Apple could finally be making a ‘rugged’ version of the Apple Watch aimed at runners and outdoorsy types

Apple CEO Tim Cook
Apple CEO Tim Cook.

  • Apple could launch a new, more rugged version of the Apple Watch as soon as this year.
  • The new design would be aimed at runners and outdoor sports enthusiasts, Bloomberg reports.
  • Last year, Apple introduced the less expensive Watch SE intended for price-conscious consumers.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Apple is reportedly considering another version of its wildly popular smartwatch, the Apple Watch.

A more rugged, sportswear-centric version of the device is could launch as soon as later this year or early next, according to a new Bloomberg report.

Though Apple’s wearable is already popular with runners and outdoor sports enthusiasts, the new version would reportedly feature a tougher case than existing versions. The new Apple Watch would be its own model, the report said, separate from the existing Apple Watch and Apple Watch SE models.

Since introducing the Apple Watch in 2015, Apple has repeatedly updated the device with more powerful internals and a variety of new software.

Apple Watch models
The current Apple Watch models.

Last year, Apple introduced the first ever SE model of its Watches – a less expensive base model intended for price-conscious consumers.

Apple is said to have considered a ruggedized version of the Apple Watch in the past, but apparently paused or scrapped those plans. A variety of electronics makers sell outdoor sports-focused smartwatches, including Apple’s main rival Samsung and several companies that tend not to compete directly with Apple, such as Garmin.

It’s unclear when Apple intends to announce a new version of the Apple Watch, if it does indeed come to fruition; the company last revealed new Apple Watch models in September 2020 during its “Time Flies” event.

Apple representatives didn’t respond to a request for comment as of publishing.

Got a tip? Contact Insider senior correspondent Ben Gilbert via email (bgilbert@insider.com), or Twitter DM (@realbengilbert). We can keep sources anonymous. Use a non-work device to reach out. PR pitches by email only, please.

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The 6 best smartwatches in 2021 for fitness, sleep tracking, and style

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • The Apple Watch Series 6 is the best smartwatch overall because of its ease-of-use and robust health features.
  • For Android users, the sleek and round Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 is a great choice.
  • But if sleep tracking is your top priority, consider Fitbit instead.
  • Check out our guides to the best smartwatches for women and the best Apple Watches for more buying advice.

Smartwatches can be very useful for making sure you don’t miss anything when you’re away from your phone. They’re also a great tool for staying motivated to move, especially as we’ve all been spending more time at home over the past year.

There’s a smartwatch for everyone on this list, whether you’re loyal to iPhone or Android, want a watch primarily for fitness tracking, or are looking for something that looks more elegant than your average smartwatch.

I’ve been reviewing tech products for nearly a decade, and that includes testing smartwatches over the course of the past seven years. That means I’ve tested and researched many wearables from companies like Apple, Fitbit, Samsung and others and have a strong sense of what makes a good smartwatch for the price.

Here are the best smartwatches you can buy:

The best smartwatch overall

Apple Watch 6 Red

The Apple Watch has long been our favorite smartwatch for its ease of use, comprehensive health tracking, and polished design, and the Series 6 is the best iteration yet. 

Pros: Large always-on display, polished design and software, wide variety of health-focused and smartwatch-oriented features

Cons: Expensive, shorter battery life than some rivals, only offers basic sleep tracking

The $400 Apple Watch Series 6 is Apple’s most expensive smartwatch, and for good reason. With an always-on display that’s brighter than the Series 5’s, fast charging, new color options, and blood oxygen monitoring, it’s the best Apple Watch you can buy. 

Apple also sells the less expensive Apple Watch SE for $280, another great choice if you want an Apple Watch that still feels new and fast at a more reasonable price. But you’ll be missing out on advanced health features like blood oxygen level monitoring and the ability to take an ECG from your wrist.

Those features may not matter for everyone; if you’re the type of person that just wants to stay active and challenge yourself with fitness goals, the  SE will do just fine. It’s these features combined with the Series 6’s always-on display and faster charging that make it our top choice in the lineup.

More broadly, the Apple Watch stands out from other smartwatches for its modern design that easily fits with any style, broad customization options, smooth performance and wide variety of apps, and polished software. Our writers and editors have tested dozens of WearOS and Fitbit watches over the years, and the Apple Watch has consistently been the best when it comes to the overall experience.

That doesn’t mean it’s perfect, though. The Apple Watch’s biggest drawbacks compared to rivals from Fitbit and other companies are its high price tag, shorter battery life, and lackluster sleep tracking.

The best smartwatch for Android users

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2

The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 is a fantastic fitness-focused smartwatch for Samsung fans.

Pros: Sleek design, gorgeous screen, great fitness tracking, heart rate monitor, LTE option, auto workout tracking, sleep tracking, swim-proof

Cons: Requires a bunch of extra Samsung apps to work if you don’t own a Samsung smartphone

Samsung’s Galaxy smartwatch lineup has been getting better every year as more apps and features are added. While it has the word “Active” in its name, the Galaxy Watch Active2 is perfectly suitable for fitness or general use.

Samsung also added a feature to the Galaxy Watch Active2 that helps it better compete with Apple: ECG readings. The feature launched in September after gaining approval from the United States Food and Drug Administration. However, it only works if the watch is connected to a compatible Samsung Galaxy smartphone. 

You can get it in two sizes: 40mm and 44mm — just like the Apple Watch. It has a slim, sleek round watch case so it looks more like a normal watch than a piece of tech. The bezel is also touch-sensitive, which makes the software easier to navigate since you don’t always have to obscure the tiny screen with your finger.

You can get it in aluminum (WiFi/Bluetooth) and stainless steel (LTE) and choose between silver, gold, and black finishes. It’s rated at 5ATM for water resistance, so you can swim with it.

The Galaxy Watch Active2 can automatically track workouts, which is surprisingly a big plus for the Samsung watch, as Google’s Wear OS watches don’t have automatic workout detection. The heart rate monitor also helps the watch track the intensity of your workout.

The watch even has sleep tracking built in, a feature that’s common on smartwatches but only recently came to the Apple Watch.

But it doesn’t have the Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa since it uses Samsung’s Bixby assistant. And its battery life is decent, with reviewers rating it as lasting roughly between 1.5 to two days, but it’s not as long-lasting as Fitbit’s watches.

The best smartwatch for sleep tracking

Fitbit versa 3

The Fitbit Versa 3 is a relatively affordable smartwatch that checks all the boxes, but truly shines when it comes to sleep tracking and battery life.

Pros: In-depth sleep tracking, long battery life, plenty of fitness features

Cons: No LTE version, software isn’t as polished as the Apple Watch

Fitbit is far from being the only smartwatch to offer sleep tracking. But if you’re looking for a general-purpose smartwatch that can provide deep insights into your sleep, the $229.95 Fitbit Versa 3 is the best pick for most people.

Fitbit’s sleep tracking goes beyond the basics by offering time spent in REM, light, and deep sleep, as well as the time you spent awake. It also tells you how much time you spent asleep and issues a Sleep Score that tells you about the quality of your sleep.

In addition to just seeing data indicating how well you slept last night, you can also view a 30-day average and see how your sleeping pattern compares to others of your age and gender. Some of Fitbit’s sleep-oriented features, like metrics that show restlessness, are only available if you subscribe to the $9.99 per month Fitbit Premium service. 

Still, even in the free tier, Fitbit offers more comprehensive sleep tracking metrics than most smartwatches, especially the Apple Watch. The Versa 3 also offers impressively long multi-day battery life that makes it much easier to track your sleep without worrying about draining your battery during the day. 

We recommend the Versa 3 over the $299.95 Fitbit Sense since it’s more affordable and still has many of Fitbit’s most important features. 

These include heart rate monitoring, the ability to deliver notifications from your phone, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant support, exercise tracking, comprehensive sleep tracking, and a swim proof design. 

The downside, however, is that there’s no LTE option for the Versa 3 for those who want to receive calls and texts when their phone isn’t nearby. For iPhone owners, the software and app experience is also much more polished on the Apple Watch than it is on Fitbit’s watches.

The best feminine smartwatch

Julianna HR slide

The Fossil Julianna HR is a sleek smartwatch with a feminine design, a heart rate monitor, GPS, NFC, and the power of WearOS.

Pros: Classic watch design, stylish color options, lots of compatible watch straps, and it’s compatible with iPhones and Android phones

Cons: It’s a bit chunky, not as good with iPhone

If you’re an Android user who wants a feminine smartwatch, you’re in luck. Over the past few years, fashion brands and watchmakers have been making great Wear OS smartwatches. 

Fossil’s smartwatch line continues to grow each year, and we are looking forward to testing its new Gen 5 LTE watches that were announced in January. As the name implies, the new model adds support for LTE connectivity on Android through Verizon, a feature that most competing smartwatches have offered for years. 

In the meantime, we still recommend the Juliana HR. Fossil offers several different finishes for the Julianna’s watch casing. I love the simple rose gold casing and leather strap option, but you can also get one with a metal bracelet.

It’s a chunky watch, which is great for those who prefer that style. Even though it’s fashionable , this smartwatch is also waterproof up to 3 ATM, so you can swim with it on.

As for the tech inside, the Julianna runs Wear OS (previously known as Android Wear) and works with thousands of apps on the Google Play Store. You can answer texts, interact with notifications, and choose your own watch face — just like you would on any other smartwatch. Fossil has lots of nice watch faces in feminine colors, too.

The Julianna HR works with both Android phones and the iPhone, but it’s best with Android devices. When Android Wear watches are paired to the iPhone, a lot of functions no longer work, and you’re left with a pretty watch that only gives you notifications.

Julianna HR (button)
The best smartwatch for fashionable men

Fossil Carlyle HR

Fashion-forward men who aren’t into the high-tech futuristic look will love Fossil’s Q Carlyle HR with its classic design and smartwatch powers.

Pros: Classic watch look, WearOS, use any 2mm watch band you like

Cons: No LTE

Fossil is one of the few fashion brands and watchmakers that’s making actively gorgeous smartwatches. The Q Carlyle HR is the ultimate WearOS watch for men who want their smartwatch to look like a high-end wristwatch.

It’s a hefty smartwatch that feels luxurious, but it doesn’t cost a couple thousand dollars like the Tag Heuer Connected smartwatch. The stainless steel casing paired with a  chunky metal watch band give it a premium look and feel, but you can choose a number of different finishes.

You can get the smartwatch in dark gray, black, and silver finishes with metal or leather straps. The straps are interchangeable with any 22mm watch band you can buy from Fossil and others.

When it comes to tech, the Q Carlyle isn’t the most high-end one on this list, but it runs WearOS and it’s compatible with thousands of apps. You can send texts, view your notifications, and track your activity — just like you would on any smartwatch. The latest generation also has NFC for mobile payments, GPS, and a heart rate monitor.

Q Carlyle HR (button)
Best smartwatch for fitness enthusiasts

Garmin Forerunner 935

The Garmin Forerunner 935 Running GPS Watch is a fitness enthusiast’s dream that has long battery life and measures several metrics you won’t find on general purpose watches.

Pros: Long battery life, waterproof, durable glass face, built-in barometer and thermometer, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections, and the ability to measure more metrics than we can list here

Cons: Expensive, reduced GPS accuracy when running on a track, built-in thermometer only measures temperature right above your skin

Smartwatches running Apple’s, Samsung’s, and Google’s operating systems come with decent fitness tracking features and functionality, but then there are smartwatches that bring fitness tracking to a whole other level. We’re talking about smartwatches from Garmin. 

We had a competitive distance runner try the $500 Garmin Forerunner 935 for 1,000 miles — and it’s better than any running watch he’s ever used. With that testimonial in mind, the Forerunner 935 is our top choice for fitness enthusiasts, at least for those who can allocate up to $500 for a device that’s specifically geared towards fitness. 

When you’re spending this much on a fitness tracking device, you’re better off reading the full review to find out what’s good and what’s not about the Forerunner 935. And realizing that the Forerunner 935 is expensive, we know of some less expensive fitness trackers that will work just fine for the majority of fitness folk. 

Forerunner 935 (button)
What else we considered

Fitbit Versa 2

While these are our top picks, there are several other options worth considering based on your needs, preferences, and budget. Here’s a look at some other contenders: 

  • Garmin Vivoactive 4: Garmin’s Vivoactive 4 is a more affordable alternative to its Forerunner and Fenix lines that still offers more in-depth health features than your standard smartwatch. It also comes with many of the other features around connectivity you’d demand from a watch of its price.
  • Fitbit Sense: The Sense is Fitbit’s top-of-the-line smartwatch and its first to offer the ability to measure how your body reacts to stress. The Sense, like Fitbit’s other smartwatches, serves as a compelling Apple Watch alternative for non-Apple users and those seeking a more affordable watch. However, we chose the Versa 3 instead as one of our top picks because it has many of the benefits of the Sense at a more reasonable price.
  • Michael Kors Access Lexington 2: Michael Kors has been making smartwatches alongside Fossil for years now. If you like MK, you’ll probably like this watch as it has many of the same features.
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From Rolex to Audemars Piguet: The 11 best watch investments for aspiring collectors

Rolex GMT
A Rolex GMT, Reference 1675.

  • Buying luxury watches is an investment — both for your style and your finances
  • Although new watches are nice, vintage watches are the ones that almost dominate the watch sector.
  • Secondhand watches are also very popular. A 2018 Bain report found the secondhand market to be worth nearly $25 billion, with watches and jewelry making up over 80% of all secondhand market purchases.
  • And some watches, such as Rolexes and Patek Philippe, have the potential to resell for thousands more than their purchase price. 
  • Business Insider spoke to three watch experts to see which they recommend to those looking to start (or expand) their watch portfolios and they recommended 11 stand-outs. The list includes both new and secondhand watches. 
  • The watches include a Royal Oak Jumbo Audemars Piguet, which goes for about $27,600, as well as a Patek Philippe Nautilus that can go for nearly $45,000.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Drake owns a Richard Mille worth $750,000. Justin Bieber has an Audemars Piguet worth $50,000. And Jay-Z has a Patek Philippe worth at least $2.2 million

They’re watches, of course. 

High-net-worth-individuals have been buying high-end watches for years, but the trend has accelerated along with so much other spending at the upper end during the pandemic.

For example, the Sotheby’s Important Watches live auction concluded Tuesday and brought in $10.4 million – a 27% increase from last year – with a Patek Philippe Ref 2499 retailed by Tiffany & Co. selling for $818,600. A Cartier Ecran Mystery Clock went for $564,500, while a Rare Salmon Dial Audemars Piguet Royal Oak sold for $441,000. 

New watches can be very pricey and collectible, but vintage watches are the ones that almost dominate the watch sector. In fact, secondhand watch sellers are almost as popular as the auction houses that sell blue-chip artwork, and the websites that resell Birkin and Chanel bags

According to Deloitte’s 2019 “Global Powers of Luxury Goods” report, the average annual sales made by the top 32 watch and jewelry companies topped $2 billion in 2017, but a 2018 Bain report stated that the secondhand market was worth nearly $25 billion, with watches and jewelry making up over 80% of all secondhand market purchases. 

As for where to look in secondhand? There are certain stand-out names.

“Brands like Rolex, Patek Philippe, and Audemars Piguet are controlled by families and not investors,” Tim Stracke, CEO of the watch resale site Chrono24, told Business Insider earlier this year. “They have limited their supply for more than a century. They have a super long-term view and they value brand reputation higher than short term profits. This will very likely prevail for future generations and keep the value of their watches up.”

Business Insider spoke with three watch experts to find out which watches are the best to invest in, and which ones they would recommend to those looking to start (or expand) their watch portfolios. The list includes both new and secondhand watches. Keep reading to find out the 11 stand-out watches they recommend. 

Business Insider spoke with three watch experts to see which watches they would recommend for those looking to invest.

Bob's Watches Couch Rolex $250,000

The experts Business Insider spoke to all recommended the same brands: Rolex, Patek Philippe, and Audemars Piguet. These brands, in addition to Richard Milles, are synonymous with luxury in the watch world and make for a good long-term investment.

Tim Stracke, the CEO of Chrono24, a platform that allows customers to buy and sell pre-owned watches, told Business Insider that these top watch brands are known for their quality and craftsmanship, and are not produced en masse. 

“They are not available in unlimited numbers,” Stracke told Business Insider. “That’s why the demand is rising and prices remain stable or even grow.”

Audemars Piguet: Royal Oak Jumbo, Reference 15202ST

Audemars Piguet   Royal Oak Stahl

Retail Price Estimate: $27,600

Stracke told Business Insider that historically, “steel sports models from iconic brands” are usually the ones that out-perform the global stock indexes. 

One of his top picks is the Audemars Piguet: Royal Oak Jumbo, Reference 15202ST, pictured above. 

Patek Philippe: Steel Nautilus, Reference 5711

Patek Philippe   Nautilus Stahl

Retail Price Estimate: $74,796

He also recommends the Patek Philippe: Steel Nautilus, Reference 5711. And said that mechanical watches such as this “hit the ‘zeitgeist.'”

“They are a counterpoint to the ever-growing digitalization of our everyday life and remind us of the beauty of true craftsmanship,” he said. “Certain watch models are more sought after than others, which is mainly due to the brand reputation of the Swiss brands in terms of their craftsmanship.” 

Omega Speedmaster “First Omega in Space”

Omega   Speedmaster First in Space

Retail Price Estimate: $5,300

Another watch he recommends is the Omega Speedmaster “First Omega in Space” which he said is a “hidden champion” in watches. He also pointed to the fact that, over the last three years, this watch model has increased in value at a steady 10%. 

“[It’s] a great version of the legendary Moonwatch at a more affordable price point,” he said. 

Rolex: GMT, Reference 1675

Rolex GMT

Retail Price Estimate: $16,000 

Paul Altieri, CEO of Bob’s Watches, has similar recommendations for those looking to invest in watches, and one of his favorites is the Rolex GMT, Reference 1675.

“I always encourage folks to buy what they love and not what will end up being the ‘best investment’,” he told Business Insider. “Historically speaking, Rolex has done fantastically well appreciating in value in the past few decades. And they are — for the most part — affordable luxury.”

Rolex: Daytona, Reference 16520

Rolex Daytona

Retail Price Estimate: $27,500

Another one of his favorites is the Rolex Daytona, Reference 16520. 

“I am partial to the Rolex Submariner, Daytona, and GMT models,” Altieri continued. “You really can’t go wrong here, whether it’s a new model, pre-owned, or vintage.  As long as it’s an original honest example.” 

Rolex: Submariner, Reference 16800

Rolex Submariner reference 16800

Retail Price Estimate: $9,195

He is also a huge fan of the Rolex Submariner, Reference 16800. He pointed out that all of the three Rolex sports models — the Submariner, Daytona, and GMT, have increased substantially in demand over the past few years, as demand is what typically drives valuations. 

“They have all proven to be great investments over time,” he finished. 

Patek Philippe: Nautilus, Reference 3800

Patek Phillipe Nautilus
Patek Philippe Nautilus, circa 1978, in stainless steel. The Nautilus is arguably the most famous of Gerald Genta’s designs and adorned by collectors, new and old.

Retail Price Estimate: $44,900

Adam Golden, CEO of Menta Watches, also said it was best to stick with “blue chip” watches, such as the ones previously mentioned, and said he loves the Patek Philippe: Nautilus, Reference 3800, pictured above. 

“Patek Phillippe Nautilus, circa 1978, in stainless steel,” he said. “The Nautilus is arguably the most famous of Gerald Genta’s designs and adorned by collectors, new and old.”

Longines Vintage Chronograph, circa 1940-1950s

Longines chronograph
Incredibly rare Longines chronograph, circa 1940-1950s, powered by their important Cal. 13ZN movement

Retail Price Estimate: $3,000

However, he does say that it might be worth looking at other watches, like the Longines Chronograph from the 1940-1950s, as a good possible investment. 

“If you want to swerve off the beaten path, find models within “other” brands that have large cult followings,” Golden said. “For example, Longines chronographs from the 1930-1960s with Caliber 13ZN or 30CH movements — they have a rabid fanbase and will always be desirable, albeit to a smaller audience.”

Omega Speedmaster, Reference 2998-2

Reference 2998 2 Omega Speedmaster,
Reference 2998-2 Omega Speedmaster, which is one of the earliest Speedmasters produced by Omega, and one of the only references to use the famous “lollipop” chronograph hand. Early Speedmasters, such as this example, are grails amongst collectors, and finding well-preserved examples has become exceedingly difficult.

Retail Price Estimate: $37,500

Like Stracke, Golden is also a huge fan of the Omega Speedmaster series and recommends Reference 2298-2.

“It’s one of the only references to use the famous ‘lollipop’ chronograph hand,” he said about the watch. “Early Speedmasters, such as this example, are grails amongst collectors, and finding well-preserved examples has become exceedingly difficult.” 

Audemars Piguet: Royal Oak, Reference 5402

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, Reference 5402, circa 1970s. Designed by Gerald Genta, the Royal Oak is the focal point and main attraction for the legendary watchmaker, and these first execution models have soared in popularity – finding a nice example has become harder and harder. This particular example is a first-series, or “A” series, meaning it was the very first batch of production, of only allegedly two thousand were produced.

Retail Price Estimate: $124,660

Another model Golden recommends is Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak, Reference 5402, circa the 1970s, and designed by Gerald Genta. 

“The Royal Oak is the focal point and main attraction for the legendary watchmaker and these first execution models have soared in popularity,” Golden told Business Insider. “This particular example is a first-series, or “A” series, meaning it was the very first batch of production, of only allegedly two thousand were produced.”

Rolex: Gilt-dial Submariner, Reference 5513

Gilt dial Rolex Submariner
Gilt-dial Rolex Submariner, Ref. 5513, circa 1966. This dial variant is nicknamed the “Bart Simpson” due to the similar appearance of the coronet on the dial to the famous character’s head.

Retail Price Estimate: $28,500

Finally, Golden is a big fan of the Rolex Gilt-dial Submariner, Reference 5513. This model, he said, has been nicknamed the “Bart Simpson” because its coronet on the dial is similar to the famous character’s head.   

“Whenever I have someone ask me ‘what is the best watch to buy for investment purposes,’ my answer is usually the same — watches should, as a whole, not be treated as investments — they should be worn and enjoyed, as intended,” Golden said. “However, if you want to “protect” your purchases and asset, make sure you do your homework, and buy a watch in good condition, and as original as possible.” 

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