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Some occasions call for a suit, some for jeans, khakis, and t-shirts. Some events demand a dressy watch, others a tough, rugged watch that can take a beating. If the latter style of timepiece is what you're in the market for lately, check out our list of 15 tough, rugged watches (in ascending order of price) that not only boast impressive levels of functionality, reliability, and resistance to extreme depths, temperatures, and shocks, but also look very stylish on the wrist.
Price: $280, Case Size: 44mm, Thickness: 11.6mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Crystal: Mineral, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Citizen Eco-Drive E168
Citizen unveiled its Promaster line of professional-grade sports watches in 1989 and its Promaster Diver models — equipped with the Japanese brand’s proprietary Eco-Drive technology, which uses light to perpetually charge the movement — have proven to be among the most popular of Citizen’s vast portfolio of timepieces. The 44mm steel case features a 60-click rotating bezel made of aluminum (here in maritime blue) and a screw-down crown positioned at 4 o’clock. The blue dial sports wide hands and large applied hour markers, all generously lumed for underwater visibility, and a date window at 4 o’clock. The prominent minute hand with its orange detailing adds another layer of contrast, and hence legibility, to the dial. The Eco-Drive movement offers six months of power on a full charge and boasts an accuracy of +/- 15 seconds per month.
Price: $525, Case Size: 47.8mm, Thickness: 13.8mm, Lug-to-Lug: 50.5mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Crystal: Hardlex, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Solar Caliber H851
Any watch that Hollywood action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger straps on his wrist, especially in testosterone-driven blockbusters like Commando and Predator, is bound to be an icon among rugged watches. The Seiko Reference H558-5000 is such a watch, gaining the nickname “Arnie” for its appearance in those films. Seiko recently introduced a modern version of that watch in its sporty, performance-focused Prospex collection, retaining the bulky "tuna can" case (emblematic of many Seiko divers since the 1960s) and the analog-digital display of the original while replacing its standard quartz movement with a modern, solar-powered version. The Prospex’s steel case is even larger than the original watch, which measured just under 46mm (Arnold would likely approve), and boasts the 200 meters of water resistance that qualify it as an ISO-certified dive watch. Its array of functions, displayed on the digital screen at 12 o’clock, include a 1/100-second chronograph, daily alarms, a full calendar, and an LED illuminating light function that adds even more clarity to the dial’s already impressive array of luminous-coated elements.
Price: $665, Case Size: 45mm, Thickness: 14mm, Crystal: Mineral, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Quartz Ronda 715 LB395
Luminox takes its name from a portmanteau of two Latin words, “Lumi” for light and “Nox” for night, an indicator of the Swiss brand’s commitment from the get-go to “offer cutting-edge luminescence and readability in its line of high-performance sports watches.” In 1992, Luminox debuted its Navy SEAL watch in partnership with that elite U.S. military group, and the brand marked the 30th anniversary of that collaboration with this year's Navy SEAL RSC 3250. The robust, 45mm “turtle” case of the robust, tactical timepiece combines three materials: rubber, steel, and, for the ratcheting unidirectional bezel, Luminox’s proprietary Carbonox material, which is prized for its durability while still being exceptionally lightweight. A screw-down crown with double security rubber gaskets helps ensure a 200-meter water resistance and protects the Swiss-made Ronda 715 LB395 quartz movement, which holds a 50-month battery life.
Price: $795, Case Size: 41mm, Case Height: 10.6mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Lug to Lug: 46.6mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 150 meters, Movement: Automatic Sellita SW200-1
Formex, an independent watchmaker founded in 1999, takes its name from the French phrase “Forme Extrème” (“extreme shape”), which refers to its case designs that are inspired by the silhouettes of high-performance cars and bikes and equipped with a patented Case Suspension System to protect the movement. The military-inspired Formex Field Automatic is distinguished by its lightweight-but-robust, barrel shaped case made of grade 5 titanium (a material almost unheard of at this price point); its array of industrial-inspired dial color options, including ash gray, petrol blue, ultra violet, sage green and mahogany red; and the aforementioned, cushion-like system inside the case that safeguards the automatic Sellita movement and adds to the wearing comfort.
Price: $800, Case Size: 61.2mm x 54.4mm, Thickness: 16.1mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Casio Tough Solar
The Mudmaster, from G-Shock’s task-specific “Master of G” collection, is aimed at wearers who work in “extreme environments scattered with rubber, dirt, and debris.” G-Shock recently updated the model’s mud-and-dust-proof carbon core guard case to a thinner and more wearable profile and added a new, extra-durable bezel formed from a heat-pressed carbon fiber resin. The Mudmaster models are mounted on textured straps reminiscent of non-slip grips on heavy machinery, and the case’s improved buttons are knurled for easier operation. The double LED-illuminated, scratch-resistant sapphire crystal displays an array of information thanks to the movement’s Tough Solar, Multi-Band 6 Atomic timekeeping technology, including barometric pressure, altitude, and temperature, along with daily alarms, a 1/100th-second chronograph, full auto calendar, and world time for 29 cities.
Price: $925, Case Size: 43mm, Thickness: 13.48mm, Lug Width: 21mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Sellita SW200-1
The Inox watch collection takes its inspiration from Victorinox’s pioneering invention, the Swiss Army knife. (“Inox” is French for “stainless steel,” the material used for knife blades and the watch’s 43mm case.) Victorinox subjects the Inox watches to a battery of toughness tests to verify them as timepieces “built to last” — dropping them 10 meters onto concrete, driving over them with a 64-ton tank, subjecting them to extreme submersion, sandblasting, and even corrosive agents like gasoline, solvents, and oils. Inox watches can resist temperature variations from -51 degrees Celsius to +71 degrees Celsius and 12 Gs of acceleration and deceleration. The scratch-resistant sapphire crystal on this model covers a blue guilloché-pattern dial, whose hour and minute hands are anchored by a reinforced axis. The sturdy steel bracelet attaches to lugs solidified by a crossbar. A Swiss automatic Sellita caliber beats behind a screwed exhibition caseback.
Price: $1,500, Case Size: 40mm, Case Height: 12.4mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 100 meters, Movement: Automatic ETA 2836-2
Germany’s Damasko put its family-owned firm on the map with the development of a patented, cold-hardened, nickel-free stainless steel that it uses in its watches and movements. The steel used for the 42mm case of the DA 43 Black is about four times harder than conventional stainless steel thanks to a special heat treatment and also features the brand’s black “Damest” coating that makes it virtually scratch-proof. The watch’s screw-down crown and crown guard, in combination with a threaded caseback, renders it water resistant to a depth of 100 meters. Inside the case, a soft-iron inner lining shields the movement, a Swiss-made, automatic ETA 2836, from the harmful influence of magnetic fields. The shiny white dial, fully coated with Super-LumiNova, is readable even in the darkest of conditions.
Price: $1,710, Case Size: 41mm, Thickness: 13.6mm, Lug-to-Lug: 48mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 300m, Movement: Automatic Sellita SW200
Since its founding in 1939, Canada-based Marathon Watch has been making timepieces for the North American market and since war-torn 1941 has been supplying them to the U.S. armed forces; today, the company is the sole supplier. Now manufactured by the fourth generation of the founding family, Marathon watches — designed in Canada, manufactured in Switzerland —have become well regarded for their military durability and mission-ready precision. The brand’s Government Search and Rescue (GSAR) divers watch is issued not to U.S. forces but to Search and Rescue Technicians in its native Canada, who specialize in airborne missions in treacherous environments. The 41mm case is machined from a monobloc of 316L stainless steel and has been rated to 300 meters of water resistance. Its dial uses tritium, rather than Super-LumiNova, on the hands and markers for a high level of sustained nighttime visibility. A Swiss automatic movement with 26 jewels ticks inside.
Price: $2,295, Reference: 857.040, Case Size; 43mm, Case Height: 12mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 200 meters, Movement: Automatic ETA 2893-2
German watchmaker Sinn is known for tough, purpose-built timepieces and developing its own in-house technologies and processes to produce them. One of these innovations is the TESTAF (Technischer Standard Fliegeruhren) criteria it established for its pilot’s watches, like this GMT-equipped model in stainless steel hardened in Sinn’s proprietary Tegiment process. Two wide hands on the black dial show the local hour and minute on large white Arabic numerals while a smaller openworked orange hand points to another time zone on a corresponding orange 24-hour scale positioned inside the main hour and minute ring. The reliable Swiss-made ETA 2893-2 caliber is secured inside a 43-mm case that resists water pressure to 200 meters and also includes the proprietary Ar-Dehumidifying technology that prevents the crystal from fogging even under extreme cold conditions.
Price: $2,299, Case Size: 43mm, Thickness: 12.35mm, Lug Width: 21mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 100m, Movement: Automatic Ball RR1103 (COSC)
A wristwatch meant for use by elite military operatives should be legible at a glance in any lighting, tough enough to withstand harsh conditions, and reliably accurate in its timekeeping. Ball Watch delivers the trifecta with its Engineer II Green Berets model, whose 43mm titanium case sports a matte black carbide coating and a screw-down crown for a 100-meter water resistance. The hardened sapphire crystal includes a magnifying lens over the 3 o’clock date window, the only element that disrupts the circle of large applied hour indexes; in typical Ball style, these markers as well as the hands are enhanced with micro-tubes filled with tritium gas, a substance that allows them to glow brightly without any need for an outside light source to charge them. The Swiss movement inside, ensconced behind a solid caseback, is COSC-certified for chronometric precision. The watch comes mounted on a thick, military-style strap.
Price: $2,490, Case Size: 42.5mm x 45mm, Case Height: 13.4mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 300 meters, Movement: Automatic ETA 2824-2
The Doxa SUB 300 first hit the shelves, and the waves, in 1967, quickly establishing itself as a more “everyman” alternative to luxury dive-watch icons like the Rolex Submariner and Blancpain Fifty Fathoms. It was the first commercial dive watch with two functional scales on its unidirectional rotating bezel, for dive time and depth decompression time, and the first to use orange for its dial. That classical, trend-setting design lives on in the modern version of the SUB 300, whose barrel-shaped, 42.5mm “turtle” case is made of stainless steel and resists water pressures down to 300 meters thanks in part to a screw-down crown construction. Like its ancestor, the bezel is inscribed with both an inner 60-minute scale and an outer “air dive table” to assist in timing no-decompression dives. The bright orange dial, originally chosen because it’s the most visible color underwater, is protected under a dome-shaped sapphire crystal.. Behind the solid caseback, made of blackened titanium, ticks the chronometer-certified ETA 2824-2, with a 42-hour power reserve. The watch comes on either a rubber strap or a steel “beads-of-rice” bracelet (pictured).
Price: $2,800, Case Size: 42mm, Case Height: 13.5mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 100 meters, Movement: Automatic Sellita SW 200-1, Mühle version
Mühle Glashütte, founded by Robert Mühle in 1869, holds the distinction of being the oldest family-owned watchmaking company in Germany while also being, in practice, one of the youngest, having not produced a wristwatch until 1996. The company’s history of making speedometers, dashboard clocks, and other equipment for military vehicles provided the impetus for the modern purpose-built wristwatch that has become emblematic of the brand, the S.A.R. Rescue Timer; S.A.R. refers to the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service, the unit that requested it and which still uses it to this day. The watch’s tough rubber bezel acts as a shock absorber for the Mühle-customized automatic Swiss movement inside the steel case. Under an uncommonly dense 4mm sapphire crystal with a cyclops lens to magnify the date, the white dial of the Lumen model — with the emblematic large triangular markers in black at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock — is fully coated with luminous paint for nighttime visibility. Shop here.
Price: $3,500, Case Size: 44mm, Thickness: 12.5mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Lug to Lug: 52.4mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 100m, Movement: Breitling 82 SuperQuartz
Breitling introduced its Endurance Pro collection in 2020 as “the ultimate athleisure watch,” and rolled out the Ironman editions a year later as part of the Swiss watchmaker’s partnership with the Ironman series of endurance sporting events. The 44mm case is made of Breitlight, a proprietary polymer material that is significantly lighter than both steel and titanium but harder and more resistant to corrosion and scratching. The Breitling 82 “SuperQuartz” movement (10 times more accurate than standard quartz) powers the hours, minutes, seconds, calendar and chronograph functions displayed on the black-and-red dial along with the Ironman logo at 6 o’clock. The ratcheting Breitlight bezel is inscribed with compass indications for an additional layer of sporty functionality, and the logo appears again on the solid caseback and the textured rubber strap.
Price: $4,995, Case Size: 43mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 100m, Movement: Automatic Bremont BE-36AE
What’s tougher than a watch that can survive ejection from a plane? UK-based Bremont introduced the first MBII in 2007 in partnership with Martin Baker (the “MB”), Britain’s leading manufacturer of ejection seats for military aircraft. MBII watches undergo a tortuous gauntlet of tests in the areas of shock, vibration, corrosion and climate, as well as being strapped to the wrist of a mannequin in an actual ejection-seat trial. The steel case is in Bremont’s three-part “Trip-Tick” construction and hardened in a special process that is also used to treat jet-engine turbines. The high-contrast black dial features white Arabic numerals and a “Danger” triangle marker at 6 o’clock. The Swiss-made automatic caliber inside is secured by a specially designed shock-resistant rubberized mounting and boasts a COSC chronometer certification.
Price: $13,800, Case Size: 55mm x 48mm, Thickness: 17.5mm, Lug Width: 24mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 1,200m, Movement: Automatic Omega Caliber 8500
Introduced in 1970, and designed in cooperation with French industrial diving firm Comex, Omega’s original Ploprof — for “plongeurs professionels” or professional divers — stood apart from other Seamaster models with an unusually high water-resistance (600 meters) and a bulky, insulated case construction that prevented helium atoms from penetrating it during saturation dives, meaning the watch wouldn’t explode during decompression. Omega revived the Ploprof in 2009, updating various elements for a modern diving audience. The 55mm x 48mm steel case is now water-resistant to 1,200 meters, double that of the original, with a sturdier, lockable rotating bezel made of scratch-resistant sapphire and a more user-friendly protector for the screw-down crown. The prominent orange button that unlocks the bezel is made of anodized aluminum rather than the original's rubber, and a helium-release valve has been added. Omega’s self-winding Caliber 8500, with a co-axial escapement, chronometer-certified accuracy, and a 60-hour power reserve, is also a clear upgrade from its predecessor.
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