Element Case Special Ops Watch Band and Case for Apple Watch review: Rugged protection that maybe goes a bit too far

Elment Case Special Ops Front Left Side
(Image: © Luke Filipowicz / iMore)

iMore Verdict

Bottom line: If you want to protect your Apple Watch from damage, the Element Case Special Ops watch band and case are a great option, but its bulkiness may get in the way if you plan on wearing it around everywhere.


  • +

    Offers great protection for your Apple Watch

  • +

    Surprisingly lightweight

  • +

    Front bezel prevents the Apple Watch screen from touching surfaces


  • -

    A little expensive

  • -

    A bit too bulky to wear everywhere

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Apple Watch is designed for tracking your activity while you exercise at the gym, but it's also supposed to be able to follow you wherever you go. Whether you're hiking your favorite trails, climbing your favorite mountains, or even intensely training for your next triathlon, your Apple Watch should be strapped to your wrist and along for the ride. But what happens if you're out adventuring and put your Apple Watch through too much abuse?

Exercising — especially when doing some more extreme sports — can be dangerous to your favorite Apple Watch, and that's where the Element Special Ops Case comes in. It's a rugged watch band with an attached case that is meant to keep your Apple Watch safe from harm. I've been using it with my Apple Watch Series 7 for several weeks now, and while I do like how protective it is, there are a few downsides you should know if you're looking into it.

Element Case Special Ops Watch Band and Case: Price and availability

Element Case Special Ops Strap Close Up (Image credit: Luke Filipowicz / iMore)

The Element Case Special Ops Watch Band and Case will cost you about $50, and it's currently available on Amazon and directly from Element Case. It's available in two colorways: black-red and black-olive. Plus, you can get it for the 41mm or 45mm Apple Watch Series 7.

Element Case Special Ops Watch Band and Case: What you'll like

Elment Case Special Ops Screen Protector Band (Image credit: Luke Filipowicz / iMore)

If you are worried about your Apple Watch getting scratched, scuffed, or damaged while you work out or enjoy your favorite sports, the Element Case Special Ops Watch Band and Case really does offer great protection.

I may not practice any extreme sports myself, but during my time with it, I have fallen down while running on pavement, hit my Apple Watch numerous times on walls and doorways, and even dropped it a few times from my kitchen counters. None of my mishaps resulted in any damage to my Apple Watch or the Element Case itself. I'm fairly confident that if I did go rock climbing with it, I'm sure it would be able to hold up.

What fascinates me the most about the Element Case Special Ops, is the fact that you never have to have your Apple Watch screen touch any surface. The case itself has bezels around the edges that protrude past the screen, meaning when you do accidentally lay the Apple Watch screen side down, it's still protected. Plus, the screen protector strap is an interesting, albeit a little clunky-looking, a solution that is built right into the strap of the Element Case Special Ops. This tiny little rubber strap pulls over the screen to offer an extra barrier. It's neat, and if you hate installing a traditional screen protector on your Apple Watch, it's a cool alternative, but it does block a little bit of the screen, so be mindful of that.

Your Apple Watch screen never has to touch any surface

Lastly, heavy-duty cases and bands have a tendency to add a lot of extra weight to your Apple Watch, and I was pleasantly surprised that the Element Cause Special Ops feels quite light despite the very bulky design. The same goes for the band, it felt comfortable and light, even though it's a bit thicker than some of the other best Apple Watch bands out there.

Element Case Special Ops Watch Band and Case: What you won't like

Element Case Special Ops Ecg Reading

Element Case Special Ops Ecg Reading (Image credit: Luke Filipowicz / iMore)

Obviously, when you're looking for a heavy-duty watch case, bulkiness is going to come with the territory, but I still think the Element Case Special Ops Watch Band and Case is just a tad too bulky for its own good.

The case makes it hard to interact with the Digital Crown, to the point where I felt scrolling through menus or trying to set a timer with the Element case on very cumbersome. It also makes it harder (but not impossible) to accomplish an ECG reading on your Apple Watch Series 7, which could be problematic if you rely on it. You have to make sure to get your finger in the space the case provides you just right to make it work.

On top of those issues, the style of the Element Case Special Ops Watch Band and Case certainly goes for that aggressive, rugged, military-esque feel and look, which is fine if you really like it, but it certainly makes it hard to wear all the time. At the same time, some of the best heavy-duty cases for Apple Watch are still bulky but offer a more toned-down design, making it possible to wear around more often.

Element Case Special Ops Watch Band and Case: Competition

Spigen Rugged Pro Press Photo (Image credit: Spigen)

Thre are plenty of heavy-duty Apple Watch cases out there that may be better than the Element Case Special Ops. iMore is a big fan of the Spigen Rugged Armor Pro, which offers a lot of the same protection that The Element Case does, but it only costs about $21. It doesn't have any sort of screen protector, but it is a much more minimal design that would be easier to wear every day whether you're working out or not.

Element Case Special Ops Watch Band and Case: Should you buy it?

Element Case Special Ops Wiht Iphone (Image credit: Luke Filipowicz / iMore)

You should buy this if ...

  • You want to protect your Apple Watch Series 7
  • You like the very rugged style
  • You don't like traditional screen protectors

You shouldn't buy this if...

  • You don't like the style
  • You heavily rely on the ECG app
  • You want to spend less money

If you've damaged an Apple Watch before or you're worried that you might damage it, there's no question that the Element Case Special Ops Watch Band and Case will offer you great protection. However, you need to be okay with its extreme bulkiness and particular style.

Your Apple Watch's screen is the most delicate part of an Apple Watch and likely the thing that will break first if you're being rough with it. The Element Case Special Ops is perfect for giving you that extra peace of mind to ensure you know that your Apple Watch will come out of even the most extreme activities unscathed.

It's just a little too bulky and aggressive for its own good, making it hard to wear around with you everywhere because it interferes with using the Digital Crown in a comfortable way.

Still, the fact that it can offer some great protection and add so much bulk to your Apple Watch without really increasing the weight of it on your wrist is a pretty cool feat.

Luke Filipowicz
Staff Writer

Luke Filipowicz has been a writer at iMore, covering Apple for nearly a decade now. He writes a lot about Apple Watch and iPad but covers the iPhone and Mac as well. He often describes himself as an "Apple user on a budget" and firmly believes that great technology can be affordable if you know where to look. Luke also heads up the iMore Show — a weekly podcast focusing on Apple news, rumors, and products but likes to have some fun along the way. 

Luke knows he spends more time on Twitter than he probably should, so feel free to follow him or give him a shout on social media @LukeFilipowicz.