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How durable is the Apple Watch Ultra?

You'll be surprised by how much abuse the Apple Watch Ultra can endure.
By

Published onAugust 29, 2023

An Apple Watch Ultra user activates the Backtrack feature.

Modern smartwatches must withstand much daily abuse, even more so if used in extreme situations. Garmin has long offered these users rugged devices for use outdoors. More recently, Apple has joined this segment with the Apple Watch Ultra. But just how durable is the Ultra, and how far can it be pushed? We have the answer below.

QUICK ANSWER

The Apple Watch Ultra's titanium and sapphire glass construction makes it highly durable. It also features WR100 water resistance and IP6X dust resistance and is built to MIL-STD-810H standards.


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What is the Apple Watch Ultra made of?

An Apple Watch Ultra rests on a rock wall displaying the X-Large watch face.

Billed by its maker as the “most rugged and capable Apple Watch ever,” the Ultra uses “aerospace-grade titanium” for its chassis. It’s a relatively lightweight material for the amount of structural and corrosive protection it offers. As for its display, the lens is slathered in a layer of sapphire crystal, which is highly resistant to scratches. Finally, the Ultra uses a combination of ceramic and sapphire crystal to protect its sensor array at the back of the watch.

We’ve seen this combination of materials used on previous Apple Watches. Notably, the Series 7 offered a titanium chassis with a sapphire crystal lens. But how Apple has implemented these materials on the Apple Watch Ultra makes the most significant difference. The Ultra has slightly raised edges to protect the flat display from edge impacts. There’s also protection for the digital crown, thanks to a protruding bumper.

In terms of official ratings, the Apple Watch Ultra sports a WR100 water resistance rating, making it possible to withstand water pressure at 100 meters. It also features EN13319 diving certification, although Apple recommends that users never exceed depths of 40 meters with the device. Buyers get an IP6X rating for dust protection, similar to other premium smartwatches and flagship phones. Finally, the device has been tested to MIL-STD-810H standards, which means it has passed many environmental-related tests.

How does this compare to other smartwatches?

A Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro hangs from a branch, displaying the device's sport mode menu.

Its use of high-end materials ensures that the Apple Watch Ultra finds itself among stellar company.

In terms of construction, you’ll find plenty of titanium on premium smartwatches. The Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro, Garmin Fenix 7 series, HUAWEI GT 3 Pro, and Suunto 9 Peak Pro all utilize titanium in their chassis. All models mentioned here also sport sapphire lenses, although the Fenix line can be had with Gorilla Glass.

The Apple Watch Ultra has a massive leg up with deep water credentials. Garmin and Samsung do not recommend users scuba dive with their aforementioned devices. The HUAWEI GT 3 Pro has a free diving sports mode, but the device is only suitable for dives of up to 30 meters, while the Suunto 9 Peak Pro’s depth meter tops out at 10 meters.

What does it take to break the Apple Watch Ultra?

Apple Watch Ultra 13 Ft

The Apple Watch Ultra isn’t just a pretty face. It seems that Apple was rather conservative in outlining its limitations.

Water pressure

Let’s talk about diving pressures first. Device reviewer DC Rainmaker pushed the device to the limit in a pressure chamber to simulate deep water dives. While the Apple Watch Ultra displays a “Beyond 130ft” warning on its screen when reaching that depth and beyond, this isn’t a hardware issue. Instead, it seems that Apple is sticking to the recommended depth of a recreational dive.

The actual simulated depth during the test was 159 feet or 48.5 meters — 8.5 meters over Apple’s 40-meter guideline. More impressively, the watch was fully functional after the test. You’ll unlikely damage the Apple Watch Ultra during a recreational dive.

Drops and scratches

You won’t have to worry too much about dropping your Apple Watch Ultra from hand height. YouTuber TechRax did just that on a paved driveway. The watch’s screen was undamaged, but the chassis did show pitting and scratch damage. The YouTuber also rattled the watch around in a bottle full of screws and nails to simulate… something. Again, the device showed no signs of critical damage.

For more realistic conditions, ZDNet‘s Matthew Miller put the Apple Watch Ultra through the Tough Mudder. This obstacle-filled endurance marathon includes “an ice-cold water pool full of shocking ‘Electric Eels’ and mountains of mud-filled barricades.” It sounds like a fun weekend out, so how did the Apple Watch Ultra do? “To my surprise, it held up really well and I still cannot believe that the display is flawless,” wrote Miller.

Blunt force

In the same video, TechRax hammered the Apple Watch after it survived the drop tests. Impressively, the device endured several violent hits directly to the lens, but the table the watch is sitting on broke first. After around 12 hits, the Apple Watch Ultra’s display switched off, but the lens remained unscratched. This suggests a component within the watch broke before the chassis or lens. That’s pretty remarkable.

YouTube channel iupdate also tested the Ultra’s shock resistance against the Series 8. The two watches were put through a series of extreme “tests.” Both devices mostly survived general durability tests, including falling, rock and gravel rubbing, and river soaking. The Series 8 came out rather injured, with several scratches and dings to its lens. The Ultra was mostly untainted.

More extreme tests included smashing both devices against a wall. The Series 8 broke immediately. The Ultra endured 38 throws against the road before the titanium chassis displayed weakness. After “50 impacts,” the device was still functional, bar a few dead pixels. It failed two smashes later.

How easy is the Apple Watch to repair?

Apple Watch Ultra on a training chart

Of course, if you’re planning to smash you device against a mountain face for a few hours, you may have to have your Apple Watch Ultra repaired. But how possible is this, and how much will it cost?

According to iFixit, the Apple Watch Ultra is among the more tricky wearables to fix. While there’s considerably less strong adhesive in use, and the presence of screws is a welcome sight for home tinkerers, the screen is difficult to remove and battery replacement is also particularly tricky.

If you aren’t interested in fixing your own watch (highly understandable), Apple offers Ultra repairs at a premium. You’ll pay $99 for a battery replacement, while “other damage” will cost $499 without AppleCare Plus or $79 with it.

Is the Apple Watch Ultra worth buying?

Apple Watch UltraApple Watch Ultra
Apple Watch Ultra
Louder speaker • Large battery • Extensive features
MSRP: $799.00
The rugged smartwatch for the iOS crowd
The Apple Watch Ultra has a large sapphire glass display, with an additional programmable Action button on the side. It also includes a larger and louder speaker for emergencies, LTE connectivity, and a large battery. The Ultra comes with a host of features for athletes, too. Rock climbers, scuba divers, hikers, and other folks who are looking for a smartwatch that can help them track intense workouts and also keep them safe will find a lot to love about the Ultra.

In conclusion, you’ll unlikely break your Apple Watch Ultra unless you intentionally attempt to do so. The device can withstand extreme blunt force, dark depths, and the casual smack against the wall. The Ultra’s an excellent bet if you seek a solid adventure watch with Apple’s smart features and ecosystem integration.


FAQs

Screen protectors are always a good idea, but the Apple Watch Ultra likely won’t require additional protection for its sapphire crystal lens.

Apart from its rugged build, the Apple Watch Ultra also sports a larger battery than any other Apple Watch. In addition, it features dual-frequency GPS, a depth meter and water temperature sensor for diving, unique features for hikers, a skin temperature sensor, and a programmable Action button.

Yes. All Apple Watch Ultra models feature LTE connectivity, but you must pay for the data plan separately.