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Tested: 5 protective bumpers for the Apple Watch

The Apple Watch is actually pretty durable—and, since it’s worn on your wrist, it’s nowhere near as likely as your iPhone is to sustain a fall. Even the old Apple Watch Sport, which is the cheapest, weakest model, is built out of an aluminum alloy that Apple claims is 60 percent stronger than standard alloys.

But the Apple Watch is still a wrist-based watch, which means it’s susceptible to damage from scrapes and scratches. We took a look at several bumpers and cases that you can fit over your Watch’s case to protect it from this kind of superficial damage and keep it looking as good as new. Here’s how they held up, protection- and style-wise.

Case-Mate Sheer Glam and Clear Naked Tough Bumper

Case-Mate’s Naked Tough Bumper ($15 MSRP) is available in two flavors—Sheer Glam, which features tiny flecks of champagne glitter (and matches Case-Mate’s Sheer Glam Band), and Clear, which is simply transparent. Both bumpers are available for the 38mm and the 42mm versions of the Apple Watch.

The Naked Tough bumpers are made of flexible thermoplastic polyurethane, and actually offer quite a bit of protection because they cover most of the Watch, including the back (most of the other bumpers we tested for this piece only cover the sides and the front of the Watch, not the top, bottom, or back). To put the Naked Tough bumper on your Watch, you will need to remove the band and then stretch the silicone around the casing before putting the band back on.

Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/IDG
case mate sheer glam 2Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/IDG

Case-Mate’s Naked Tough in Sheer Glam. 

The bumper has cut-outs for the digital crown, speakers, microphone (the case will cover the second microphone found on the Apple Watch Series 2 and 3, however), and the band release tabs on the back of the Watch. There’s also a cut-out for the heart rate monitor to peek through, so you’ll be able to track your heart rate and charge the Watch without removing the bumper.

The Sheer Glam bumper adds very subtle champagne-colored sparkle to your Watch, and it looks… about how you might expect it to look. While I like the idea of the Sheer Glam case, I think the champagne glitter sometimes makes the polyurethane look like it’s yellowing with age (instead of sparkly and glamorous). The Clear bumper seems slightly thinner than the Sheer Glam bumper (and, interestingly, is slightly less stretchy and therefore slightly more difficult to put on your Watch), and is nicely subtle in appearance. Both bumpers tend to trap debris, such as dust, dirt, and dog hair, inside, but it’s more obvious with the Clear bumper. While you don’t have to take this bumper off to swap bands or charge your Watch, you’ll want to take it off somewhat regularly for cleaning purposes.

case mate naked tough 1 Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/IDG
case mate naked tough 2 Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/IDG

Case-Mate’s Naked Tough in Clear. 

The Case-Mate Naked Tough bumper is a nice basic bumper for anyone who wants a little extra protection, but it has its cons. The cut-out surrounding the digital crown is pretty snug, which can make it difficult to turn the crown multiple times. Because the bumper is made of a flexible material, it does slide around the screen a bit—and it looks like it has the potential to warp out of shape with a lot of use. But because the bands lock it in place, you definitely don’t have to worry about it snapping off and going missing.

Catalyst Case for Apple Watch

The Apple Watch Series 2 may be waterproof, but the Apple Watch Series 1 is merely water resistant—it will survive a rainstorm, but you probably shouldn’t wear it while you’re surfing or doing laps at the pool. For active people who like swimming, surfing, white-water rafting, and other water sports—or who are just clumsy and live in a wet environment—this is a problem if you still have Apple’s original model.

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