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Do You Need a Case for Your Apple Watch?

A man wearing a Series 5 Apple Watch
Danny Chadwick / Review Geek

As with all Apple devices, there’s a robust accessory market for the Apple Watch. Most aim to protect your new, expensive device against scratches and water damage. But do you actually need a case for your Apple Watch? Almost certainly not. Let’s find out why.

Apple Watches Are Tougher Than Nails (Literally)

Depending on the model, Apple Watch uses displays constructed of either Sapphire or Ion-X Glass. Both are extremely durable as they are forged in 4,000-degree furnaces and sliced into paper-thin, rock-hard panels. And in the case of Ion-X, soaked in potassium salt to further strengthen the glass.

Despite what third-party accessory manufacturers and mall kiosk salespeople say, it’s tough to scratch the Apple Watch. When the original model debuted in 2015, Consumer Reports tested it and found that nails could not harm it. It took a pick that’s as hard as a masonry drill bit to even scratch it.

Apple Watch screen cracked on the ground and waiting to be repaired.
Orapruek/Shutterstock.com

At about the same time, CNET produced a video claiming to destroy the Series 1 model. They put it through several torture tests, including running the watch across a cheese grater, bashing it with a Microplane grater, and slashing it with a kitchen knife. None of these caused any visible scratches on the watch’s display. What finally destroyed the screen was dropping a seven-pound cast iron skillet onto the poor thing.

Keep in mind that CNET and Consumer Reports conducted their tests in 2015 on the very first Apple Watch. So,unless you believe that succeeding generations of the device have degraded in quality (doesn’t really sound like Apple, though, does it?), you can bet that your model will take as good a beating.

Apple Watches Are Meant to Be Used in Water

close up on Apple Watch with pink sports band underwater in the swimming pool with sports app on the display
Anicka S/Shutterstock.com

You might think you need a case for your Apple Watch to protect it from water damage. On the contrary, Apple designed the watch to operate in water for moderate periods. Just make sure to turn on the Water Lock function before you jump into the pool or lake.

CNET’s above-mentioned torture tests involved holding the watch under running water, submerging it for 10 minutes, then boiling it for the same amount of time. The worst consequence of those tests was a high-temperature warning when they boiled it.

It’s important to remember that the Apple Watch is water-resistant, not waterproof. You can wear it while it’s raining, in the pool while you workout, and even in the shower. However, Apple recommends that you not expose it to soaps or shampoos, as they diminish water resistance over time. And you absolutely don’t want to wear your watch during extreme activities like scuba diving and water skiing. Apple also recommends that you don’t wear it in a sauna.

My Personal Experience

A Series Five Apple Watch with no visible damage
Danny Chadwick / Review Geek

I’ve been wearing a Series 5 Apple Watch every day for the last 19 months. In that time, I’ve been from the streets of Atlanta to the prairies of Montana, the western deserts of Utah, and the beaches of Southern California. I was doing all manner of things that could potentially damage my watch. And I have never even thought about buying a case or even a screen protector for it.

While researching this article, the first thing I did was take the watch off, power it down, and inspect it for scratches. I had to squint hard and angle the device just so against the light to find micro-scratches and dings. They are there, but they’re so insignificant that you can’t see them at all when the display is turned on.

Apple Watches Are Not Invincible

Apple Watch screen cracked pink color on the ground and waiting to be repaired. On blue background.
Orapruek/Shutterstock.com

It’s true that people do indeed scratch and damage their Apple Watches. A nice long drop on a tile floor, a good bash against a door jam, an unfortunate incident with a power tool, or some other unforeseeable circumstance can and could very well break your watch. But the brute truth is that if you’re paranoid about those sorts of things, you’d be better served to buy AppleCare than a case.

And yes, you will find many videos online where people test the limits of the Apple Watch, and sometimes they do break. But it’s important to keep in mind that those people are intentionally trying to destroy the device. Almost nothing you see online that harms an Apple Watch was inadvertent or happened in an environment that you’re likely to encounter during day-to-day use (but it’s still nice to have an idea of the gadget’s limits).

Still Want a Case for Your Apple Watch?

There are really only two reasons anyone should buy a case for their Apple Watch. One is protection from extremely rugged conditions. And we’re talking about activities like logging trees, handling corrosive substances, or using avant-garde machining tools. Even then, you should be more worried about damaging your hands and skin before your watch. And under these circumstances, you’re more likely to damage the band than the watch itself.

If you regularly work in such conditions, the Wristitani Apple Watch case is a good choice. It not only absorbs shocks from bumps and drops but also protects the screen from getting dinged and scratched.

Wristitani Apple Watch Band with Shockproof Rugged Case

If you need to guard your Apple Watch against extremely rugged conditions the Wristitani Apple Watch Band delivers full protection in a variety of colors.

The second reason is just plain vanity. If you want to gussy up your Apple Watch to make yourself look wealthier or more fashionable than you actually are, there’s plenty of cases out there that can help. But in all honesty, all you need for that is a handsome band that won’t ruin the natural elegance of the device.

If you want to give your Apple Watch the feel of luxury and class, the EloBeth Apple Watch Band is probably what you’re looking for. It gives your watch an elegant feel that goes well with a suit and tie. Plus, the rose gold color option looks fantastic with an evening gown.

EloBeth Apple Watch Band with Case

If you're going to a black-tie event, or just want to look snazzy in a suit, the EloBeth Apple Watch Band with Case matches any formal attire.

Danny Chadwick Danny Chadwick
Danny has been a technology journalist since 2008. He served as senior writer, as well as multimedia and home improvement editor at Top Ten Reviews until 2019. Since then, he has been a freelance contributor to Lifewire and ghostwriter for Fit Small Business. His work has also appeared on Laptop Mag, Tom’s Guide, and business.com. Read Full Bio »