The Apple Watch is a fantastic piece of tech, much more than just a health and fitness tracker. However, it's pretty easy to scratch it up or break it, and repairs are costly. You may not need a case for daily activities or a desk job, or you may be able to make do with a less rugged Apple Watch case. But we certainly recommend using a heavy-duty rugged case for your outdoor adventures or a worksite if your Apple Watch is at risk of damage. Here are some of the best heavy-duty rugged cases you can buy for your Apple Watch. Before you hit that "buy" button, be sure you are getting the correct model and size Apple Watch case.
Apple Watch Series 4, Series 5, Series 6, & SE
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Band plus case
This is the case for edge protection. More than just a case, this offering from Spigen is both a rugged case and a band. While the screen itself is not covered, a raised lip around the edge gives your screen some protection. Choose from the Military Green shown here, Charcoal Gray, or Black.
For all-over protection, go for SPIDERCASE. This is a band and case in one. The band has holes so it won't get uncomfortable when it's wet or you're sweating. It does have a screen protector to keep your display looking shiny and new. It only comes in the 44mm size.
Comfortable and total protection
The Catalyst Waterproof Case is both ultra-protective and comfortable. It's a rugged band and case in one. The band is connected with hinges instead of a one-piece mold for more flexibility. Though it makes the overall look of your Apple Watch slightly larger, it's not cumbersome. It comes in both 40mm and 44mm sizes.
Bumper and band
This is a raised-bezel bumper case and band in one but does not have a screen protector. Just pop your Apple Watch in from the back. It's made from hard polycarbonate on the outside and soft TPU on the inside, so it protects your Apple Watch inside and out. It comes in 40mm and 44mm sizes and lots of colors.
From trusted protection brand OtterBox comes the EXO EDGE Case. Just thread your band of choice through this heavy-duty bumper. The raised bezel offers the screen some protection, but be aware that it is not covered up. EXO EDGE comes in both sizes and lots of colors.
Tempered glass isn't unbreakable, of course, but it does give you an extra layer of protection for your Apple Watch screen without taking anything away from the touch experience. You get two Misxi cases in a package; choose from Black or Transparent. This one only comes in the 44mm size.
The soft TPU case covers the sides and front of your Apple Watch. You actually five in the package, in five different colors to change up the look of your Apple Watch: Gold, Pink, Silver, Black, and Clear. Choose any size Apple Watch.
Apple Watch Series 1, Series 2 & Series 3
Case plus band
Spigen makes good cases at low prices for just about everything, and the Apple Watch is no exception. This case and band in one is protective without breaking the bank. The bumper has a raised bezel for some screen protection, but the screen is not covered up.
Just the bumper, ma'am. No band, no screen protector, just a protective bumper with a raised bezel. The price is quite reasonable and it's easy to install and easy to wear. It comes in every Apple Watch size.
For water sports
The Catalyst Waterproof Case gives you that extra water protection you'll need if you scuba dive, for example. The built-in band connects with hinges instead of a one-piece mold. Though it looks bulky, it's still quite comfortable. It comes in both 38mm and 42mm sizes.
OtterBox is the first name that comes to mind when many people think of protection. The EXO EDGE bumper is thick and has a raised bezel for some protection, but the screen itself is not covered up. Thread your band of choice through the EXO EDGE case. It comes in both Apple Watch sizes and a few colors.
Protect the screen
If your aim is to protect the screen, this soft TPU case is for you. It covers the sides and the screen as well. You actually get five cases so you can change up your Apple Watch look: Gold, Silver, Black, Pink, and Clear. Be sure to choose the correct size because every model is available in this listing.
Which should you choose?
I'm a fan of Spigen's offerings, whether you have a later model Apple Watch or an earlier one. Spigen cases are reasonably priced and yet they offer protective, rugged Apple Watch cases. This case is a band, too.
However, if you're going to be underwater, I'd go for the Catalyst Waterproof Case. Although the Apple Watch itself has some water resistance, particularly the newer models, it's not 100% waterproof. While you can swim laps in a newer Apple Watch, if you're going scuba diving, I'd definitely keep the Apple Watch in this case.
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Karen is a contributor to iMore.com as a writer and co-host of the iMore Show. She’s been writing about Apple since 2010 with a year-long break to work at an Apple Store as a product specialist. She's also a contributor at TechRadar and Tom's Guide. Before joining iMore in 2018, Karen wrote for Macworld, CNET, AppAdvice, and WatchAware. She’s an early adopter who used to wait in long lines on release days before pre-ordering made things much easier. Karen is also a part-time teacher and occasional movie extra. She loves to spend time with her family, travel the world, and is always looking for portable tech and accessories so she can work from anywhere.