I have recently updated my picks for the most durable automatic watches. If you need and want a rugged, reliable, do-it automatic watch, then this list is for you. I have had first-hand, real-world experience with every watch on this list or extended time with the brand and its other similar watches. I’ve added a few watches from the original thirteen I picked as my collection has grown or I have had the opportunity to review more watches.
I wear an automatic watch almost every day of the week. I change the oil on my van, build stuff, climb in and out of the attic, knock them around, go hiking and fishing, play sports, etc, you name it. My warning about automatic watches doesn’t mean they can’t handle some abuse; they are perfect for the daily grind.
If you are trying to decide between a rugged quartz watch or a rugged automatic watch, this is the main factor to consider: do you experience hard, repetitive shocks or constant vibrations on a daily basis? If the answer is yes, then go quartz, if not then check out the watches I have here.
Tech Writer’s Picks For The Most Durable Automatic Watches – Tested and Reviewed!
Seiko Sports SNZFG15J
Seiko Prospex Turtle SRPE93
Seiko Street Series SBDY061
Seiko Prospex Sumo SPB101J1
Seiko Marine Master 300 SLA023
Orient Ray II
Orient Triton / Orient Neptune
Orient Defender 2
Steinhart Ocean One Titanium
Citizen Promaster Diver Auto
Deep Blue Daynight T-100
Vaer A5 Auto Field Watch
SWCUSA Bunker Field Watch
Squale 1521 Militaire
Aquatico Super Charger
If one brand rules my watch collection, it’s Seiko. Rooted in a rich heritage of meticulous craftsmanship, Seiko watches are the embodiment of Japanese engineering excellence. Their relentless pursuit of perfection and an innate understanding of the challenges a watch might face have resulted in timepieces that stand the test of time. Many, many watches are powered by Seiko movements and there are many different variations. I decided to highlight a different movement at various price points that I had experience with.
Seiko Movement 7S26
The SNZF has been discontinued, but you can still easily find brand new ones on Amazon and eBay.
I could have added so many Seiko watches to this list, but not all the Seiko watches I own can stand up to camping and DIY chores. The Seiko SNZFG15 sure can! What you have here is your basic, cheap, Seiko automatic watch with a push/pull crown and non-hacking movement. What the watch lacks in refinements, it makes up for in the amount of abuse it handles for the small amount of money it costs.
It has a traditional field watch style which looks awesome. The brushed case is solid and wears bumps and scratches well. Really, here’s a watch that if you do eventually kill it, you won’t mind buying another. The watch has a Hardlex crystal that, in my experience, is very scratch resistant. I know others don’t always have the same experience, but I have been very abusive with my watch and the crystal is still perfect. I even smashed it on a rock face while hiking in Linville Gorge.
I only can imagine if Seiko made this with a screw-down crown and hacking movement….you’d never have to buy a Hamilton Khaki again!
For the record, my watch in the picture was sent to Nathan at Four Forty Four PM for a movement swap. He was able to swap the movement to a Seiko NH35 with is identical to a 4R36 movement, just named differently to identify that it was sold as a movement only.
Other Automatic Field Watch Options:
Seiko Turtle SRPE93
Seiko Movement 4R36
The Seiko Turtle, as it’s called by Seikohalocis the world over, falls into the mid-lower end of the Seiko line of dive watches. Purpose-built for serious diving and underwater adventures, the Turtle has all the boxes checked for a rugged watch. Since it’s a “real” dive watch, meaning it is ISO certified, you know the watch is going to be robust. I recently reviewed the newest Turtle SRPE93 here.
What sets the Turtle above other divers for ruggedness is it’s case shape, hence where it gets the nickname Turtle. The large stainless steel case looks like a turtle. Seiko refers to these cases as a “Cushion Case” and it was designed to protect the movement and bezel when the watch is knocked into something from the side. The screw-down crown at 4 o’clock is also protected by built-in crown guards.
Of all my dive watches, I wear the Turtle often and it’s one of my main watches for doing things like working around the house, DIY building, etc. It’s only beat out by an old SEIKO SKX that I modded with a new movement and sapphire.
The Seiko SRPE93 is a traditional dive watch, so you get a smooth rotating bezel, screw-down crown, great Seiko lume, and of course, some history. The SRPE93 is an updated version of their popular 6306 & 6309 dive watches from the 1970s and 1980s. In the middle of 2022, Seiko updated the Turtle from the SRP777 to model No. SRPE93, the main difference is the lume block at 3 O’clock to stay ISO compliant.
The case on the Turtle measures 45mm, but it in no way wears like it. It’s a low-profile watch and uses the same bezel from the SKX, so it seems like a much smaller watch on the wrist. The Turtle is one of the first watches I recommend when someone asks for a good dive watch, the other is the Orient Mako if their budget is a little lower.
Other Seiko Options With The 4R36 Movement:
- Special edition Manta Ray patterned dial, 41-hour power reserve, LumiBrite hands & markers, screw caseback
Seiko Prospex “Street Series” SBDY061
Seiko Movement 4R36
I decided to add this Seiko to the list also. I considered whether or not I needed to add another Seiko to the list, but I have found myself grabbing this watch more often than not for doing chores and work around the house. It has also become my default Pickleball Watch, yes I play Pickleball.
On a recent weekend, when we were taking out stumps, planting shrubs, and building a small deck, I looked down at my sawdust covered wrist to see the Seiko “Urban Tuna,” as I call it, and realized that this, too, was a beast of an automatic watch.
Obviously, we find a Seiko movement inside, but we also get that metal Tuna shroud which really makes this guy able to withstand the knocks and bumps of the real world. Seiko has several colorways in the “Street Series” line, but I found this gray dial one to be my top pick. It comes on a very nice rubber strap, but you can see from my pictures that I have already changed it out.
Most Seiko Tuna watches are quite large, but this one comes in at just under 44mm. However, I find it wears much smaller because of the position of the lugs. My only gripe is that it has 20mm lugs. For such a “do anything” watch, I think 22mm would have been more fitting.
Other Seiko Options:
As you have read through my picks, it is easy to see that it’s not just the movement inside that makes a watch durable. The overall construction and design really comes into play. The weakest point on any watch has to be the spring bars, it really is amazing that such little inexpensive things are holding such high dollar watches on our wrists.
Seiko Sumo SPB101J1
Seiko Movement 6R35
In the realm of durable automatic watches, the Seiko Sumo SPB101J1 stands out as a true embodiment of resilience and craftsmanship. Having owned this watch for a few years, I finally wrote an in-depth review of the Sumo you can read here. The more I wear this guy, the more I’ve come to appreciate its unique blend of robust features and comfortable wearability.
At its core, the Sumo SPB101J1 boasts a higher-tier Seiko movement, offering an impressive 70-hour power reserve. This ensures that the watch remains ticking accurately even if left unworn for extended periods. But what truly elevates its durability is Seiko’s exclusive Diashock system. This ingenious mechanism fortifies the movement, making it more robust and resistant to shocks and impacts, a feature that’s indispensable for those leading an active lifestyle.
Complementing its internal robustness is the Sumo’s oversized case. While it may seem like a design choice at first glance, this enlarged casing serves a dual purpose. Not only does it provide added protection to the watch’s internals, but it also ensures that the watch sits comfortably on the wrist. And this is where the Seiko Sumo truly shines. Despite its seemingly large dimensions on paper, once on your wrist, it melds seamlessly, offering a wearing experience that’s both secure and unobtrusive.
The Seiko Sumo SPB101J1 is a testament to Seiko’s legacy of creating rugged and comfortable watches. Its advanced movement, Diashock system, and thoughtfully designed case make it a worthy addition to any list celebrating the most durable automatic watches. Like many of its Seiko siblings, the Sumo is a watch that may seem imposing at first but effortlessly becomes a part of you once worn.
Seiko SLA023 Marine Master
Making this list of the most durable automatic watches, certain timepieces stand out not just for their technical prowess but also for their sheer embodiment of resilience. The Seiko SLA023 Marine Master is one such watch, and here’s why it earned its rightful place on my list.
This Seiko is a recent addition and a long-time grail watch for me. I was worried that I wanted the wath so much that actually owning it would have the same level of excitement. Well, it absolutely exceeds any thoughts I had, I Love This Watch!
At the very heart of the SLA023’s durability is its monobloc case. This unique construction means the case is forged from a single piece of metal, eliminating the need for a case back. Such a design not only ensures a tighter seal but also significantly reduces points of vulnerability. This is a watch built to withstand pressure from all angles, quite literally.
The water resistance of the SLA023 is nothing short of extraordinary. While many watches boast water resistance suitable for swimming or snorkeling, the Marine Master takes it several notches higher. Its enhanced water resistance is a testament to Seiko’s commitment to creating a watch that professional divers can trust in the most challenging underwater environments. This isn’t just a watch that can handle a splash; it’s built to accompany you into the abyss.
But what truly sets the SLA023 Marine Master apart is its over-the-top build quality. Every aspect of this watch screams robustness. From its thick sapphire crystal that’s resistant to scratches and impacts, to its meticulously crafted bezel that turns with precision, every detail has been engineered with durability in mind. This is a diver’s watch in the truest sense – designed to handle the rough conditions of the deep sea, from pressure changes to potential impacts.
The Seiko SLA023 Marine Master isn’t just another diver’s watch; it’s a testament to Seiko’s legacy of crafting timepieces that push the boundaries of what’s possible. Its monobloc case, exceptional water resistance, and unparalleled build quality make it more than deserving of a spot on my list. This is a watch built not just to tell time, but to weather the storms of time.
Orient Watch Company
Orient Watch Company, established in 1950, has long held a reputation for producing high-quality, reliable timepieces that offer excellent value for money. Rooted in Japanese craftsmanship, the brand has garnered international recognition for its intricate mechanical movements, often made in-house, and distinctive designs that appeal to casual wearers and watch aficionados.
Orient’s relationship with Seiko Epson Corporation is an interesting facet of its history. In 2001, Seiko Epson became the majority stakeholder of Orient, leading to the brand’s official incorporation into the Seiko Group. This acquisition was more than just a business deal; it was a union of two Japanese watchmaking powerhouses, each with its unique strengths and specialties.
Orient Ray II
In this very spot, on this very list, I used to list the Oirent Mako XL; it was discontinued and now is very hard to find. So, taking its well-deserved place is another awesome Orient Dive Watch, the Ray II. I think I own four or five different Mako and Ray divers, and each one is just fantastic. They are also the best bang for the buck when looking around for an automatic dive watch with a little history and street cred.
The Ray II has an in-house Orient caliber that has hacking and hand winding with around 40 hours of power reserve. The lume is great; the screw-down crown is easy to use but small. It has 22mm lugs, which means you can have any type of strap from nato to a quick release, and it is ultra tough. Mine above is “wearing some quick-release silicone from Ritchie Watch Bands.
I think how Orient mounts the automatic movement inside the case has a lot to do with why it’s been such a reliable companion. I have chopped wood, banged it around, run countless hours on a weed-eater, and it still runs and keeps good time.
Living up to its reputation as a dive watch, the Ray II comes with a water resistance rating of 200 meters; this watch is built to accompany you without faltering. A dive watch’s legibility, underwater or at night, is paramount, and the Ray II doesn’t disappoint. Its hands and markers are generously coated with luminous material, ensuring that the time remains easily readable.
Its blend of durability, performance, and aesthetics makes it not just a watch, but a trusted companion for adventures.
Orient Triton/Neptune RA-AC0K02E10B
Orient has updated its catalog recently, and the Triton with the power reserve dial is harder to find and has been replaced with the Neptune RA-AC0K02E10B pictured on my wrist above. In fact they don’t even call it a Neptune anymore and have started using a number system. The no-power reserve Neptune is basically identical to the Triton I reviewed here.
Since I reviewed the Orient Triton in great detail already, I will just highlight some of the reasons this guy is such a rugged watch. The Triton is built with an oversized case that is designed to protect the movement. After owning this watch for almost three years, I can attest to its hard-use abilities. I do not baby it, and you can often find it on my watch while working around the house, throwing axes, and during other jarring movements. It has held up well, seems to keep even better time than when new, and takes all the bumps and scratches in style.
With all the recent Seiko Marine master releases, the Triton seems even more of a good deal than just a few months ago. In addition to the Triton, Orient released a non-power meter version with the same movement and with sapphire crystal. I recently grabbed one from a Amazon Deal of the Day. It’s solid and robust. If you don’t like the power meter, then pick up a Orient Neptune.
Orient Kamasu Blue Dial
You can’t go wrong with many Orient watches, but the Kamasu is a standout. It took the much-loved Mako, added sapphire, more lume, and a bit more class to make a beast! All of the colorways have a beautiful sunburst dial and look sharp. Above is mine wearing some Ritchie quick-release silicone.
As a dive watch, the Kamasu is inherently built to withstand the pressures of the deep, but its durability extends far beyond underwater realms. Having owned numerous Orient watches over the years, I’ve come to expect a certain level of quality and resilience from the brand. However, the blue dial variant of the Kamasu, which has been a part of my collection for two years, has surpassed even those high expectations.
Its striking blue dial is not just a visual treat but is also designed for optimal legibility in various lighting conditions, a crucial feature for any dive watch. But beyond its good looks, the Kamasu has proven to be exceptionally reliable. Whether it’s the precision of its automatic movement or the robustness of its construction, the watch has consistently performed, making it a trustworthy companion both underwater and on land.
The Kamasu is very similar to the Orient Mako USA II which I reviewed here.
A must-have upgrade to any of the stock Orient bracelets, the Strapcode / MilTat Super-O Bracelet
Other Orient Dive Options:
No products found.
- – Case Material: Stainless Steel
- – Case Colour: Silver
- – Crystal: Mineral crystal
Orient Defender 2
Another Orient watch I can attest to as I have owned both the first generation and the second generation as seen here in my picture. The Orient Defender 2, model RA-AK0401L10B, is the successor of the well-received first-generation model, bringing in some crucial improvements while retaining the signature charm that made its predecessor popular.
The most notable improvement in the second-generation model is the inclusion of hacking. This feature, absent in the first version, allows the second hand to stop when setting the time, ensuring greater precision. Orient’s in-house automatic movement, known for its reliability, powers this watch.
- Men’s Stainless Steel Analog
- Orient has the roots of its history in craftsmanship, reliability, precision and elegance the resist the flow of time
- The historic Japanese brand is sure of timepieces with a durable style, unbeatable quality and affordable price.
I love the Defender because of its cool field watch look. My first gen was the very good-looking gray dial which is hard to come by now. One of the major appeals of the Orient Defender series is its affordability. You get a robust automatic watch that doesn’t break the bank.
Its improvements, especially the hacking feature, show Orient’s commitment to enhancing user experience without compromising on the watch’s core strengths. For anyone looking for a hard-use watch that’s easy on the eyes and easy to read, the Orient Defender 2 is an excellent choice.
I own three Orient Defenders, both on a bracelet and nato. I don’t think you can beat them for the money if you want a field style watch!
Traska Freediver II
One of my favorite all time watches, the Freediver is a stunner. Frankly, I don’t think there is a better dive watch under $500. A sapphire crystal, ceramic bezel, beefy case design, awesome bracelet with a scratch resistant coating and a double clasp….it has everything you need for your next all day adventure.
Again, the same-old, microbrand Seiko NH35 is inside, so nothing special, but as I have repeated already, it’s a super-solid and reliable movement. For durability, I think the coating Traska uses on its bracelet really makes a difference here. I have a first generation steel bezel version that is about four years old and it looks fantastic for all the abuse it receives.
I think the Traska II is a perfect blend of good looks and ruggedness. I was looking at this watch on my wrist recently and marveling at how awesome it is. Then it struck me why it’s so great! It’s like an old Mercedes or BMW, designed with purpose and over-built. The whole watch just feels solid, even the bracelet and clasp. If you need something good looking and durable, I would try one of these.
Traska recently released the Freediver III, however it’s not the same watch and it’s really a departure from the original rather than an evolution. It’s still beautiful, but it doesn’t feel as robust as the first two generations.
Steinhart Ocean One Titanium
The Steinhart makes the list for several reasons, but most of all you can’t beat the titanium case and bracelet! I absolutely love this watch and it’s one of my top five most worn watches. I think one reason it gets so much wrist time is because the titanium doesn’t look overly flashy. The brushed gray really looks sharp, but it doesn’t scream “look at me” like many sports watches do. The other reason is that it has that traditional dive watch case similar to a Rolex Submariner. However, it’s so different and unique you can’t even call it an homage. Extra points for that!
The bracelet is excellent with easy screw link adjustments as well as five micro adjust holes on the clasp so you can really get a good fit with it. Plus, being titanium, you hardly know you’re wearing it. The bracelet also has a fold over clasp with a locking tab. It can be a little tough to lift the tab with short nails, but the bracelet feels very secure and I have never had a screw link back out.
Inside the watch is a SW300 élaboré Premium movement which runs like a charm. Again, shy on the power reserve compared to a Seiko, but if it’s your main watch or you don’t mind having to set and wind it more often, then it won’t bother you.
The sapphire has double AR coating, a beautiful ceramic bezel, and, of course, a screw-down crown and caseback which helps bring the water resistance to 500 Meters. Some say that titanium has a little more chance at picking up fine scratches, but I haven’t found this to be true with the Steinhart. It has held up very well after two years of actual wear and tear.
I actually started writing this list over three months ago and I just can never seem to finish it. Maybe that’s good because three months ago I would not have included the Swordfish on the list. In fact, when I first got the Swordfish last year I didn’t like it. I opened it and was pretty disappointed. But, I think sometimes I put too much stock in initial impressions and need to give some of these guys a chance. And that’s exactly what has happened here.
When I first got it, I wore it for a few days and then put it in my draw for several weeks. Then one day I decided to wear it and give it a second chance….and I’m glad I did! It’s almost one of my favorites. While it’s not a go-to watch for me, I really do wear it often and usually when I need to do some work.
First off, the titanium makes it so light you really forget you’re wearing it. The bracelet is excellent….once you file down the sharp edges of the logo on the clasp. But, all in all, it’s a beautiful watch and after giving it some wrist time I can absolutely recommend it.
But why is it on the most durable list? Well, the proof is in the pudding I guess. I have worn this watch while taking junk to the dump, cleaning the yard, cutting down trees, assembling furniture and while on vacation. It has seen a lot of wear, been hit hard several times, and still looks almost brand new. Titanium sometimes has a tendency to really scuff, but the finishing here is well done, it hides scratches well, and doesn’t seem susceptible to the tiny marks and dings like some others I have worn.
Inside is your standard, microbrand Seiko NH36 movement, a definite known quantity that lasts a long time. Titanium watches always make everyone’s most durable list, but that’s because most of these fools don’t wear them and just think all titanium is super strong. While titanium is strong, not all titanium watches are created equal.
The difference between a wristwatch and a durable wristwatch has to do with the details of construction, sturdiness of the case, lugs, pins, clasp, and, of course, the crystal. This is why I added the Zelos, because in the real world it has stood up well to everything. I even caught it on the lip of a shopping cart when putting a 12 pack of beer on the belt at the supermarket….a certain death for many watches, but the Zelos shrugged it off as nothing happened
When curating this list of the most durable automatic watches, I was looking for watches that could take a beating, but also, if possible, have a blend of historical significance, design prowess, and technical excellence. The Benrus Type-II Military watch, without a doubt, encapsulates all these attributes, making it an obvious choice for my list.
I recently reviewed the Benrus Orbit Robot Diver, which was awesome and has the same Soprad movement inside, so I know firsthand the rough handling the watch can take. Read the review here.
Firstly, the case design of the Type-II is a masterclass in rugged elegance. The sandblasted 316L stainless steel case is not just aesthetically pleasing with its matte finish, but it’s also incredibly resilient. This material is renowned for its resistance to corrosion, ensuring that the watch can withstand the harshest of environments.
The screw-in high-grip textured crown further accentuates its robustness, ensuring the watch’s internals remain protected even in challenging conditions. The double-domed sapphire crystal, known for its scratch resistance, adds another layer of durability, ensuring the watch face remains unblemished over time.
The specifications of the Type-II are equally impressive. Its water resistance, rated at a staggering 30ATM, is a testament to its impeccable construction. This means the watch isn’t just splash-proof; it’s built to endure depths that few timepieces can claim to withstand. The bi-directional rotating 12-hour bezel is not just a nod to its military heritage but also a functional feature that enhances its utility.
However, what truly sealed the deal for me was the heart of the watch: the Soprod P024 automatic movement. Swiss-made movements are often hailed as the pinnacle of watchmaking and for a good reason. The Soprod P024 not only promises precision but also boasts a 38-hour power reserve, ensuring that the watch remains functional even when not worn for extended periods. Its reliability is a testament to the meticulous craftsmanship that has gone into its making.
The Benrus Type-II is not just a watch; it’s a statement of durability, design, and history. Its impeccable case design, outstanding specifications, and reliable movement make it a worthy addition to my list of the most durable automatic watches.
Citizen Promaster Diver Auto
I’m adding the automatic Promaster version to the list for two main reasons. First, they used a sturdy case, similar to the quartz version. And second, the automatic movement Citizen uses here has proved to stand the test of time. It’s not a fancy movement, but it definitely can handle being tossed around and dropped.
- Featuring a Black Band, Silver-tone Case, Scratch Resistant Mineral Crystal
This watch, in particular, is a steal if you can grab one. You should be able to find them on Jomashop and Amazon for right around $200. Why is it such a steal, you ask? Well, the early versions used the non-hacking Miyota 8203 movements, but with the revamped Automatic Promaster line from Citizen, this model now ships with the Miyota 8204 that has hacking and hand winding.
If you order one and get the older movement, keep it, it’s just as rugged and reliable and will serve you well. Citizen like Orient has stupid long numbers as names, so different models are on different sites.
My “Coke” Promaster Marine, as it’s now referred to, has a Miyota 8024 movement inside really makes this an awesome watch for the money. Think of these Promasters as the old Seiko SKXs. They have everything we could want….great lume, water resistance, screw-down crown, and case-back, as well as that tool watch look and now a better movement than the 7S26.
For around $200, you are picking up a legit dive watch with dependable movement in a solid case that looks good….you couldn’t ask for more.
Other Citizen Promaster Options:
- Self-winding and powered by the natural motion of the wearer’s wrist.
- Day / Date, 3 Hand, Automatic
- Silver-Tone Stainless Steel
- Sapphire Crystal
- 200 Meters Water Resistance and 5 Year Limited Warranty
- An iconic classic is reimagined in the polished style of the new Promaster Dive Automatic men’s watch by Citizen
- Going deeper into the history of the original version of this diving watch, it was used by the Italian Navy and released in 1989 for the new generation of dive watch enthusiasts
- This technically advanced and stylish sport watch comes in an exclusive collector’s dive tank box and is ISO compliant with a screw-down crown and water resistant to 200 meters
Deep Blue Daynight T-100
It’s hard to recommend so many durable watches that all share the same movement from Seiko, but this watch has it also. The Daynight T-100 on the inside is nothing special, but the robust stainless steel case with tritium tubes for lume makes this watch stand out. Here again, the bracelet is absolute junk, so spare yourself the aggravation and buy the watch on a factory strap.
I really bought this guy because I thought it could be a poor man’s version of a Marathon TSAR. However, while it’s not exactly that, it does have the makings to be a beast. The watch is heavy, chunky, and fun to wear. At 16 mm in height you will know it’s on your wrist and it’s a good thing it can stand up to taking hits and bumps, given that it’s so tall. The dial is set deep under the sapphire crystal and it gives the watch a cool depth.
The screw-down crown is big with good purchase and has decent protection from the crown guards. The brushed case has a nice rugged look to it and the knurling on the bezel makes it easy to turn even with gloves on.
Overall it’s a basic, solid, metal diver with a Seiko movement, but what sets it apart are the tritium tubes on the dial. If you’re not familiar with titanium, it’s a gas that has a slight nuclear charge to it and the ability to glow for 25 years. So, no matter what, the dial is illuminated and has superb visibility.
For me, it proved to be a very durable automatic wristwatch, more so because of the case design than anything else I think. It’s a great choice for backcountry adventures or out on the boat.
I think this watch makes all my lists….because it’s awesome! What’s not to like about a titanium field watch with a Swiss movement and screw-down crown? Nothing, that’s what! The Bunker fills a much needed void in the watch world, that little spot between a Hamilton Khaki and watches over $1,500. There’s a no man’s land in the mid-tier. Everyone loves the Hamilton Khaki, but there are a few short falls. And if you want to stay well under $1K you don’t have a lot of options….until now.
With a nicely finished titanium case, double AR coated sapphire, lume for days, and a simple yet rugged looking dial….it’s a watch built for adventure. Plus, being titanium, you can really forget you are wearing it. I have knocked this guy around quite a bit and it looks just as good as the day I opened it. Here is another occurrence where the watch movement really improved in accuracy and power reserve after a good month of wear.
The Bunker has an SW200 inside which makes it a nice upgrade over many other field watches at this price point. My one nitpick is that it has a short lug throw (the distance from the spring bar holes to the case) so you have to choose your straps wisely or it can be a really tight fit. I love wearing the Bunker on a nato or silicone and it offers all day comfort because of the weight. SWCUSA says they are releasing a matching titanium bracelet soon and I can’t wait!
Vaer A5 Auto
I am including the automatic version of the Vaer for a few reasons, but mostly, as with the quartz, any company that clearly tells you to use their watch to go swimming, etc. is worthy of a mention.
The A5 uses a Miyota 9015, which I am not the biggest fan of, mainly because it’s loud and the power reserve is on the lower end. However, it is a durable movement. How is an automatic movement loud you ask? Depending on the construction of the watch, you can hear the rotor spinning when it moves to wind the watch. This can be very noticeable in some watches and pretty quiet in others.
When I first got the A5 it was one of the loudest of all the watches I had. After some real world use and hard testing, it has gotten much quieter. I actually was wearing it when I was doing axe testing and forgot it was on my wrist because it’s so light.
After I realized I was still wearing it I thought I may have broken it because it was noticeably quieter, but even after lots of wood chopping, axe throwing, and pickleball, it runs just as well as brand new. It actually keeps a little better time now than it did when I first strapped it on (as many automatics do). They sometimes need a little break-in period.
It has all the bases covered: stainless steel case, sapphire, screw-down crown, and caseback, and it even comes with quick-release straps. If your wrist is on the smaller side, this guy will be for you. It’s officially a 40mm diameter, but with almost no bezel, it looks a little smaller than it is.
Vaer is another Swiss made / American assembled brand, which you can pay a premium for considering some other options out there. However, all in all at $550, your money is well spent. The packaging is exceptional and you really feel like you’re buying into an entire adventure experience. I think these watches will make great gifts because of the backstory of Vaer, the packaging, and, of course, the quality.
Squale 1521 Militaire
When making a list of the most durable automatic watches, it’s impossible not to mention Squale, and in particular, the 1521 Militaire. I recently wrote a detailed review a bit it and my hunt for the ultimate vacation watch. If you want a dependable, good-looking watch with a legit pedigree, start here.
At the heart of the Squale 1521 Militaire is the SELLITA SW 200-1 elabore movement. Over time, this movement has proven its reliability to me, consistently delivering accurate timekeeping. While I do wish for a longer power reserve, its current offering is more than adequate for most adventures.
But what truly sets the Squale 1521 Militaire apart is its rugged construction. The watch’s lume is nothing short of spectacular, ensuring legibility in the darkest of environments, a feature that’s indispensable whether you’re navigating the woods on a backcountry camping trip or exploring the depths of the Grand Canyon. Speaking of adventures, this was my watch of choice for both these escapades, and it performed flawlessly.
The utilitarian look of the Squale 1521 Militaire, accentuated by its bead-blasted case, is not just about aesthetics. It’s a reflection of the watch’s purpose-driven design. This bead-blasted finish gives the watch a matte appearance and adds an extra layer of resistance against scratches and wear, making it ideal for rough terrains and challenging conditions.
In essence, the Squale 1521 Militaire is more than just a watch; it’s a testament to Squale’s commitment to crafting functional and resilient timepieces. Its excellent construction, combined with its reliable movement and utilitarian design, makes it a deserving contender on our list of the most durable automatic watches.
I will make this one easy; the Fleuss is fantastic! The picture above is the Fleuss that I bought with my own cash back in early 2018. At the time, it was the most money I had ever spent on a watch and was the nicest one I owned. I wasn’t going to add it to the list, but as I was reviewing my watches, I knew one needed some limelight. It has been a reliable and fun watch to wear.
The Fleuss has a Seiko NH35 inside, so you can expect the same performance and experience as the Seiko Turtle above, a Samauri, etc. Where Spinnaker raises the bar over some other micro brands (if you can even call them that anymore) is the specifications of the Fleuss: Sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating, beautiful glass bezel that is lumed, superb textured dial, vintage look, see-through case-back and a screw-down crown among other notable features.
I have worn the daylights out of this watch, and it still looks fantastic! I own two, the first generation above, and a blue dial on a bracelet. Mine came on a cool water-resistant leather strap, but I mostly wear it on a nato strap. The newest Fluess variations have some excellent color options. Check them out here.
Aquatico Super Charger
As I looked through my watches to pick out the most durable, I almost forgot the Super Charger. Not because it couldn’t cut it, but because I had loaned it to my son….out of sight, out of mind. This list wouldn’t be complete without it.
Crafted from a solid chunk of CuSn8 bronze and cut into a square shape, the Super Charger has a look all its own. Being bronze, it will get a few slight dings, but it is actually very scratch resistant. Also, the strength comes from the density of the bronze. It’s harder than iron and very resistant to corrosion. Not all bronze watches are created equal, though, and Aquitco went with a more pure mix.
As for durability, the Super Charger is right up there with the rest. It’s a rugged piece that is constructed very well to stand up to not just hard use, but has a 1,000M water resistance rating, definitely nothing to laugh at.
For the movement, you will find a 24 Jewel, SW200 inside. In my past experiences, the SW200 is able to really handle knocks and bumps and still keep accurate time. Combine the rugged movement with the bulky case and you have a timepiece ready for almost any adventure.
A few things put this watch over the top (besides its reasonable $499 price): the tritium tubes on the dial, the silky smooth screw-down crown, and the heavy-duty Horween leather strap. A flat piece of sapphire with plenty of anti-reflective coating sits on top of the emerald dial.
This one is as unique in looks as it is in toughness.
Are Automatic Watches Durable?
An automatic watch can be highly durable and last many years without any issues, and some can be as durable and robust as their quartz counterparts. Like almost anything, the higher quality watch and movement you buy will dictate the abuse it can handle.
We still need to remember that a mechanical watch’s movement is still a bunch of finely tuned springs and gears that have limits on the abuse it can handle.
In my opinion and actual experience, the most significant difference in durability when it comes to automatic movements vs. quartz movements is the high-velocity shocks the watch can handle, such as chopping wood, hammering, or striking.
Hard jolts of force will eventually damage an automatic watch movement or cause it not to keep accurate time. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some unbelievably tough automatic watches out there.
What Makes An Automatic Watch Durable?
The durability of an automatic watch movement takes into account many factors, each playing a crucial role in ensuring the watch’s longevity and reliable performance. Here are the key factors that contribute to the durability of an automatic watch movement:
Materials Used: The choice of materials, such as the use of corrosion-resistant alloys for the movement’s components, can significantly enhance durability. For instance, components made of materials like rhodium or brass are less prone to rust and wear.
Jewel Bearings: These are synthetic rubies or sapphires used in the movement to reduce friction between the moving parts. The reduced friction not only enhances the movement’s efficiency but also minimizes wear, thus prolonging the watch’s lifespan.
Shock Protection Systems: Systems like Incabloc or Seiko’s Diashock help protect the movement’s delicate parts, especially the balance wheel pivots, from shocks or sudden impacts, preventing potential damage.
Sealing and Casing: A well-sealed case protects the movement from external elements like dust, moisture, and dirt. Watches designed for specific activities, like diving, often have reinforced casings and gaskets to ensure water resistance.
Construction Quality: Precision in manufacturing and assembly ensures that all components fit and function perfectly. High-quality craftsmanship reduces the chances of mechanical failures.
Lubrication: Proper and high-quality lubrication ensures that the movement’s parts run smoothly without excessive friction. Over time, lubrication can degrade, so periodic servicing to replace old lubricants can maintain the movement’s durability.
Design and Complexity: Simpler movements with fewer components are generally less prone to issues compared to highly complicated ones. However, with proper maintenance, even complex movements can achieve long-lasting durability.
Anti-Magnetic Features: Some movements are designed to be resistant to magnetic fields, which can adversely affect a watch’s accuracy. Materials like silicon in the balance spring or specific anti-magnetic alloys can help shield the movement from magnetic interference.
Maintenance and Servicing: Like any precision instrument, regular servicing, and maintenance play a pivotal role in a movement’s durability. Regular check-ups can identify and rectify issues before they become significant problems.
Temperature Stability: Movements that maintain their accuracy across a range of temperatures tend to be more durable, as temperature fluctuations can cause metal components to expand or contract.
The durability of an automatic watch movement is a blend of design, materials, craftsmanship, and care. When these factors come together, they result in a timepiece that can reliably tick for generations.
If All Automatic Watches Use Similar Movements And Designs, Why Is One More Durable Than Another?
The durability of an automatic watch is influenced by more than just its movement. While many watches might use the same base movement or slight variations thereof, several factors contribute to the overall durability of one watch over another.
Here’s a breakdown of why one automatic watch might be more durable than another, even if they share similar movements:
Case Construction: The case protects the movement from external factors. Its construction, including the materials used, the quality of the seals, and the design, can significantly impact the watch’s durability. For instance, a watch with a solid stainless steel case and a screw-down crown will generally be more durable than one with a base metal case and a push-pull crown.
Crystal Material: The crystal, which covers the watch face, can be made of various materials, such as acrylic, mineral glass, or sapphire. Sapphire crystal, for example, is highly scratch-resistant, adding to the watch’s overall durability.
Modifications to the Movement: While brands might use the same base movement, they often make modifications. These can range from adding decorations to incorporating proprietary technology or materials that enhance durability or performance.
Quality Control: Brands with stringent quality control processes tend to produce watches with fewer defects or issues, leading to increased durability.
Branding and Positioning: Luxury or premium brands might invest more in higher quality materials and craftsmanship, even if they use the same base movement as a more affordable brand.
Maintenance and Service: Some brands have a more extensive network of service centers and a reputation for excellent post-purchase maintenance. Regular servicing can significantly impact the longevity and durability of a watch.
Additional Features: Features like water resistance, anti-magnetic properties, and shock resistance can enhance durability. Two watches with the same movement might differ in these features, leading to differences in robustness.
Strap or Bracelet Quality: While this doesn’t impact the movement’s durability, a high-quality strap or bracelet can extend the overall lifespan of the watch as a wearable item.
Lubrication and Sealing: Even if two watches use the same movement, differences in the quality of lubricants or the effectiveness of seals can influence durability.User Demographics and Brand Image: Some brands design watches for specific activities or professions, like diving or aviation. Watches designed for such purposes often have added features or construction elements to enhance durability in those specific conditions.
Blair Witkowski is an avid watch nut, loves pocket knives and flashlights, and when he is not trying to be a good dad to his nine kids, you will find him running or posting pics on Instagram. Besides writing articles for Tech Writer EDC he is also the founder of Lowcountry Style & Living. In addition to writing, he is focused on improving his client’s websites for his other passion, Search Engine Optimization. His wife Jennifer and he live in coastal South Carolina.