and resistant to scratches. Overall, we found this to be a robust timepiece at a great price.

Specifications

Material:
Resin
Size:
Case thickness: 11.5 mm
Movement:
Quartz
Case Diameter:
40 mm
Watch Strap:
20mm, Fabric

Pros

  • 12- and 24-hour displays
  • Fabric strap with leather details
  • Water resistant to 50m
  • Easy to set date display

Cons

  • Well-priced for this reliable brand
  • Ticking is loud

2. Casio Men's G Shock Black Watch 26.8

Highlights
  • Combines an analog and digital display
  • Built-in solar battery
  • Shock resistant
  • Stopwatch and countdown timer
Best Overall
Casio - Men's G Shock Black Watch 26.8 GST-S110-1ACR

G-Shock watches made by Casio are known for their rugged design, and this is a perfect example.

It’s a large watch, with the case measuring just under 60mm in diameter.

There’s an analog time display with blocky hour markers and the face also has three digital dials.

Features include world and 12/24 hour time, stopwatch, countdown timer, five daily alarms and full auto-calendar.

The useful hand shift feature allows you to easily move the hands out of the way in order to view the dials. As this model is water resistant to 200m and shock resistant, it should stand up to a variety of uses, although some wearers find it can scratch quite easily.

A big selling point for us is that the watch is solar powered, with a battery level indicator to let you know when charge is running low.

Specifications

Material:
Stainless Steel
Size:
Case thickness: 16.1 mm
Movement:
Quartz
Case Diameter:
59 mm
Watch Strap:
26.8 mm, Plastic
Battery Life:
Solar powered

Pros

  • Battery level indicator
  • 200-metre water resistance
  • Five daily alarms
  • Hand shift feature allows you to move the hands in order to view the dials

Cons

  • Very large case
  • Can scratch easily

3. Citizen Promaster Tough Watch

Highlights
  • Eco-Drive movement is powered by light, so doesn’t need a battery
  • Stainless steel case with an anti-rust coating
  • Can function under extreme temperatures
  • Hypoallergenic

This is a no-nonsense timepiece, designed to be tough and durable. The black ion-plated stainless steel case has an anti-rust coating and sits on a robust ballistic Cordura and PU strap.

The black dial has bold, luminous hour markers and indices.

The date display at the 3 o’clock position is a little small, which makes it tricky to read.

This watch has the ability to function under extreme temperatures and it’s also water resistant to 200m, so it can take some tough knocks. There’s no battery as the Eco-Drive movement is powered by light.

Specifications

Material:
Stainless Steel
Size:
Case thickness: 10.5 mm
Movement:
Eco-Drive
Case Diameter:
42 mm
Watch Strap:
20 mm, Ballistic Cordura and PU

Pros

  • Anti-reflective sapphire crystal
  • Luminous hands and indices
  • Date display
  • Water resistant to 200m

Cons

  • Date display is very small so it’s not easy to read
  • The strap is stiff at first (but does soften over time)

4. Victorinox Swiss Army Men's I.N.O.X. Watch

Highlights
  • Lightweight titanium case
  • Swiss made by Victorinox
  • Watch undergoes numerous quality and performance tests before leaving the factory
  • Includes removable protective bumper

Victorinox is a Swiss brand known for producing quality Swiss army knives, but they apply this same attention to detail and quality to their watches.

It’s claimed that models in their I.N.O.X collection have been engineered to handle extreme conditions, even being driven over by a truck, but we certainly couldn’t put that to the test!

The design is simple, with the titanium case housing an analog display, luminous hour markers and tapered, luminous hour and minute hands.

The face is otherwise uncluttered, with just a small date display and the Victorinox logo.

It’s available in a range of colourways and with different straps, but we reviewed a model with a rubber strap which was comfortable but still smart enough to wear to work in a professional environment.

The watch is also water resistant to 200m.

Specifications

Material:
Titanium
Size:
Case thickness: 13.6 mm
Movement:
Swiss Quartz
Case Diameter:
43 mm
Watch Strap:
21 mm, Rubber

Pros

  • Comfortable rubber strap
  • Water resistant to 200m
  • Lightweight
  • Date display

Cons

  • The second hand doesn’t quite align with markers
  • Does not glow very brightly in the dark

5. GPW German Military Titanium Watch

Highlights
  • Sandblasted titanium case
  • Extra strong sapphire crystal lens
  • Precision automatic movement functions without a battery
  • Unidirectional rotating hour marked bezel

The makers of this watch state it is designed by members of the German Special Forces, and you can see the military influence in the clean and simple style.

The Grade 2 titanium case is sandblasted to avoid light reflection, and is both tough and lightweight, with a lightweight nylon strap. The lens is also robust, made of extra strong sapphire crystal.

The face has luminescent hands and hour markers, and a small date display at the 3 o’clock position.

A key advantage of this watch is the precision automatic movement, which is powered by the wearer so doesn’t need a battery.

This is a simple design, made from hard-wearing and durable materials.

Specifications

Material:
Titanium
Size:
Case thickness: 13 mm
Movement:
Automatic
Case Diameter:
42 mm
Watch Strap:
22 mm, Nylon

Pros

  • Screw-in locked crown and screwed in case back
  • Water resistant to 200m
  • Date display
  • Luminescent hands and hour markers

Cons

  • The watch is powered by the wearer, so if you don’t wear it every day it will need winding (or to be worn for a while) to start working again
  • We didn’t notice during a limited review, but other reviewers note it loses time

6. Garmin Instinct Tactical Rugged GPS Watch

Highlights
  • GPS watch which accesses multiple navigation satellite systems
  • Can monitor your heart rate, activity and stress
  • Constructed to US Military standards 
  • Can be connected to a compatible smartphone to show notifications
Best For Higher Budgets
Garmin - Instinct Tactical Rugged GPS Watch

Garmin have produced a watch which fits the ‘rugged’ bill, but also offers a large number of features.

It’s a GPS watch which can also access other navigation systems (GLONASS and Galileo), and there’s a 3-axis compass and barometric altimeter.

This means that it can track your location and display it on the clear digital face.

It can also monitor your estimated heart rate, and there are preloaded activity profiles such as running and biking to track your exercise.

The watch itself is constructed to US Military standards for thermal, shock and water resistance, so it’s tough and durable.

Specifications

Material:
Fibre-reinforced polymer
Size:
Case thickness: 15.3 mm
Case Diameter:
45 mm
Watch Strap:
22 mm, Silicone
Battery Life:
Rechargeable GPS mode: up to 16 hours Smartwatch mode: up to 14 days

Pros

  • Preloaded activity profiles
  • Stealth mode to hide your GPS position
  • Vented silicone strap
  • 3-axis compass and barometric altimeter

Cons

  • Limited battery life when using GPS
  • Some of the activity data it tracks is not accurate

Rugged Watch Buying Guide

Durable Watch Brands

There are some watch brands which are known for producing watches designed to be tough and rugged, and others which have specific collections or ranges that answer this requirement. 

Timepieces designed for use during sports or outdoor activities can often withstand a variety of conditions, so you might consider brands such as Garmin, or the GShock range from Casio which are often top contenders in the sports watch category. 

Then there are the brands which have carved a niche making military inspired watches, such as GPW. These have taken the tough standards of military use and applied them to ‘civilian’ timepieces. 

Design

As you search for a rugged watch you might notice that many of your choices have common design traits. 

Because a rugged watch needs to be able to withstand knocks and bumps, the case is often bulky, but avoids delicate edges or a protruding crown that could get snagged. 

The design of the face itself depends on whether it’s a digital or analog display, and on the features, but the focus is usually on function rather than decoration. 

That means that you are more likely to see clear hour markers and luminous hands rather than a skeletonised or elaborately decorated dial, for example. 

Display Choice

Whether you prefer a rugged digital watch or a tough analogue watch is largely a case of personal preference. 

Both are available, and the best option for you in part depends on the number and type of features you want from your watch. 

If you want functions such as GPS or activity tracking, you’ll most likely need to look at digital options. 

An analog watch on the other hand will most likely be more basic, but with the advantage that it’s very easy to read a clean and uncluttered face at a quick glance.

Durability

If you’re looking for a tough watch, then durability is no doubt important to you. 

Whilst it’s very hard to find an indestructible watch, there are certain features which are common in the most durable watches. 

As we’ll explain shortly, the materials which the watch is made from are key to the durability. 

Battery life is another factor, as every time the case back is removed to replace the battery, this can affect the seal and therefore the water resistance. 

Materials

A tough watch needs to be made from equally tough materials and you have several choices available. 

Stainless steel is strong, and titanium is also popular as it’s an even more lightweight metal option. 

Resin and plastic cases are also common choices.

Whilst a leather strap is often recommended for day-to-day watches, leather isn’t so ideal when you’re going to be exposing it to tough wear and the elements, as it can crack. 

More often, the strap of a rugged watch will be metal, fabric or silicone.

Uses

There are many reasons why you might want or need a rugged watch, whether you’re going to wear it every day or for occasional activities.

Work

If your work involves lots of time spent in challenging or outdoor environments, a rugged watch is far more practical than a dress watch that you might see worn by an office worker. 

This could apply to a huge range of job roles, from landscaping to personal training.

Construction

Construction work often involves working in dirty, dusty environments, where largely physical tasks might mean any watch receives lots of knocks and bumps. 

A rugged watch that won’t break or be damaged by this daily wear and tear will last far longer in these circumstances. 

If you are on the lookout for durable watches for construction, then we have a guide specifically made for you. 

Sports

Someone who enjoys a variety of sports activities might look for a durable sports watch that they can wear throughout, especially if you want to time yourself or monitor your performance with a smartwatch that has an activity tracker. 

Again, taking part in sports could result in knocks that could damage a standard watch. A robust resin watch could be a great choice.

Features

Choosing a rugged watch doesn’t have to mean compromising on features. Here are some that you may want to look out for.

Water Resistance

The water resistance of a watch is usually measured in metres – for example 50m or 200m.

But beware, this doesn’t mean that you can take the watch down to those depths without it leaking! Water resistance doesn’t mean waterproof. 

Those 50m or 200m examples relate to the results of a static pressure test which a watch has been through in a laboratory. 

As a guide, a watch which is water resistant to 50m would withstand splashes and be ok in the shower or even for some swimming, but not water sports or diving (even from the edge of a pool). 

You should also bear in mind that when you remove the back of the watch to replace the battery, this can damage the seal which keeps water out, so you could affect the water resistance.

Shock Resistance

Most watches rely on a series of delicate parts to keep them working, and if you drop or bump your watch the shock can jolt these parts resulting in damage to the function. 

Shockproof watches are resistant to that type of damage, thanks to a suspension system that protects the components.

Scratch Resistance

The fact you’re looking for a rugged watch probably means you’re someone who is going to be wearing the watch in all kinds of conditions. 

Selecting a scratch resistant watch means that you don’t have to worry about all that wear-and-tear being evident in the form of scratches which might detract from the design. Sapphire crystal watches are established as an industry standard when it comes to scratch resistance. 

Altimeter Barometer

An altimeter barometer detects changes in atmospheric pressure, which will be represented in an elevation reading. 

This can be a useful feature on a watch if you want to track your outdoor activities, such as hiking. Changes in the pressure can also signify a change in weather conditions. 

Altimeter watches are a perfect fit for all outdoor enthusiasts.  

Pricing Range

There are rugged watches to suit all budgets, but the amount you have to spend will likely affect the number of features you can expect and the type of materials that might be used. Cheap durable watches can be found for under US$50, or you could expect to pay several hundred dollars for a feature-packed smartwatch or premium materials such as titanium.

Our Verdict

We were spoilt for choice when it came to naming our pick of the best rugged watches. For sheer value, the Timex Men’s Expedition Acadia Watch is our Best Entry Level choice.

The design is clean, simple and the price is great for a prestige name like Timex.

Stepping up the price range, our Top of the Range selection is the Garmin Instinct Tactical Rugged GPS Watch.

If you have an active, outdoors lifestyle, you’ll really appreciate all the extra features such as GPS and activity tracking, and this model is constructed to meet US Military standards so you know it can survive some tough use.

But our Best Overall crown goes to the Casio Men’s G Shock Black Watch 26.8.

It has plenty of useful features such as a stopwatch and daily alarms, and the fact it’s solar powered gives it an edge over the competition.

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