Your Apple Watch isn't as rugged as it should be.
Your Apple Watch isn't as rugged as it should be. (Photo: Michael Frank)

The 4 Best Rugged Cases for the Apple Watch

Everything from basic bump protection to bomber cases designed to keep your Watch safe from rocks, dirt, and water

Michael Frank

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Your Apple Watch isn’t as rugged as it should be. It’ll resist sweat, rain, hand washing, a post-workout shower, and, according to the company, a submersion of up to 3.3 feet for 30 minutes. But you can’t wear it in the pool while swimming laps. And though the metal case can take a beating, we’ve found the raised edge of the display to be scratch-prone, especially if you like to play outside on bikes. To add a little extra protection, we tested four Watch cases: two that snap on and two that require you to swap out the stock Apple band. Below are the results. 

Griffin Survivor Tactical Case ($30)

(Michael Frank)

What We Like: The polycarbonate shell doesn’t add much bulk and snaps right on for better scratch and drop protection. The protective screen (which doesn't require a new watch band) doesn’t interfere with the touch interface, although you need to tap a bit harder. 

What We Don’t: The look and feel is a bit too plasticy, and there’s no extra water protection. You can still access the watch’s digital crown under the case, but it’s harder to reach.

Best For: Adding damage (but not water) protection during outdoor activities like mountain biking and bouldering. Plus, it’s easy to put on and take off. 

X-Doria Defense Edge ($30) 

(Michael Frank)

What We Like: The X-Doria is even sleeker than the Griffin, so much so that it’s barely noticeable on the Watch (it doesn't require a new band, either). The machined aluminum outer is burly and protected the body against serious knocks. 

What We Don’t: The X-Doria wraps around just the sides of the Watch, not the top, so your screen is still vulnerable. It was great for gym workouts but not heavy-duty enough for activities like bouldering, and it adds no water protection.

Best For: Leaving it on your Watch 24/7 for stealth protection. 

Lunatik Epik ($140)*

(Michael Frank)

What We Like: This case offered the most scratch protection. The aluminum case wraps around the watch—protecting the top, bottom, and sides—and closes shut with two threaded rods, so it won’t fall off even if you take a real banger on your bike. An oversized knob fits over the digital crown, providing enough purchase even if you’re wearing gloves, yet it didn’t feel overly bulky.

What We Don’t: The protective case isn’t waterproof and showed scratches early on, you have to use one of their two bands (neither of which is any better than what you get with the Apple Watch), and it’s also by far the most expensive option on this list. 

Best For: People who are very hard on their gear. 

Catalyst Apple Watch Case ($60) 

(Michael Frank)

What We Like: Catalyst claims this case is waterproof to 164 feet. While we didn’t test it that deep, the case kept out every drop in the pool. The chunky silicone strap is comfortable and will protect against most drops and knocks. 

What We Don’t: This case feels like a good prototype: very solid but with room for improvement. Catalyst doesn’t recommend it for use in hot tubs or during “high-velocity” water activities, like jet skiing. It was also hard to get on the Watch, and once the case was on, the band, which you need to use, had a tendency to pop off when we took a hard hit. 

Best For: Swimmers who want to use their Watch in the pool.

*The price has been updated

Lead Photo: Michael Frank

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