The watch world likes the word “rugged”. It conjures up action, adventure and perhaps maybe a hint of danger, even derring-do. What’s more, when talking about quality timepieces, as opposed to, say, sportswear, rugged rarely equates to mid-price or low-end – quite the opposite, in fact.
The technological developments and innovations required to make a mechanical watch utterly reliable when you are spelunking this or coasteering that, plunging it into whatever body of water or negotiating rigging in some sort of regatta are myriad and require considerable skill from the manufacturer.
So, whether this sort of insane activity describes your current lifestyle or you simply want a watch that you won’t have to worry about whatever you get up to, you’d better choose a good one. Here we have picked the most impressive options from the 2019 collections, ideal for spelunking or, much more likely, a quick dip in the Med. And if you can’t find what you’re looking for here, check out our guide to the best watches.
Rolex Yacht-Master 42mm
Don’t let the refined styling fool you, the Yacht-Master can perform perfectly well as an action watch with its resistance to shocks and magnetic fields, and waterproofing to 100 metres. However, now existing in a 42mm size for the first time, with a ceramic bezel and exclusively in 18-carat white gold, this piece will also serve at more refined events.
Inside is Rolex’s new 3235 self-winding movement which incorporates its Chronergy nickel-phosphorous escapement and 14 patented technologies, including a 70-hour power reserve. The new 18-carat gold Oysterlock slide safety clasp is a welcome addition, while the Oysterflex bracelet itself, with its rubber-like “high performance elastomer” strap encasing a flexible titanium and nickel alloy metal blade, makes the strap considerably more durable than other rubber iterations. £21,400, rolex.com
Seamaster Planet Ocean 600m Chronograph
Omega’s Seamaster Planet Ocean dive watches have always looked ready for action, but this new chronograph model takes the aesthetic to a new level. The grey dial is made from ceramised titanium, with rhodium-plated markers and indexes, while that striking bezel is emblazoned with a vibrant orange ceramic (on which Omega has a patent pending), in-filled with liquid ceramic numerals and Super-LumiNova markings.
In a nice detail, that orange ceramic is also used on the rings of the pushers. Inside, you will find the anti‑magnetic Co-Axial Master Chronometer Calibre 9900 with a power reserve of 60 hours. Water resistance is rated to 600 metres, which is more than you will ever wish to venture, while the domed scratch‑resistant sapphire crystal has been treated with an anti‑reflective treatment on both sides for greater legibility underwater.
Finally, the five-stripe orange, grey and white polyamide NATO strap sets off the 45.5mm piece handsomely – but if you don’t like this particular combination, there are some 14 variations from which to choose. £6,120, omegawatches.com
Tudor Black Bay P01
You don’t get much more rugged than a watch made for the armed forces. Tudor’s Black Bay P01 is in fact based on a prototype diving watch commissioned by and built for the US Navy back in 1967. Originally codenamed “Commando”, only five were ever made. What sets it apart is the four o’clock crown, repositioned in the initial design so it wouldn’t be knocked during active duty, resulting in that eye-catching asymmetrical case shape.
A claw-like clasp that locked the watch for diving was another feature on the original, however this has been much refined, while the hybrid rubber and leather strap serves the wearer well both in and out of the water. The 42mm steel body P01 has waterproofing to 200m, 12-hour bezel and power reserve of 70 hours. £2,830, tudorwatch.com
Victorinox I.N.O.X. Carbon Limited Edition
Wired has been as fan of the ultra-rugged INOX range for some time. After all, this is a watch that a watch that has survived being repeatedly run over by a tank, alongside 129 other extreme tests of fortitude.
It can operate 200m underwater, survive a ten-metre drop on to concrete, and function in temperatures ranging from -57°C up to 71°C. This version takes its colour cues from firefighting’s yellow and red livery. As well as including a Swiss Army Knife strap tool, interchangeable black watch strap (made from firefighter boot leather) and a black protective bumper in the pack, the star of the accessories has to be the handwoven paracord strap in reflective yellow.
Paracord has a load-bearing ability of up to 250kg. It is famed for its extensive range of survival applications, including (but not limited to) rigging animal snares and shelters, lashing rafts and tourniquets. When further unwound, the thin nylon strands make excellent fishing line, sewing thread and even dental floss. The remarkable material was even used to perform in-space repairs to the Hubble telescope in 1997. £799, victorinox.com
Luminox Navy SEAL 3600 Series 3617
For years, Luminox has been supplying to the American Navy Sea, Air and Land (SEAL) teams, developing watches built to withstand the rigours of military action. The 3600 Series is the latest collection of SEAL timepieces with a new vertical arrangement of Luminox’s proprietary light technology. This technology consists of self-powered micro borosilicate glass gas tubes calculated to glow for up to 25 years and require no external light source to “charge” paint on the dial or hands in order to glow (as is the case with conventional luminous watches).
The result is a different look, opening up the dial while still guaranteeing superlative night visibility. The 3600 series features cases made of Carbonox, a carbon-based material that is light, hypoallergenic and durable – exposed carbon fibres on the surface of the case also give the watch a striking visual texture. Water-resistant to 200 metres, thanks to a stainless-steel screw down crown and case back, the 3600 Series comes in three variations – black with yellow accents, olive green with red accents and blue with orange accents – and all with rubber or NATO straps. The 3617 here also comes as a set with an additional rubber strap with a Carbonox buckle and strap changing tool. £520, luminox.com
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