It’s undeniable that smartwatches are the way of the future and with all their impressive features, and it’s easy to see why.
Yet, what smartwatches tend to be lacking from, is durability.
But fear not — there’s an entire market for the best rugged smartwatches today. Tactical, or outdoor smartwatches, you name it!
It’s built for those of us who can appreciate the features of a smartwatch while still requiring the burly nature of a military watch.
As you can see, popular brands have their own smartwatch products to boast. From the Apple Watch to Huawei Watch to the FitBit, there seems to be a smartwatch for people with interests of all kinds.
The Apple Watch Series is perfect for any Silicon Valley type who needs the latest gadgets in crisp, clean, modern styles that Apple is so well-known for providing.
You also have lines like the FitBit Versa and fitness trackers for those gym rats who like to keep track of their working heart rate and favorite workouts. Even fashion brands like Fossil are starting to make smartwatches for their target audience of tortoise-shell finesse.
But if you’re like me, you’re not really on board with the look and feel of the Apple Watch or a FitBit. Somehow, they just seem way too high-tech, and the truth is, they’re not all that durable and not meant for regular daily activity.
If you want a rugged smartwatch that is both tactical and technological, then you’ve come to the right place.
What I’m Looking for in a Tactical Smartwatch
Toughness, Of Course
The overall look and feel of a rugged smartwatch should look and feel, well… rugged. I don’t want anything too flashy or that looks too modern. I’m a fan of military style watches and already reviewed the 15 best military watches, so that’s what I’ll be reviewing below, too.
With a tough smartwatch, it needs to have features that work for an active lifestyle. Whether it’s activity tracker when running, GPS features when I’m exploring the wilderness, or long battery life for full days outside, I’m looking for a smartwatch that can keep up.
Common Smart Features
One of the best parts about easy to use smartwatches like the Samsung Galaxy watch or Huawei watch is how it pairs with all our other smart devices (Samsung Gear S3 and Android Wear for example). Just like Samsung gear or Samsung watch, I’ll be looking for smartwatches that have notification features to connect with my smartphone as well as a robust online community full of the latest apps. Otherwise, I might as well have a regular watch. Let’s take a look at some leading rugged smartwatches to see which can meet the mark.
Tactical Smartwatch: Garmin Fenix 5X Sapphire
This Garmin Smartwatch is probably the closest thing to a classic smartwatch, but it does have a rugged twist.
Although this Garmin looks a bit sleeker than its other tough smartwatch counterparts, it still has a lot to offer outdoorsy folks. In fact, it might be a great crossover if you wear a suit for your day job before taking to the mountains on the weekends.
- Ultimate multisport GPS watch with full color Topo U.S. mapping, routable cycling maps and other...
- Fit for adventure with rugged design that features stainless steel bezel, buttons and rear case:...
- Built in navigation sensors include GPS and Glonass capability to track in more challenging...
This smartwatch version is suitable for both men and women as it comes in a variety of strap and bezel colors with personalization options. Plus, the smaller display with its stainless steel bezel may feel more comfortable on female wrists. Complete with GPS and GLONASS satellite reception, a 3-axis compass that can read gravity vector, altimeter, barometer and a gyroscope, it’ll be pretty tough to get lost using this bad boy.
You’ll also read workout stats and preloaded activity profiles. Plus, it has incredible water resistance, and it is lightweight as well, so whether you’re a swimmer or a runner, it’s one of the best GPS outdoor smartwatch options out there. This Garmin smartwatch is rather pricey though, so beware.
- Water resistance for up to 100 meters
- Available in various colors
- Environment tracking system
- More sleek than rugged
- Smaller screen display
Most Durable Smartwatch: Garmin Instinct, Rugged Outdoor Watch
Here we have another Garmin product, and it’s one of the most durable smartwatches around.
This Garmin masterpiece is constructed to U.S. military standard for heat, shock, and water resistance up to 100 meters. Plus, just when talking about looks alone just like its bezel design and display type, it seems pretty robust and military-like as well.
- Rugged GPS watch built to withstand the toughest environments. The display size is 0.9 x 0.9 inches
- Constructed to U. S. Military standard 810G for thermal, shock and water resistance (rated to 100...
- Built-in 3-axis compass and barometric altimeter, Plus multiple global navigation satellite systems...
With multiple global satellite systems working in its favor including GPA, GLONASS, and Galileo, you won’t have to worry about losing your way when you’re wearing this military-grade smartwatch. It also has a 3-axis compass shown in the display, barometric altimeter, and you can use a feature called TracBack to retrace your steps.
Plus, it’s impressive battery life will keep you going without always needing a charger on hand. Along the way, you can monitor your heart rate and stress levels and with preloaded activities right on the watch, you can stay active anytime, anywhere.
- Integrated with multiple global satellite systems
- Thermal, shock, and water resistance for up to 100 meters
- Heart Rate Monitor and Stress Level Monitoring System
- Only available in three colors
- Not the best fitness tracker
- Some complaints about button size
Military Smartwatch: TicWatch Pro Bluetooth
As far as I can tell, this is the best rugged smartwatch version in terms of battery life.
While many of them offer long-lasting devices, this bluetooth smartwatch can last up to 30 days without the need to charge it. Of course, that’s on low power mode. On average, it’ll last around 5 days and for 10 hours if using GPS.
- Upgraded Premium Design - Stylish and functional design with knurled stainless-steel bezel, Corning...
- Long Battery Life - Dual-layered ALOMED/LCD screens and two display mode options, Smart Mode will...
- Cellular Connectivity for Verizon Phone Plan Users - Instant calls and texts, cloud sync...
The features that makes this TicWatch stand out is that it has AMOLED display and it works with Google app. If you need to stay connected, this is the digital Android wear for you. With the Google Play Store, you get access to thousands of apps, you can use Google Assistant to call and text from your watch instead of doing it from your smartphone, and you can even use built-in Google Pay app to buy things from your wrist.
On top of that, you get all the expected features like bluetooth, fitness tracking and GPS, but with Google android technology, every timepiece becomes totally customizable. It’s also surprisingly affordable which is always a great thing. But you can't take it swimming, because it's not water resistant, which is its biggest downside.
- Impressive battery life (2 to 30 days on a single charge)
- Works with Google Software
- Super AMOLED Display
- Fitness Tracker
- Can be rather heavy
- Not water resistant (not good for swimming)
- Best suited to those with Android smartphones
Outdoor Smartwatch: Suunto Ambit3
This watch has a built-in barometer, built-in altimeter, compass, and GPS.
One unique feature available in the Suunto Ambit3 is weather forecasting. As an outdoor GPS watch, this really stands out, because who wants to get caught in a thunderstorm? Plus, it has route navigation, a back-tracking function, and it’s water resistant for up to 100 meters.
- Suunto Ambit3 peak delivers stable and accurate altitude and weather information with full...
- Includes built in altimeter, barometer, compass and GPS with 100 meter water resistance
- One of the most competitive battery hours in the market, 200 hours with 1 minute accuracy. Case...
This waterproof GPS smartwatch model boasts 200 hours of battery life which means you can use its full features for 24 hours and more! It also has multilingual options, fitness tracking and heart rate monitor. On top of that, good news for sporty people and fitness enthusiast who loves more than one activity as you can enjoy its multisport data log feature.
Another fun feature included is that you can take photos so easy even while swimming and make movies of your movements. I’m not convinced this is the most necessary function, but some people might like it for documenting their adventures.
- Includes built-in weather forecasting
- Multilingual options
- Multisport data log
- Water resistant up to 330 feet
- Shorter battery life
- Basic design and display
Factors to Consider When Buying a Durable Smartwatch
When you want the best tactical smartwatch available, there are a few important things to consider before making a purchase. Of course, there’s always pros and cons to every product and simply listing how great or horrible doesn’t help you see the full picture.
If you’re in the market for a smartwatch, the chances are that it’s important for you to stay connected with the outside world. If you’re interested in getting notifications straight to your watch and connecting with a larger community about your fitness goals or your outdoor activities, then those are the things you need to look for in our smartwatch reviews.
Make sure your future smartwatch will be compatible with your current smartphone or other smart devices and that it has an app because the reality is, they aren’t always all on the same page.
For most of us, the price is a big deal. And smartwatches are definitely a gadget that can run you a pretty penny. Watches on their own are known to be rather expensive. Add technological innovation, and we’re only racking up the bill.
However, all you really need to do is keep the numbers in mind while you’re shopping around. If you’re crunched for time and want to get your husband one for his birthday that’s only a few months away, you may have to be more realistic about your budget. If you’ve got all the time in the world, pick the watch and app you like and make a plan to save up for it.
It might seem crazy to spend so much on a watch, but it varies case by case. If getting that perfect g6 tactical smartwatch that ticks all the boxes means waiting a few extra months to make sure you’ve got the cash, I’d say it’s worth it.
Another important aspect of your future durable smart watch to consider is the style and feel, like for example, the color and material of the strap, or even the screen display size. So, assuming you actually do want something rugged for that rugged outdoor lifestyle of yours, then make sure the watch you choose really reflects that.
What you’ll want to look for is something sturdy and durable that prioritizes functionality over fanciness. That’s not to say rugged can’t look good or be of high quality. It just means your watch shouldn’t be trying too hard.
With that being said, stay true to your taste and find a timepiece that matches your personality. Say you need something you can wear from work to the gym. That style of smartwatch will be very different from a Navy sailor going away on deployment.
If you know what you’re looking for, you’re far more likely to find it. So, it's time to decide what style is right for you and look for reviews for that smartwatch.
What features are most important to you? That’s what you’ll need to figure out before you buy a smartwatch. You may even want to write them all down in order from top priority to added bonuses. That way, you can make a clear decision during the shopping process.
Are you an avid hiker who needs an altimeter to read the altitude and backtracking system? Perhaps those things associated with GPS usage are going to be the most important features of your smartwatch.
Are you a running fanatic? Or maybe you’re hardcore into swimming? Then maybe it's time to look into a sports watch with fitness tracking software specifically for runners or swimmers that measures strides and capable of tracking speed. Also, if you’re a swimmer, be sure the watch you choose is waterproof.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Here are the answers to your frequently asked questions.
What is the Toughest & Most Durable Smartwatch?
The toughest and most durable smartwatch is the Garmin Instinct Rugged Outdoor Smartwatch.
What is the Best Rugged Smartwatch?
The best-rugged smartwatch is still the Garmin Instinct Rugged Outdoor Smartwatch. Garmin Instinct is rugged, but it's not bulky and does not compromise comfort over style. You can wear this watch all day and night without feeling its weight on your wrist.
Are There Any Waterproof Smart Watches?
Yes, there is! From our list of rugged smartwatches, we have the Suunto Ambit3 version with a waterproof feature for up to 330 feet. Although it is not recommended for diving, you can be sure to wear it worry-free when you’re swimming or doing other water activities.
The best durable smartwatch to keep you connected and in touch would have to be the TicWatch Pro Bluetooth Military Smartwatch. Even though the other watches that were mentioned do have apps to go along with them, none of them have the power of Google (Android) behind them. Having access to the Google Play Store is pretty untouchable when it comes to connectivity.
If you’re going for a sleek and stylish model, you should choose the Garmin Fenix 5X Sapphire Tactical Smartwatch. It has a smaller face display and bezel than the other bulkier smartwatches that made this list. It is perfect for both men and women. You can wear Garmin Fenix to a meeting, to the gym, out to dinner, or during a camping trip. Being so versatile, it’s a great option if you want your indestructible smart watch that isn’t imposing.
As for the top military-grade smartwatch model, I’d have to go with the Garmin Instinct Rugged Outdoor Watch. It’s burly, and it’s masculine. Better yet, it’s literally made to meet U.S. military standards. I think what sets this watch apart is the triple satellite system.
It is great for tracking uncharted territory, diving rather deep, and handling extreme temperatures. This smart watch is the ultimate companion for a rugged lifestyle.
As with anything, no one can decide for you. It might take you a while to make what you feel like is the best choice possible, but you’ll get there eventually.
As long as you consider the factors that are important to you (like does it have to be gorilla glass? is gorilla glass better than sapphire?) and do your research, narrowing down the candidates becomes easier and easier.
Not to mention, smartwatches are extremely new in the world of timepieces. It’s ok if a product doesn’t meet all of your needs yet. The chances are, your perfect rugged smartwatch is just around the corner.
Whether you’re a diver, a runner, a hiker, or an active military service member, smartwatches with perfect features and apps are for everyone and not just the engineers of Silicon Valley. Smartwatch mode on.
Links, prices and images pulled from Amazon Product Advertising API. Last update on 2020-12-01.