Water resistant watch – completely waterproof or not?
If you're shopping for a watch, you'll see these words a lot – but they may not mean what you think they mean.
Watch water resistance is a complex subject. Because of the strict standards watchmakers traditionally follow, you need to understand some specific terminology.
This information could be the difference between saving and ruining your expensive watch.
Water Resistant Watch Tip 1. Waterproof vs. Water Resistant
No watch is one hundred percent waterproof. When something is underwater, the weight of the water above exerts pressure on it – in the case of a watch, this can mean leaking seals and bubbles of gas or water getting into the mechanisms.
Good watches – even diving watches – are “water resistant”, NEVER ‘waterproof'.
Depending on the rating, this can mean anything from “will survive getting caught in a rain shower” to “can be worn to take a shower or do a few laps in the pool” to “ready for deep-sea diving.” It all depends on the construction of the watch.
Water Resistant Watch Tip 2. Water Resistance Terminology
The rating on your watch will tell you how much water it can handle. This number is one of two terms:
- ATM: Stands for atmosphere. One atmosphere = 10 meters.
- Bar: An alternative term for atmosphere. A watch that's “20 bar water resistant” is strong enough to withstand water pressures on a par with a depth of 200 meters.
Understand: these are JUST ratings of the watch's ability to withstand pressure in a lab.
They're not a literal statement of how deep you can dive with it on. This might seem deceptive, but it has to do with the nature of water pressure.
The force that water exerts on an object changes based on circumstances – when you dive into water suddenly, you (and any expensive accessories you should happen to be wearing) experience a rapid shift in pressure that's very different from the conditions a watch is put through in the standardized environment of a lab.
That's why it's important to understand what to expect from each depth rating in the real world.
Water Resistant Watch Tip 3. What to Expect From Water Resistant Watches
30 meters (3 ATM/3 bar): This is a watch you can probably wash your hands or take a shower with and still expect functionality. If it's your only watch you may want to be even more careful. The heat of a shower could cause the seals to fluctuate, and other factors could lead to unexpected water damage. The safest option is to treat it the same as a watch with no water resistance at all.
50 meters (5 ATM/5 bar): This rating is much more reliable when it comes to withstanding the accidental splashes and showers of everyday life. Getting it wet won't hurt it – just don't submerge it in water.
100 meters (10 ATM/10 bar): Yes, you CAN go swimming in a 100 meter rated watch. Just not scuba diving. High-impact water sports are inadvisable as well.
200 meters (20 ATM/20 bar): A 200-meter rated watch is a diving watch. It can handle pretty much any form of swimming or diving you throw at it. The exception is extreme deep-sea diving, for which specialized watches exist that go to 500 or 1000 meters. These are pretty rare.
Water Resistant Watch Tip 4. FAQs
Why does water damage the inside of my watch?
A watch is a closed system – it's designed so nothing goes in or out.
The intricate mechanisms of high-end watches can be thrown off by a small leak. Cheaper options contain quartz batteries that could be easily ruined by moisture. Click here to discover the difference between quartz and mechanical watches.
Help! I got water in my watch. What do I do?
First off, determine how bad it is. It may just be a matter of putting the watch on its side in a dry area and letting the moisture work its way out–or you may need to send it in to the manufacturer for repairs.
New watches should come with a warranty. If you're within the warranty, you can send your watch for repairs free of charge (if not, you'll just need to pay a fee).
If you bought the watch used or it's an heirloom – a watchmaker can help you fix it up.
My water-resistant watch comes with a leather strap, can I still swim with it?
The rating just refers to the case of the watch. Leather absorbs moisture and will crack as it dries out. If that happens, use a leather conditioner on the strap.
What negates the water resistance of my watch?
Leaving the crown wide open. Not only does this open up the mechanism to water damage, it exposes it to trace chemicals from fragrances and other fumes. Over many years, this can begin to break down the gaskets of the mechanism.
If you rely on a watch for daily wear, open it up and check how it's functioning every couple of years, or more often if you're exposing it to adverse conditions on the regular. You may need to upgrade if the construction is wearing out.
Click below to watch the video – Water Resistant Watch Guide