I wore a G-Shock watch that rivals the Apple Watch Ultra 2

G-Shock GW-9500 Mudman on some mud and grass.
Andy Boxall/

I really like the Apple Watch Ultra, but I also like watches in general. Recently, I was in a situation where I didn’t need any activity tracking, but still wanted to wear a tough watch that would not only fit into dirty, dirty, harsh environments – but would also be useful when needed. Could also face.

I turned to the recently released Casio G-Shock GW-9500 Mudman, and although it’s not a smartwatch, it was the perfect choice for that day. Later, I wondered whether this Bluetooth-free, seemingly indestructible watch could actually be an alternative to the Apple Watch Ultra. it is? This is what I learned.

The perfect watch for off-roading

A Land Rover vehicle on a muddy road.
My Land Rover for that day – before it got really dirty Andy Boxall/

Choosing a watch is a very personal thing. Companies like Google and Mobvoi, who only make their smartwatches in one case size, don’t really understand this. Apple understands, and it makes the Apple Watch Series 9 in two case sizes and the Apple Watch Ultra 2 in a single size that fits its positioning as a “tool watch.”

I set out for a challenging off-road drive in the Land Rover; I was wearing the perfect outfit for the occasion and wanted to finish it off with the perfect watch. The Apple Watch Ultra would have been a great option. It’s really tough, looks the part, and would probably survive if it, I, or the Land Rover fell apart. But I didn’t need the notifications, I wasn’t worried about health tracking, and I was probably going to leave my brand new iPhone 15 Pro Max somewhere safe anyway. It was the right watch for work, but it wasn’t the right watch for the day.

Back track showing walking directions on Apple Watch Ultra.
apple watch ultra Andy Boxall/

Since watches are personal purchases, it is not uncommon for aficionados to own more than one, and part of the fun is choosing the right one for the day. I was looking forward to the opportunity to wear the new G-Shock Mudman GW-9500. There are three different colors available: Rescue Orange, Military Green, or the Tactical Black model I wore. It is priced at $380 and was released in August this year.

The Mudman line didn’t really appeal at first, and I was always more attracted to the tank-like Mudmaster G-Shock models. But with the GW-9500, Casio has re-imagined the Mudman line for 2023, bringing design elements from the Mudmaster and incorporating its super tough carbon core guard structure for added lightness – all while being mud-resistant, Along with being easily maintained. The push buttons that made previous Mudman watches special.

A man wearing a G-Shock GW-9500 Mudman, showing the buttons.
Andy Boxall/

Where I was going was definitely going to be muddy, and although I had no intention of wallowing in it, the GW-9500 Mudman would have been ideal if there was an accident or if I hit it with Land Rover debris.

It was an easy decision: I put the Apple Watch Ultra aside and strapped on the Mudman.

get dirty with the mudman

G-Shock GW-9500 Mudman on some mud and grass.
Andy Boxall/

I’m glad I did, because not only did I have to contend with jostling in the cabin of the Land Rover, it was also exceptionally muddy outside. During an ill-advised trip to a good vantage point to watch his friend pass a particularly challenging obstacle, an embarrassing slide down the slope occurred. The Mudman and I were dirtier than expected, but the watch certainly took everything with it, and washing it in a puddle meant it could happily be returned to my wrist in very clean condition. I’m not sure I would have been so happy doing something like this with the Apple Watch Ultra.

While the Mudman GW-9500 doesn’t have Bluetooth that connects it to your phone, it does have one interesting tech feature – a dual-layer LCD screen. The main LCD display shows the time and other functions, but when you press the Comp button, a second LCD illuminates to overlay a digital compass, which automatically detects magnetic north. This isn’t the first time Casio has used this technology, and it made good use of it before on the Pro Trek WSD-F30 smartwatch.

A man wearing a G-Shock GW-9500 Mudman, showing a compass.
Compass LCD on GW-9500 Mudman Andy Boxall/

Its sensor array also allows Mudman to show barometric readings, altitude, and current temperature. All of these functions are accessed using various buttons on the case, while the large button at the 6 o’clock mark turns on the backlight. This is very important, as LCDs are quite dim, making them difficult to see even in half light. There are no batteries to charge as the watch is powered by light, and there is also no need to set the time, as it uses Casio’s multi-band 6 radio calibration system.

It’s a G-Shock, so it’s not a small watch, but it’s surprisingly wearable. I wore it outside the cuffs of my tops all day, and it was very comfortable. It weighs in at 81 grams, which is actually lighter than the 95-gram Apple Watch Ultra, although the case is larger and thicker. But even better, it actually looked the part during the day, and I found myself glancing at it often and really liking its heavy, strong style. No, I didn’t use a compass or need a barometer, but I didn’t need them on the Apple Watch Ultra either. But it certainly resisted the mud and looked fantastic doing it.

An Apple Watch Ultra alternative?

G-Shock GW-9500 Mudman on some mud and grass.
Andy Boxall/

Am I saying that the G-Shock GW-9500 Mudman is actually an alternative to the Apple Watch Ultra? After all, it’s undoubtedly harder, and it costs half the price. Yes, I think it is, but I also know that it isn’t. Let me explain.

It was definitely a better choice for me when I went off-roading. I trusted the G-Shock’s toughness and didn’t worry about it once, even after a much muddier encounter than I’d planned. If I need to read a map, it shows the time and environment data along with the compass.

All this makes the Mudman great for the casual weekend adventurer. But at the same time, it’s clearly not a true Apple Watch Ultra alternative, as it doesn’t have the vast functionality of Apple’s biggest smartwatch, no connection to your phone, GPS, or any of the health and fitness tracking features. This means it is not competitive, but I found that in the right situation it could easily become an alternative.

Having the GW-9500 Mudman ready to wear that day was a reminder of why I don’t have just one watch and why I don’t choose to only wear a smartwatch all the time. Watches are as much a style statement and memory-maker today as they are a timekeeping tool, perhaps even more so, and limiting yourself to a single watch – mechanical or smart – is boringly restrictive.

My experience also gave me some additional food for thought. For the price of an Apple Watch Ultra 2, you can buy an Apple Watch Series 9 and the G-Shock GW-9500 Mudman, giving you a nice, well-made, two-of-the-world’s best watches collection. Cover most of the situations you find yourself in – even if one of them is slipping down a steep, muddy slope while everyone is laughing at you.

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