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8 watches you should buy instead of an Apple Watch

A person wearing the Apple Watch Series 9.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The Apple Watch Series 9 is the best smartwatch you can buy, regardless of the fact you can only use it with an iPhone. It’s also great that it comes in three flavors — the Series 9, along with the Apple Watch SE 2, and the Apple Watch Ultra 2 — to suit many more people and pockets than you may first think. However, perhaps you want something a little different on your wrist or even a weekend alternative when you don’t feel like wearing a touchscreen watch.

That’s where this list should help you out, as we’ve gathered eight watches to buy instead of the Apple Watch. Notice I said “watches,” and not just smartwatches, as some non-connected wristwear has been included. Our choices cover the entire Apple Watch range in terms of price, even going above and below, to give you some real inspiration about a watch to buy instead of — or as well as — the superb Apple Watch.

Casio G-Shock GPR-H1000 Rangeman

A person wearing the Casio G-Shock GPR-H1000 Rangeman.
Casio G-Shock Rangeman Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

While you could buy the $500 Casio G-Shock GPR-H1000 Rangeman as an alternative to the Apple Watch Series 9, it’s better seen as an alternative to the Apple Watch Ultra 2. It’s a true outdoors watch for the enthusiast — it has GPS, a compass, a barometer, a tide graph, and an altimeter — as well as a smartwatch with all the expected features, from notifications to a heart rate sensor.

The Rangeman is a tough G-Shock with its resin case, shock resistance, and 200-meter water resistance. Plus, it has solar charging, so if you use it normally, it’ll never need charging externally. What’s more, Casio has refined the onboard operating system to the point where it doesn’t require you to read the lengthy instruction manual from cover to cover anymore. The Casio Watches app isn’t quite as intuitive, but it’s still perfectly acceptable.

If the thought of constantly wearing an Apple Watch, just to ensure you get your money’s worth from all the health tracking, puts you off, then the G-Shock Rangeman may also suit you. It doesn’t require the same level of commitment and feels far more casual, making it easier to own. It won’t necessarily be easy to wear, though, as it does challenge the Apple Watch Ultra 2 in its size and weight. It’s one of our favorite all-rounder G-Shock releases and a true Apple Watch alternative.

Garmin Vivoactive 5

The Garmin Vivoactive 5 laid down on painted wood, face up.
Mark Jansen / Digital Trends

Perhaps you want a smartwatch that emphasizes sport and competitiveness more than the Apple Watch Series 9, without the need to download additional apps? The $300 Garmin Vivoactive 5 isn’t anywhere near as attractive as the Apple Watch Series 9 and doesn’t have the same on-wrist cache either, but if you care more about stats than style, it may be the better buy.

The Vivoactive 5 is less hardcore than the other Garmin smartwatch on our list, so it is up against the Apple Watch Series 9 and SE 2, but it still has a complete list of essential sensors, plus Garmin’s extensive, stat-heavy, exercise-focused platform onboard. If you’re a runner, cyclist, swimmer, or hiker, you’ll love the information it returns, as it’s far more in-depth and informative than Apple’s system.

The downside of choosing the Vivoactive 5 is dealing with the watch’s operating system, which isn’t as intuitive as Apple’s watchOS (then again, very few smartwatch operating systems are), and learning its foibles takes time and patience. The plastic body and simple design won’t appeal to anyone who puts style near the top of their list of requirements, but it’s far from ugly. If sport is your thing, the $300 Garmin Vivoactive 5 may help you understand your own performance better than the Apple Watch.

Seiko Speedtimer

A person wearing the Seiko Speedtimer watch.
Seiko Speedtimer Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

There’s a good chance you may be looking at the Apple Watch because you want a watch rather than specifically a smartwatch. After all, it’s arguably one of the most recognizable and worn watches in the world these days, making it a common and desirable sight. If the smart features and health tracking aren’t right at the top of your reasons for wanting an Apple Watch, it’s worth taking a look at non-smart alternatives.

The world of non-smart watches is massive and confusing, so where should you start if it’s your first time exploring? Our advice is to ignore fashion watch brands and look at one of the best, most established names in the business that offers excellent watches at very competitive prices: Seiko. Its range is huge, but for style and performance, while keeping around the $700 cost of an Apple Watch Ultra 2, take a look at the Seiko Speedtimer range. It’s the SSC813 in our photo, and it costs $675.

Relaunched in 2021 and inspired by the influential Speedtimer from the late 60s, the watch is part of Seiko’s Prospex range with solar power and water resistance to 100 meters. The beautiful chronograph dial is covered in sapphire crystal, comes in various different colors, and is matched to a stainless steel bracelet and stainless steel case. It’s a classic look, goes with everything you’ll wear, and will last for years too. It’s a great choice for anyone looking for a watch that doesn’t have to be smart and an ideal entry into the world of traditional watches. If the Speedtimer is too pricey, then the Seiko 5 Sports collection is worth exploring, too.

Tissot T-Touch Connect Solar

Render of the Tissot T Touch Connect Sport.
Tissot T-Touch Connect Sport Tissot

If the Seiko Speedtimer isn’t quite techy enough, but you do like the idea of a watch made by an established watchmaker, here’s another choice. The Tissot T-Touch collection combines the allure of a Swiss-made watch with analog hands with the convenience of a solar-powered quartz movement, plus a selection of health-related smart features and a touchscreen.

The $1,095 and up T-Touch Connect Solar has been around for a while. It has a small screen showing information like notifications, step count, altimeter data, the compass, calories burned, and other data. It’s controlled using a touch-sensitive sapphire crystal and buttons on the case.

More recently, Tissot announced the $995 and up T-Touch Connect Sport, which has a new look, a new touch-sensitive AMOLED screen, and a heart rate sensor on the back. The Connect Sport’s 43mm case has wider appeal than the 47mm Connect Solar, too. Both these have the potential to satisfy the watch fan and the tech fan and will certainly make you stand out from the crowd in a way the Apple Watch would not. The Connect Sport isn’t as widely available as the Connect Solar, which could make the Solar the default choice, depending on where you live.

Fitbit Charge 6

Someone wearing a Fitbit Charge 6.
Fitbit Charge 6 Joe Maring / Digital Trends

If you’re hesitating to buy an Apple Watch because of its size and weight, the Fitbit Charge 6 is a smaller, more easy-to-ignore alternative. The aluminum body contains a 1.04-inch screen and is attached to a lightweight and comfortable rubber strap. It’s easy to wear and won’t attract much attention, but the design is a more traditional fitness band than a traditional watch, which means it’s not the most stylish thing to wear on your wrist.

Fitbit updated its app recently, and it’s a huge improvement over older versions. It makes great use of the Charge 6’s comprehensive sensor array. It’s perfect for anyone who wants to exercise and improve or simply keep an eye on their overall health and activity without getting caught up in apps and other services. The battery life will please anyone who finds the Apple Watch’s two-day life too restrictive, as it should last about a week on a single charge.

It’s a shame some of Fitbit’s app features are hidden behind a $10 per month premium subscription, but you don’t have to pay for it. Ignore this, and the Fitbit Charge 6’s ability, simplicity, and low $160 price mean if you’re looking at the Apple Watch SE 2, it’ll do more for less.

Withings ScanWatch 2

A person wearing the Withings ScanWatch 2.
Withings ScanWatch 2 Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The Withings ScanWatch 2 is a smartwatch, but it really doesn’t look like one. It’s closer to the Tissot T-Touch series than it is to the Apple Watch Series 9, but with an emphasis on health and wellness. Made of stainless steel with a sapphire crystal, it wears like a traditional watch, but there’s a heart rate sensor on the back and Withings’ comprehensive health tech inside—including Food and Drug Administration (FDA)- approved atrial fibrillation detection.

It’s not a touchscreen smartwatch, and you interact with it using the crown on the side, so it takes a little more effort to control than an Apple Watch, but it’s less intrusive on your wrist. The tiny screen shows notifications, but it’s not the watch’s focus, and it will leave you to your day without interruption if you ask it. There’s sleep tracking, body temperature measurement, an ECG, and plenty of workout tracking too. Battery life is between 20 and 30 days on a single charge, depending on use.

The ScanWatch 2 is the perfect example of a smartwatch that will appeal to people who want most of the Apple Watch Series 9’s functionality but aren’t sold on the design. It’s far less high-tech looking, has easily changed straps, and the case comes in several different finishes, too. However, you won’t save much money over an Apple Watch Series 9, as it costs $350.

Garmin Epix Pro Gen 2

The Garmin Epix Pro (Gen 2).
Garmin Epix Pro (Gen 2) Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

There are smartwatches that try to do a bit of everything, and then there is the Garmin Epix Pro (Gen 2), which is one of the most focused, comprehensive, feature-packed, and capable sports smartwatches out there today. At $999, it’s more expensive than the Apple Watch Ultra 2, but it’s an intoxicating blend of ability and careful design, complete with its desirable titanium bezel and sapphire glass.

This isn’t a smartwatch for the beginner or the casual exerciser. It’s perfect for the sportsperson who is focused, motivated, and keen to improve. Garmin’s app is full of data, graphs, and detail, allowing you to dig deep into your performance and look for areas to improve or to see where changes have already started to have an effect. It will do this on everything from golf to triathlons.

On the tech side, the 1.3-inch AMOLED screen looks great. There’s an upgraded heart rate sensor on the back, GPS, and even a little flashlight on the case. The battery lasts for at least seven days with average use. If the Apple Watch Ultra 2 almost does everything you need but you’d still like just a bit more, then the Garmin Epix Pro (Gen 2) may satisfy you.

Any Casio G-Shock “square”

A person wearing the Casio G-Shock DW-H5600.
Casio G-Shock DW-H5600 Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Our final pick is one that lets you explore one of the most interesting, wearable, fashionable, and diverse watch collections that still fits into our remit. The Casio G-Shock “square” describes the classic G-Shock watch shape, introduced on the brand’s very first model in 1983, and it covers an incredible amount of versions and prices. Moreover, it wins points for being very comfortable and easy to wear, and it will appeal to watch and tech fans alike.

A basic square G-Shock can cost just $100, and although it won’t do much apart from telling the time and looking great, you’ll be wearing a pure watch design classic. Spend a little more, and things get interesting. Casio releases various limited editions and collaborations using the square shape as a base, or you can get versions that cost up to $600 with a metal body and bracelet, adding a lot of style and class to the watch. Casio even made a luxury version that cost $4,000.

This illustrates the versatility of the G-Shock square, and it fits on this list because of models like the DW-H5600 or the GBD-200, which are simple smartwatches with heart rate sensors, activity tracking, and notifications, all wrapped up in that familiar, very comfortable shape. It’s perhaps the ultimate hybrid smartwatch. What’s more, if you don’t care about the smart features or simply buy an Apple Watch Series 9 because it’s brilliant, you should just buy one of the non-connected G-Shock square watches anyway and love it for its wonderful simplicity.

Editors' Recommendations

Andy Boxall
Senior Mobile Writer
Andy is a Senior Writer at Digital Trends, where he concentrates on mobile technology, a subject he has written about for…
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