The water resistance of watches is perhaps one of the most misunderstood components of timepieces. If you’ve ever wondered what a water resistant watch actually means, then read our handy guide to understanding the water resistance of watches. Not only will you learn some tips on how to avoid damaging your watch with water, you can also find out what to do if moisture did leak into your timepiece.
Water Resistance or Waterproof? What Does it Mean?
Right off the bat, we have to mention that in reality, there is no such thing as a waterproof watch—despite the fact that it’s a term that is freely thrown around when discussing watches. All watches have a limit to how much pressure it can withstand, which brings us to our next point. Water resistance actually refers to how much pressure the watch can handle and it’s typically measured in atmospheres (ATM), bars, meters, or feet.
Here are some handy water resistance conversions:
- 3 ATM/ 3 Bar/ 30 Meters / 98 Feet
- 5 ATM/ 5 Bar/ 50 Meters / 165 Feet
- 10 ATM/ 10 Bar/ 100 Meters/ 328 Feet
- 20 ATM/ 20 Bar/ 200 Meters/ 656 Feet
- 30 ATM/ 30 Bar/ 300 Meters/ 1000 Feet
So what do these numbers translate to in real life? If a watch does not include “Water Resistant” anywhere on it, avoid exposing it to water at all. Remove the watch when you wash your hands and never leave it on for a shower or swim. Water will damage a watch that is not water resistant.
If a watch has a water resistance rating of 30 meters, it can usually handle light water exposure, such as some rain or hand washing. However, it’s not advisable to take it for a swim or shower since too much moisture contact may lead to damage.
A watch with a 50-meter water resistance rating can go for a short swim and quick shower, but better leave it in your watch box if you’ll be spending long periods of time in the water.
An increased water resistance rating of 100 meters means your watch can safely go swimming, snorkeling, and other water sports—but not scuba diving.
Finally, a watch with a 200-meter water resistance rating can accompany you on shallow dives. In fact, luxury watches that are often marketed as diving watches typically have a water resistance rating between 200 meters and 300 meters.
What’s more, many luxury watch brands offer models with even higher water resistance. Take for instance the Breitling SuperOcean Day-Date offering 500 meters of water resistance or the brand new Rolex Sea-Dweller ref. 126600 with an incredible 1,220 meters water resistance.
However, it’s important to note that to be a true diving watch, the watch must be in accordance with the ISO 6425 standard.
Important Considerations With Water Resistant Watches
Regardless of what it says on your watch, there are a few things to keep in mind to prevent water damage to your watch. For instance, when dealing with vintage watches, do not blindly follow the depth rating on the dial. Err on the side of caution and keep your vintage dive watches away from water.
Furthermore, if your watch has screw-down chronograph pushers and a screw-down winding crown, make sure they are indeed screwed-down prior to getting any water on them. If not, it’s more than likely that water will seep into the watch, thereby causing damage to the dial and/or movement.
Finally, water resistant watches don’t remain water resistant without proper servicing and maintenance. During a comprehensive watch service, watches should be pressure tested for water resistance and gaskets should be replaced. At Watch Central, we use a Witschi tester during our water resistance testing process where pressure is slowly applied to the watch case and then slowly reduced. This procedure tests for multiple water depths to ensure optimal watch water resistance. If your watch is frequently exposed to water, we recommend getting your watch tested at least once a year.
Water Got Into My Watch and Damaged It, Now What?
Water damage to luxury watches is one of the most common issues that we see here at Watch Central. If you see moisture buildup on the dial of your watch, then liquid has managed to seep into it. Other signs of water damage could include malfunctioning luminescence on the dial or faulty hands. If you suspect water damage, you should send your watch in for repair as soon as possible to prevent any further harm.
Depending on the condition of the timepiece, some instances of water damage can be repaired. The repair process includes carefully taking apart the watch, replacing any broken parts, removing all moisture, and conducting a proper water rest after the piece has been correctly reassembled.
At Watch Central, we have over two decades of experience repairing and servicing luxury watches. The best way to extend the life of your luxury watch is to have it undergo regular maintenance since prevention is easier than repairing.
August 23, 2018.
Photography by Aleksandra Krosniak