Want a timepiece on your wrist that’s as tough as the gear you carry? “Tough digital” watches are a favorite among EDCers for their shock resistance, rugged construction, and adventure-ready features that you just can't get from an analog watch. They’re also the choice of military and law enforcement officers for good reason. In this quick guide, we'll show you what qualities to look for in a digital watch and recommend 10 of favorites to get you started.
What to Look for In a Digital Watch
Digital watches (and their considerations) can be surprisingly different from their analog counterparts. In general, they push function over form, and tend to cram a ton of information into their displays compared to most traditional watches. To get the most out of your digital watch, pick one with…
- Shock and water resistance: To make sure your next watch can really stand up to some abuse, get one with shock absorbing materials like urethane in the bracelet and bezel, or even one equipped with suspended internals. For light splashes, 30M water resistance should hold up, but consider one with 200M+ if you plan on swimming with it.
- A good battery or power source: A potential drawback to going digital is the risk of a dead battery. Most watch batteries last several years at a time, but spending a bit more can get you a solar powered watch that recharges itself.
- Legibility: While digital displays can be easier to read than hands on an analog watch, sometimes all the other sensors can overwhelm the face of the watch. Pick a watch with the right balance of information and legibility. Another benefit of digital: electronic backlighting for telling time in the dark.
- Specialized features: If you have a specific use case in mind, look out extra features that would come in handy. For example, some GSHOCKs can tell altitude, atmospheric pressure, and even the temperature outside. Other watches include GPS, weather alerts, world time, and more.
Now that you know what to look for, here are ten examples of digital EDC watches worth your time.
Timex Expedition Shock XL
This easy-to-read watch features rugged construction at an affordable price. The resin case is shock-resistant and the band features a sturdy buckle closure. There’s a night light and unique vibration alarm should you not want to wake anyone else up or to keep a low profile.
Casio G-Shock DW9052-1V
The DW9052 is an entry-level G-SHOCK that has all the core features of the brand. You get extreme shock- and water-resistance, along with a backlight and several timers and alarms. This model is popular amongst military and law enforcement personnel.
Casio G-Shock Rangeman
Taking things up a notch is the Rangeman by G-SHOCK. It’s part of their “Master of G” series that includes several high-tech and rugged features. In addition to the shock resistance, this watch features 6-band atomic time keeping, solar charging, and a triple sensor (temperature, barometer, and compass).
Suunto is the preferred watch of many outdoors people, and for good reason. This feature-heavy watch has a depth meter for snorkeling, an altimeter, barometer, thermometer, and an impressively rugged construction. This watch will even alert you when the sun rises and sets, or if there’s a storm coming.
Garmin Forerunner 230
If you’re looking for something to help keep you in shape, consider the Garmin Forerunner 230. It tracks activity, runs, calories burned, and heart rate with a built-in monitor. There is a newer version of this watch called the Forerunner 235, but this model has better reviews and it’ll cost you a lot less.
Casio W-S220-1BVCF Tough Solar
The Casio W-S220-1BVCF Tough Solar is a blacked-out watch that recharges itself with the power of the sun. You can track your lap times, start countdowns, and keep track of time elapsed. Although its features are basic, not having to worry about a dead battery helps make up for it.
Casio Pathfinder Titanium
Casio’s Pathfinder in titanium is one of the most feature-packed watches on the list. You get the standard timekeeping functions in addition to the altimeter, barometer, thermometer. The durable titanium case and bracelet combined with the affordable price tag make the Pathfinder an excellent choice.
Casio G-Shock GW6900-1
Somewhere in the middle of the G-SHOCK line is the GW6900-1. On top of some of the best shock-resistance in the industry, this model features atomic timekeeping and solar recharging. It’s competitively priced too, coming in well under a hundred bucks.
Apple Watch Series 2
The Apple Watch isn’t the most rugged on the list, but the Series 2 features several improvements over the original, namely water resistance. There’s also a built in GPS and heart rate monitor for activity tracking. Updates to the software and battery have come a long way too, making this one of the best smartwatches currently available.
For more rugged watches, check out these buying guides:
Do you EDC a digital watch? What features on your watch made you go digital over analog? Leave a comment and tell us why.