Looking for a quartz wristwatch that cab handle the rough stuff? Check out our real world list from personal experiences!
It’s a more common internet question than you would think: “what are the most durable wrist watches?” I guess there are a lot of folks out there with broken watches in their kitchen drawer…because that’s where mine go. I have torn through many watches over the years and I am always looking for the most rugged and dependable wrist watches around.
I have worked in an auto repair shop, a furniture shop, a landscape nursery, installed home theater equipment, and I am an avid DIY guy, so I can tell you first hand what will make a durable watch and which watches will survive a regular day on the job.
This is the first article in a two part list of The Most Durable Watches, here I am covering my top choices for quartz. You can read the second part, my list of The Most Durable Automatic Watches here.
What Makes A Watch Durable?
Let’s start out by looking at a few key points that make a watch durable. In my opinion, the weakest point of any wrist watch is the strap and band. For the most part, this is where all my watches have failed me. I either catch the watch on something and have it literally ripped off my wrist or the rubber strap just weakens over time and falls apart.
I have even had stainless steel bracelets fail, in the same spots as a fabric or rubber strap, right at the spring bars. Recently I was hammering in a nail and my Orient Mako XL flew off because the spring bar failed.
Besides the strap and band being a weak spot, watches break for a few other reasons, either they are vibrated to death at the end of an impact gun, sander, or jack hammer, or you just smash it into something while working.
Now, there is not much you can do about banging or hitting your watch, but if you have a high intensity job in construction or demolition, you may want to consider removing your watch all together or staying with a quartz watch. An automatic watch will not be able to handle repeated high impacts and constant vibration or strong power tools. This is the main reason that many of the really hard use watches on my list are going to be quartz. I will talk about a few rugged automatic watches and what I think they can handle.
Now that we know a few of the most failure prone parts of a watch, we can pick watches that have addressed these concerns or are purpose built to handle high levels of abuse. This list is made up of my personal choices of the most rugged wrist watches around. Each watch on the list I own, or have owned at some point, or have owned an earlier version. I can attest to the reliability and durability of the brands and the quality of construction.
Before we jump into my picks, I want to reiterate that this list is about the watches I have personal experience with. There are a ton of durable watches out there, but not all durable watches are rugged and can take abuse. Just Google “rugged watch” and 90% of every website is just regurgitating the same batch of watches. Many are good, but I can tell you most are not ready for the hard life ahead.
The watches I picked have survived drops on tile floors, smashed in door jams while moving furniture, brushed off a wrestling match with my boys, and, of course, spent a lot of time drilling pocket holes and sanding endless feet of wood. The following rugged watches will not leave you high and dry!
The Watches That Made The Cut, Our Picks For The Most Durable Quartz Watches
Citizen Promaster Quartz
Vaer C5 Quartz
Timex Ironman Shock
Casio G-Shock DW5600E
Casio Steel G-Shock
Lorus Sports Titanium
Wenger Sport Steel
Luminox Evo Navy Seal
Seiko Solar SNE329
Seiko Solar Tuna
In my experience, these Bertucci watches are some of the best built and most durable watches out there. They often are mentioned on my “top” lists as well as those of other watch enthusiasts. The biggest reason the Bertucci A2-T is so rugged is because it has fixed spring bars. Bertucci just out right eliminated the weakest point of any watch and engineered fixed bars into the design of the watch case. I have three Bertucci watches and I love them all. It is the first watch I grab when I go hiking or camping. Since I have had watches fly right off my wrist while chopping firewood or swinging a baseball bat, I want to know I am wearing something that can keep up with me.
The Bertucci line has budget options around the $60 price all the way up to amazing titanium watches over $200. Most of the models use a metal quartz movement, have a screw down crown and caseback and have mineral or sapphire glass options for the crystal. From top to bottom they are rugged watches. They also all come on a heavy-duty nylon nato strap or a high-quality Horween leather one.
Other Bertucci Options:
I recently picked up the A-11T with a new dial layout that I really love, see it here:
No list of rugged watches would be complete if you didn’t highlight the INOX. A torture-tested quartz beast from Victorinox, the INOX is put through 130 durability tests. I’ve watched many of the testing videos on Youtube, and after owning my INOX for over two years I can agree, it’s probably one of the toughest watches on the planet. The Victorinox makes a built-to-last monster with its massive steel case. You know when this watch is on your wrist. Even though it’s weighty, I don’t think it is so much to the point that it sacrifices comfort. I have never felt like I wanted to take it off because it was too heavy.
The weak part of the watch is its lume, or lack thereof. Other than that, I have no fault with such a rugged timepiece. If you like steel bracelets and want a rugged watch, the INOX has an amazing bracelet. Besides heavy-duty, solid end links, the clasp (with integrated buckle) has a special fold-over that hooks onto itself to make it ultra secure. It takes a little time to get used to, but once you master this quirk it’s easy street.
Other Victorinox Options:
Szanto Icon Shane Dorian
If you need something that can dive to the depths of the sea, handle being banged around, and look good doing it, the Shane Dorian Icon from Szanto is the ticket. I reviewed this watch in-depth here if you want all the facts. The Icon is a rugged watch built to withstand hard use. A solid stainless steel case houses a tough quartz movement from Miyota is topped off by a lume-rich dial and a firm rotating bezel.
What I really love about the Icon is the proportions; the watch wears just right on your wrist thanks to slightly shorter lug-to-lug of 46mm. Even though the watch is stout and solidly built, it doesn’t ever feel like a paper weight on the wrist. It has a nice presence and you know it’s there, but you never feel like you want to take it off. I’ve said it in my review, this has to be one of the best quartz divers out there. You can also choose a slightly different dial and color scheme if you look at Szanto’s sister line of Hawaiian Lifeguard Association watches (pictured above), similar to the Icon, but with slightly different aesthetics. I have a HLA diver too and it is on my wrist quite a bit.
Citizen Promaster Quartz Diver
I have mentioned the Promaster Diver before and it’s kind of a gateway drug into watch collecting. It’s a real dive watch with looks, feel, and water resistance…and it’s also relatively inexpensive. The case design here is what makes it such a beast that can be roughed up. It has crown guards and the crystal sits just below the bezel making it less likely to get smashed.
The stainless steel case is no nonsense and finished with great brushing and a few polished parts on the bezel knurling. Overall the look is rugged. Where the durability comes in is in the solar quartz movement. The mostly metal quartz guts are able to handle drops and shocks better than most of these solar divers. When you flip over the watch, you can see that the case is thicker and makes the movement inside ride deep in the case.
This watch is great to give as a gift or if you need a nice looking beater to get the job done.
For an upgrade, consider the Citizen Promaster Titanium. I have one and it’s a beast. You can read more about it on our Best Solar Dive Watch list.
Of course with a name like Tough, you would expect the Citizen Promaster Tough to be able to handle the hard stuff. The Citizen has a monocoque case and a hardy quartz movement. One reason I really like the Citizen Tough is because it is one of the few watches in the price range that has anti-magnetism, something you usually only see on high-end watches. You may wonder why this is a big deal or important. Well, if your watch becomes magnetized it will no longer keep accurate time. By magnetized, I’m not just talking about getting the watch near a magnet, but near any electronic device that gives off magnetic rays. This is more common than you think.
The other cool feature is the “Super Titanium” coating. I don’t know exactly what they mean by this, or if it’s actually covered in some kind of titanium, but whatever they do, the stainless steel case has a protective coating that adds another layer of scratch resistance and protection from corrosion. The back of the case also lists that the watch is “shock resistant.” Now, usually, this means the watch can sustain a hard drop from 20-30 meters. Again, Citizen doesn’t list the exact specs, but when the watch is in your hand it feels like you could chuck it off a mountain and it might still be fine.
One note here, the bracelet is absolute garbage. Like many cheaper Citizens, the bracelet can be hit or miss….this one is horrible. It uses pins and collars and is an absolute nightmare….and I know how to size a bracelet. I believe the issue is that the pins are really a tad too big for the collars, therefore they don’t come out easily and are a bear to get back in. It’s a shame because otherwise, the bracelet is passable in look and feel.
I have owned this for several years and can tell you it’s one of the most underrated quartz divers out there. I went through a phase where I insisted my watch have a light. In fact, early on I didn’t realize that not all watches had a light! After all, I only bought Timex and Casio watches….who knew?
This Casio is solid and looks decent too. I like the big, legible dial while still having a diver look to it. You’ll notice from my pics that I used a Dremel and did my own brushing of the case; I felt it was a little too shiny out of the box and I wanted a bit more of a rugged look.
The Casio uses their “in-house” quartz movement, whatever that means, but I can tell you that this watch has survived long camping trips where I was constantly gathering and chopping wood. The bracelet is just OK, but everything else is excellent. The icing on the cake is that the watch does have a backlit display that is operated with a secondary button at the two o’clock position. What is so cool about that, you ask? Well, it adds to the watch’s reliability by not making the crown do double duty to activate the light, thus keeping the crown from having to be pushed too far into the case. All of this goes to ensuring that the watch will have better water resistance than some competitors, which is coming in at 100 meters.
Vaer C5 Quartz
I have to hand it to Vaer, they really put their money behind their watches. I was amazed by my Vaer when it arrived. Not only was it fantastically packaged, the company sent lots of glossy material touting the specs and abilities of the watch. Right there, in your face, they flat out said that the watch was ready for action. They told you to take it backpacking, go surfing, go snorkeling, just live life. Why am I so impressed with that? Because so many manufacturers act like they are selling you some kind of military watch, but if you read the instruction manual, they tell you don’t hit golf balls with their watch on….ala Hamilton Khaki.
The C5 has a screw down crown, which really is a unique feature both at this price point and on a quartz watch. Many brands just don’t see the need for a screw down crown. In addition to lots of nice details, these watches are assembled right here in the USA.
The C5 comes with a Swiss Quartz movement, sapphire crystal, and (a really nice touch) two quick-release straps! The C5 is the real deal.
Timex Ironman Shock
There is a reason that “takes a licking, keeps on ticking” was Timex’s motto for so many years! When buying a Timex, it’s a known quantity. You know you’re getting a solid, well-built, and inexpensive watch. I have had countless Timex watches through the years and the only thing that ever failed was the straps when they got on in age. The rubber just breaks down and crumbles, but that takes awhile to get to that point.
The Timex Ironman is as robust and reliable as they come. Indiglo, water resistance, tons of features….it all adds up to a watch that will see you through many adventures and endurance events. I specifically like the ironman shock because the watch has a screwdown caseback. To me, this is an important feature not just for water resistance, but durability as well. Watches that have snap-on casebacks have a tendency to pop off when dropped and, for most people, they can be very difficult to get back on. (For this reason alone I am leaving the Timex Scout off the list.)
The Ironman Shock is a direct competitor to the ubiquitous Casio Square G-Shock. If you are a runner or need a higher level of stopwatch functions, the ironman wins out over the Casio. Neither of them will be a bad purchase.
Make Sure To Read Our Picks For The Most Durable Timex Watches Here
Casio G-Shock DW5600E
The classic G-Shock in all its glory! The square body G-Shock, as it is commonly referred to, is as simple and tough as it gets. It also will make you want to splurge down the road for a more fully-functioned G-Shock.With all your bases covered, the G-Shock will see you through a tour of duty, full hike of the Appalachian trail, or any weekend warrior challenge you can throw at it.
Consistently under $45, you really get a lot of watch for a few bucks. I think this is one of those watches that everyone needs to own for a bit. Some people love it, some hate it, but it’s always a reliable choice. One thing the Casio quartz watches do well is take some hard abuse. If you are operating highly vibrating equipment or swinging impact tools all day, the square G-Shock won’t blink an eye.
I am only going to briefly mention this watch because I include it on almost any list….it’s just that good. The insane thing is that it’s only $35! I’ve had one for over seven years and it saw me through my time of working at a German Auto Repair shop, a few years of building custom furniture, and a lot of adventures hiking and playing paintball.
At $35 it’s almost a disposable watch, but it sure doesn’t act like it. If you need a no nonsense analog watch that will survive the apocalypse, this should be your first choice. Even with all my watches, if I am going to do some harder work around the house or a difficult project, this is the watch I reach for the most.
This is one watch that I have owned a few times and then sold it or gave it as a gift to a friend. If you do a lot of night adventures or find yourself in a lot of dark situations, then this is the watch you want on your wrist. The watch has tritium tubes (gas-filled) with a minute amount of radioactive isotopes that basically glow for 25 years. So, no matter the time of day or whether it’s light or dark, the markings on the dial always have a slight glow to them. I absolutely love tritium tubes on a watch!
What sets this watch apart from almost any on the list is that it was designed to meet the MIL-PRF-46374G standards as an approved US Government watch. This watch meets all the qualifications required to be issued to our Armed Service Members, notably those that parachute. The official name for the case is Fibershell, but it seems like reglar, durable, polymer construction. Because it does have a polymer case, it’s extremely lightweight and, of course, durable. A super scratch-resistant sapphire crystal tops it all off.
Casio Steel G-Shock
Can’t have a rugged watch list without a G-Shock….or two. Not much has to be said here, only that this version has a nice metal bracelet that gives the watch an entirely different look. It’s a known fact how amazingingly tough these watches are, and all that praise is pretty much well deserved.
This version has Mobile Link, which connects your watch to your smart phone four times a day to set the watch to the exact time. The reliable Casio quartz movement already boasts +/-10 second a day accuracy, but this just takes it up a notch.
I love that this one is from their Tough Solar line and will take a charge from sunlight or even a lamp. It also has Casio’s Super Illuminator dial with a double row of LED around the outer edge of the dial to really light it up with a press of a button. Among the glut of features, the watch can track multiple time zones, has a stopwatch, and tracks day and dates.
For a different look, check out the classis G-Shock in steel: Casio G-Shock GMW-B5000D-1
Lorus Sports Titanium
Here’s a bare-bones, hard-use quartz watch for you. Most people don’t know, but Lorus falls under the Seiko line of brands so, in essence, you are getting a quality Seiko quartz movement in a different looking style. The Lorus Sports Titanium has that original field watch look in a durable package. You are hard pressed to find a high-quality titanium watch at this price point. It’s certainly where the economies of scale come into play.
What I love about this Lorus is the white dial! It gives it a great vintage vibe on the wrist and it comes on a decent strap. I swap straps all the time so I am not one who really pays attention to the factory strap. In almost all the cases, manufactures skimp on the strap as an after-thought. This is fine with me, I would rather a better watch for the same price than a fancy strap. However, points will always be given when a watchmaker goes above and beyond and includes a good strap or an extra one!
You can see the stainless steel Lorus Field Watch here
Wenger Sport Steel
This is like a secret watch and you never know how much you are going to pay for it. Coming from the “other” Swiss army company, the Wenger Sport can be an absolute steal, and you can snag them for around $50 sometimes. It’s everything you could want in a rugged, quartz field watch and then some.
With a stainless steel case, sapphire crystal, and real leather band, Wenger has set the stage for something durable as well as functional. I love the watch because you get a Swiss quartz movement for just a few bucks. It’s also dressy enough to wear to work or a date night. Think of this like a Honda Accord, great value with just enough pizazz.
There are three models very similar to this Wenger, mine from the pic is here: Wenger Field Watch
Luminox Evo Navy Seal
Long before I strapped on my first Luminox, this tough-as-nails tactical diver was making waves. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it gets the job done with room to spare. The solid, poly-carbon reinforced case is built to take abuse and not show any signs of wear. This model also has the ever glowing tritium tubes so the dial markers are visible after hours, in a movie theater, or 200 meters under the surface.
If I am doing any night time adventures, I reach for a Timex because of the Indiglo or something with tritium tubes. The Evo Navy Seal is a slightly cheaper version from Luminox than some of their other Navy Seal watches, but I don’t feel the watch gives up anything. The strap is thick and it also has robust spring bars to help keep the watch on the wrist. There is a little novelty with the name, Navy Seal, but overall it’s a solid watch that will get the job done. I prefer this kind of poly/plastic watch over some of the G-Shocks.
Seiko Solar SNE329
You could pick several Seiko watches to be on this list, but the SNE329 has proven itself to be an absolute beast, and at under $100 it’s also a deal. This guy comes in three color variations and all are solar powered. Seiko solar cells don’t seem to hold a charge as long as Citizen, but you still get 4-5 months of the watch sitting in a dark drawer and keeping the exact time and day.
The SNE329 is a basic, no-frills, solid, reliable, time-telling machine. I like that the dial has a military or field watch vibe to it and is very legible. You get Seiko’s awesome lume on the dial and 100 meters of water resistance. The watch comes on a very rugged, nylon, two-piece strap and the spring bars are a little more heavy-duty than average.
If you are checking out the specs online, so many sites have the wrong product sizes. This guy has 22 mm lugs, a 42 mm case and is about 12 mm in height. If you see some listing stating it has 25 mm lugs, don’t worry, they don’t know how to use a ruler. This watch also makes a great gift!
View The Seiko Solar In Black: Seiko SNE475P
See a solid alternative from Citizen here: Citizen Garrison Eco-Drive Quartz
Seiko Solar Tuna
Since we are talking about Seiko, let’s talk about one of the most rugged and reliable solar watches from Seiko, the Prospex SNE498. In direct competition for the spot on my wrist with the Bertucci, the Solar Tuna is one of the watches I grab the most. It has Seiko’s upgraded quartz V157 movement, a shrouded case, and lume for days.
Over the last few years, Seiko has released this watch in a few color combinations as well as a modernized “street style” model. All of them are superior watches to anything in the price range and your money really goes far. I have mentioned this watch before and it’s a staple on most of my hiking and camping trips. I think the only reason it sometimes beats out my Betucci is because of the lume; it will last most of the night on a good charge in sunlight or a lamp.
Besides the Timex Rugged, if I need a beast of a watch, this is the one I grab. One trait I really love is how the lugs are almost inboard of the bezel. If you are familiar with any of the Tuna watches, you will know what I mean. This makes the watch seem much smaller in size and allows even folks with a smaller wrist to wear it without feeling like they have a giant saucer on their hand.
Other Seiko Options To Check Out:
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.