Casio G-Shock 5600, ~$43
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We'll be the first to admit it — it's tough to make the case for owning one of each type of watch we tend to cover at Gear Patrol. I mean, it's 2021: you don't need a pilot's watch. (Hell, most people didn't need one back in 1950.) You probably don't need a field watch, or even a dive watch — though the latter are admittedly so versatile that we thoroughly recommend owning one. But what everyone really should have is a good digital watch.
Why? Again, it's a question of versatility, though in this case, it's also a question of price: for significantly less than $100 you can get yourself the type of watch that does just about everything a timekeeping device should possibly do, and that will do it while getting the absolute shit kicked out of it. The type of watch you can wear while skiing, running, swimming, and triathlon-ing, whatever. The type of watch that does exactly what it's supposed to, and that you never have to worry about.
And what, pray tell, is the epitome of such a watch? For our money (and perhaps also for your money), we believe it's the basic G-Shock 5600 series. Why? Because Casio's famous watch for hard knocks is virtually indestructible, and it costs the equivalent of, like, three Manhattan cocktails. If you're only gonna buy one digital watch, we truly think this one should be it. Here's why (in more detail):
It's Virtually Indestructible
It's shockproof. It's waterproof. ("Water-resistant" — whatever.) It's dust-proof. I mean, there's a reason people take these things to war — they can withstand just about whatever you throw at them. And 200m of water resistance is nothing to scoff at — you could conceivably take this thing scuba diving in a pinch.
It's Packed with Useful Functionality
It's a watch! It's a stopwatch! It's a calendar! It's an alarm! It's a tiny flashlight! Does your Rolex do all this stuff? Probably not! (Granted, you probably couldn't trade your G-Shock for a flight in a small bush plane out of a country suddenly engulfed in civil war or sharknados, whereas this might be possible with your Rolex, but that's neither here nor there.) Never underestimate the usefulness of a solid digital alarm, we tell you.
It's (Relatively) Thin and Highly Comfortable
Considering the robustness of the case and all of the functionality packed therein, a 15mm case truly ain't bad. This thing will fit under your sleeve and out of the way, no problem. For such a tough piece of kit, it's really rather unobtrusive, and also weighs in at under 2 ounces. An integrated rubber strap is pliable, molds to your wrist and is comfortable enough that you'll likely forget the watch is on your wrist.
Where else are you gonna get this degree of toughness in your life for under $50? Maybe, like, a pair of steel chopsticks, or a titanium spoon, but neither one of those will time things for you. Conceivably, if a 5600 ever broke, you could replace it without having to think much about the bottom line. But let's be real: G-Shocks don't break.