Many of the world’s most popular watches are tool watches – that is, they were designed to be used out and about in tough circumstances. Think about the Rolex Submariner or the Hamilton Khaki Field. However, most Submariners have never even seen a pool, let along a deep dive.
But what if you want a watch that you can actually conquer the outdoors with – or, at least, something that would be up to the task, if you ever left the comfort of your home office. Perhaps you’re a big fan of Bear Grylls or wish you were James Bond. Or maybe you’re a tradie who needs a heavy-duty watch that can withstand the abuse of the worksite.
In any case, we think you deserve to dress like your most adventurous idols and wear watches that can withstand everything the great outdoors can throw at you – and these heavy-duty work and outdoors watches are a sure-fire step in the right direction.
In this best work and outdoors watches story…
Casio G-Shock Frogman 30th Anniversary
The Casio G-Shock line is the stuff of legends, and the Frogman is one of the toughest variants of the G-Shock line: this is an uncompromising action man’s watch that’s designed to survive the most intense abuse. This model in particular, which celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Frogman name, reprises the popular DW-8200B-9A black and gold colour scheme while adding high-tech functions to bring state-of-the-art 21st-century technology to a 1990s design.
Made in Japan and made from titanium and resin, this solar-powered G-Shock features a ‘Super Illuminator’ LED backlight; dive time and surface interval measurement function; world time and daylight savings functions; moon data including moon age of the specific date, a moon phase graph and a tide graph; a stopwatch and countdown timer; 5 daily alarms and a full auto-calendar to the year 2099.
Panerai Submersible BMG-Tech
The ‘baller’ watch for the tradie or man of the ocean. Italian brand Panerai has been a firm favourite of many Hollywood action heroes as well as athletes and men of adventure. This particular Submersible is crafted from BMG, or Bulk Metallic Glass. An exotic next-generation alloy, BMW is both much harder and lighter than steel while also being corrosion-resistant and antimagnetic. Add in 300m of water resistance, a unidirectional diver’s bezel, Panerai’s famous locking crown guard and lume bright enough to conquer the depths and you get one capable beast of a watch. It’s a big watch for an even bigger man.
Suunto 9 Baro Titanium
Hailing from Finland, this smartwatch is inspired by urban settings but equipped with an altimeter and a barometer for any extra-urban explorations. It also has GPS to guide your outdoor expeditions (or to the bar where your friends are waiting, because your mobile died and you’re lost without Google Maps). Featuring a titanium case, sapphire crystal, and an abrasion-resistant textile strap in two lengths, the Suunto 9 Baro Titanium is the perfect outdoors companion.
Victorinox I.N.O.X. Carbon
Swiss firm Victorinox is best known as the maker of the famous Swiss Army knife, but they also produce a line of surprisingly tough watches, like this I.N.O.X. here. This model is crafted from a carbon fibre composite and features a tough rubber strap.
The best bit? This watch comes with a special waterproof Pelican-style case, a black protective bumper you can slip over its bezel, as well as a blacked-out Victorinox Spartan Swiss Army knife.
Garmin Fenix 7
Some watches are designed for one sport specifically, but the Garmin Fenix 7 is a jack of all trades and a master of most of them. It’s built for the man who wants a single watch to track all of his athletic pursuits – or, as Garmin puts it, it’s a “full-featured training watch for multisport athletes.” The Fenix (pronounced like the bird that rises from the ashes) calculates a truly epic number of advanced fitness metrics, from heart rate to recovery time, to the max volume of oxygen you can consume per minute. Tested to US military standards for thermal, shock and water resistance, it’s ready for the outdoors.
Seiko Prospex “Arnie”
The iconic Seiko Prospex “Arnie” – as worn prominently by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character Dutch in the famous 1987 action film Predator, hence the nickname – doesn’t just have Hollywood cred, but it’s also a very heavy-duty, outdoors watch. The ‘Arnie’ is a hybrid quartz watch with analog and digital time displays (which you can use for a dual-time readout), a chronograph function, an alarm, and a calendar. Unlike the watch Schwarzenegger wore, this modern version contains a solar-powered movement.
Timex Expedition Rugged
It’s got “expedition” and “rugged” right in the name, so there’s no doubt about what you’re getting with the Timex Expedition Rugged. On the performance side of things, Timex delivers water resistance to 50 metres, an INDIGLO® Night-Light, a QuickDate feature and luminescent hands. On the style side, you’re looking at a 43mm round case in black resin with a black dial and a black synthetic strap. Value-wise, this is as good as it gets. It’s perfect for someone with the heart of an explorer but the bank account of a skint student.
We couldn’t conclude a list of outdoor watches for the action man without mentioning the Breitling Emergency. Not only is it chronometer-certified by the COSC, it’s also the world’s first wristwatch with a built-in dual-frequency personal locator beacon. The transmitter meets the specifications of the Cospas-Sarsat international satellite system and serves both to issue alerts and to guide search and rescue operations on land, at sea and in the air.
Our research & why you should trust us
Our research process for selecting these best work and outdoors watches for men is based on our previous experience trying on and owning these watches for ourselves. We have over 15 years of experience in the luxury watch space.
- We have tried on a majority of these watches and rigorously tested their functions, features and wearability, and we regularly update this article.
- There’s no product placement in this article – this is our pure, unadulterated opinion informed by years of experience writing about watches.
- We’ve provided a diverse mix of price points, materials, case sizes, aesthetics and brands – as well as both analog, digital and smart watches – in order to provide a thorough cross-section of the best work and outdoors watches on the market.
- All of the watches included are manufactured by reputable, established brands that have been in the watch business for many years. No dodgy microbrands here!
- We regularly attend watch fairs in person such as Watches & Wonders as well as visit boutiques both officially and off the clock in order to stay up-to-date on the watch industry.
Work & outdoors watch FAQ
Outdoor watches should be durable and rugged, and might need features like an altimeter, a thermometer and water resistance. The features you need should depend on the activities you participate in. Outdoor watches are made of incredibly durable materials, like stainless steel, carbon fibre, plastic resin or titanium. They are lightweight but tough, making them suitable for the great outdoors. Some can are even scratch and magnetic resistant. For guys who love trail running or hiking, a reliable GPS watch is a necessity. It can offer top navigation features, with a long battery life suitable for multi-day activities.
How to choose an outdoor watch?
What materials are best for outdoor watches?
Do I need a GPS watch for hiking?
Outdoor watches should be durable and rugged, and might need features like an altimeter, a thermometer and water resistance. The features you need should depend on the activities you participate in.
Outdoor watches are made of incredibly durable materials, like stainless steel, carbon fibre, plastic resin or titanium. They are lightweight but tough, making them suitable for the great outdoors. Some can are even scratch and magnetic resistant.
For guys who love trail running or hiking, a reliable GPS watch is a necessity. It can offer top navigation features, with a long battery life suitable for multi-day activities.