Best Rugged Smartwatches in 2019 (Review & Buying Guide)
best rugged smartwatches

Best Rugged Smartwatches Reviewed: Find the Most Durable Tactical Smartwatch

This guide was updated on March 9th, 2019

It’s undeniable that smartwatches are the way of the future and with all their impressive features, it’s easy to see why.

From the Apple Watch to the FitBit, there seems to be a smartwatch for people with interests of all kinds.

The Apple Watch 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 and other 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.

No need to fear — there’s an entire market for rugged, tactical, outdoor smartwatches. 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. 

If you want a rugged smartwatch that is both tactical and technological, then you’ve come to the right place.

Watch Preview
#1 Choice
Garmin Instinct, Rugged Outdoor Watch with GPS, Features GLONASS and Galileo, Heart Rate Monitoring...
Garmin Fenix 5X Sapphire - Slate Gray with Black Band
Ticwatch Pro Premium Smartwatch with Layered Display for Long Battery Life, NFC Payment and GPS...
Reason
Most durable military-spec tactical smartwatch
Most stylish rugged smartwatch
Best battery life & smart features
Battery Life
Up to 14 days
Up to 12 days
Up to 30 days
Water Resistance
330 feet
330 feet
Not water resistant
GPS
Customer Rating
#1 Choice
Watch Preview
Garmin Instinct, Rugged Outdoor Watch with GPS, Features GLONASS and Galileo, Heart Rate Monitoring...
Reason
Most durable military-spec tactical smartwatch
Battery Life
Up to 14 days
Water Resistance
330 feet
GPS
Customer Rating
More Details
Watch Preview
Garmin Fenix 5X Sapphire - Slate Gray with Black Band
Reason
Most stylish rugged smartwatch
Battery Life
Up to 12 days
Water Resistance
330 feet
GPS
Customer Rating
More Details
Watch Preview
Ticwatch Pro Premium Smartwatch with Layered Display for Long Battery Life, NFC Payment and GPS...
Reason
Best battery life & smart features
Battery Life
Up to 30 days
Water Resistance
Not water resistant
GPS
Customer Rating
More Details

Don't have time to read my whole review? In my opinion, the Garmin Instinct is the top military-grade smartwatch in this category.

What I’m Looking for in a Tactical Smartwatch

tactical smartwatch v3

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. 

Outdoor Features

With a tough smartwatch, it needs to have features that work for an active lifestyle. Whether it’s trackers for 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 smartwatches is how it pairs with all our other smart devices (Samsung Gear and Android Wear for example).

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 it 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.

On Sale
Garmin Fenix 5X Sapphire - Slate Gray with Black Band
1,153 Customer Reviews
Garmin Fenix 5X Sapphire - Slate Gray with Black Band
  • Ultimate multisport GPS watch with full-color TOPO U.S. mapping, routable cycling maps and other outdoor navigation features
  • Fit for adventure with rugged design that features stainless steel bezel, buttons and rear case: Physical size 5.1 x 5.1 x 1.8 cm;Weight - silicone band: 98 g ; metal band: 196 g
  • Built-in navigation sensors include GPS and GLONASS capability to track in more challenging environments than GPS alone as well as 3-axis compass, gyroscope and barometric altimeter

This smartwatch is suitable for both men and women as it comes in a variety of colors with personalization options. Plus, the smaller display may feel more comfortable on female wrists. Complete with GPS and GLONASS satellite reception, a 3-axis compass, a gyroscope, and a barometric altimeter, it’ll be pretty tough to get lost using this bad boy.

You’ll also get workout stats and preloaded activity profiles. Plus, it’s water resistant and lightweight, so whether you’re a swimmer or a runner, it’s one of the best outdoor smartwatch options out there. This Garmin smartwatch is rather pricey though, so beware.

PROS

  • Water resistant up to 100 meters
  • Available in various colors
  • Lightweight

CONS

  • Expensive
  • More sleek than rugged
  • Smaller 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. It is constructed to U.S. military standard for heat, shock, and water resistance up to 100 meters. Plus, just when talking about looks alone, it seems pretty robust and military-like as well.

On Sale
Garmin Instinct, Rugged Outdoor Watch with GPS, Features GLONASS and Galileo, Heart Rate Monitoring...
193 Customer Reviews
Garmin Instinct, Rugged Outdoor Watch with GPS, Features GLONASS and Galileo, Heart Rate Monitoring...
  • Rugged GPS watch built to withstand the toughest environments
  • Constructed to U. S. Military standard 810G for thermal, shock and water resistance (rated to 100 meters)
  • Built-in 3-axis compass and barometric altimeter, plus multiple global navigation satellite systems (GPS, GLONASS and Galileo) support helps track in more challenging environments than GPS alone

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, 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.

PROS

  • Military-standard
  • Integrated with multiple global satellite systems
  • Thermal, shock, and water resistant up to 100 meters

CONS

  • Only available in three colors
  • Not the best to track fitness
  • Some complaints about button size

Military Smartwatch: TicWatch Pro Bluetooth

As far as I can tell, this is the best rugged smartwatch in terms of battery life. While many of them offer long-lasting devices, this one can last up to 30 days. Of course, that’s on low power mode. On average, it’ll last around 5 days and for 10 hours if using GPS.

Ticwatch Pro Premium Smartwatch with Layered Display for Long Battery Life, NFC Payment and GPS...
1,367 Customer Reviews
Ticwatch Pro Premium Smartwatch with Layered Display for Long Battery Life, NFC Payment and GPS...
  • LONG BATTERY LIFE: 2-30 days on a single charge is achieved by dual layered technology and two modes. Smart Mode will get you 2-days of battery life and Essential Mode will achieve 30-days of battery...
  • SMART MODE: Wear OS by Google, AMOLED display, Google Assistant, thousands of apps and watch faces through Google Play store, health & fitness tracking
  • ESSENTIAL MODE: Power saving FSTN LCD display, high sunlight visibility, shows essential information including time / date / step counter / heart rate

Another feature that makes this TicWatch stand out is that it works with Google. If it’s important to you to stay connected, this is the rugged Android smartwatch 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, and you can even use Google Pay to buy things from your wrist.

On top of that, you get all the expected features like fitness tracking and GPS, but with Google, every watch 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.

PROS

  • Impressive battery life
  • Works with Google
  • Affordable

CONS

  • 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, 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 HR Monitor Running GPS Unit, Black
313 Customer Reviews
SUUNTO Ambit3 Peak HR Monitor Running GPS Unit, Black
  • Suunto Ambit3 peak delivers Stable and accurate altitude and weather information with full navigation in a robust casting
  • 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 material - Polyamide

This waterproof smartwatch boasts 200 hours of battery life and has multilingual options. With fitness and heart rate monitor, it also has a multisport log for those who are interested in more than one activity.

Another fun feature included is that you can take photos 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.

PROS

  • Includes weather forecasting
  • Multilingual options
  • Multisport log

CONS

  • Shorter battery life
  • Basic design

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 you make 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.

Staying Connected

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.

Price

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.

Style

Another important aspect of your future durable smartwatch to consider is the style and feel. 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 watch 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, decide what style is right for you and look for reviews for that smartwatch.

Features

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 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 you’ll want to look into a smartwatch with fitness tracking specifically for runners or swimmers that measures strides and speed. Also, if you’re a swimmer, be sure the watch you choose is waterproof.

Verdict

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 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 than the other bulkier smartwatches that made this list. It is perfect for both men and women. You can wear it 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 smartwatch that isn’t imposing.

As for the top military-grade smartwatch, 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 smartwatch is the ultimate companion for a rugged lifestyle.

Overall

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?) 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 are for everyone and not just the engineers of Silicon Valley. Smartwatch mode on.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (27 votes, average: 4.80 out of 5)
Best Rugged Smartwatches Reviewed: Find the Most Durable Tactical SmartwatchLoading...


Links, prices and images pulled from Amazon Product Advertising API. Last update on 2019-07-19.