The freedom from worrying about your timepiece getting drenched from something as simple as washing your hands or doing a somersault into the pool on a hot summer day is a major comfort for any watch owner. Water-resistance feature is highly considered by discerning watch wearers to suit their daily grind and lifestyle.
However, what does water-resistant exactly mean in the context of watches, and how will you know what your watch can withstand?
In this article, we'll debunk all the myths about water-resistant watches by delving into the features and ratings, so you'll know exactly what to look for when purchasing your next timepiece.
Waterproof vs Water resistant: Is there a difference?
According to the United States FTC (Federal Trade Commission), an agency who oversees consumer protection and truth-in-advertising, the phrase "Waterproof" has been considered incorrect as watch can never be utterly watertight because the gaskets erode with time and exposure, diminishing the advertised depth of water resistance.
It's worth noting that premium watches are rarely classified as "waterproof." Instead, they include a label on the watch case back stating the amount of water resistance and the number of meters.
The distinction between water-resistant and waterproof watches is based on how much water a watch can withstand before breaking. The term "waterproof" implies that a watch will never leak under any conditions, but the truth is that any watch will leak if subjected to significant water pressure.
In conclusion, water resistance can be defined as the ability of a timepiece to tolerate water pressure. This is usually determined in ideal laboratory conditions so it does not reflect real-world use and aging of gaskets. Regular wear and tear will reduce the manufacturer's specified water resistance over time.
Important Tip: Water contact with the movement is the worst-case scenario for a watch. So, always work within the manufacturer's guidelines and have your watch inspected at least once a year. Any skilled watchmaker can test water resistance.
Watch Water Resistance Factors
Crown: the most crucial single component in maintaining water resistance The crown-stem hole is the weakest point in a watch for water to enter. The crown stem is connected to the movement via a hole at the case edge. The gasket is constantly compressed, chafed, and stressed as the crown is repeatedly moved to different locations, wrapped, and rotated to adjust the time. Water will enter the watch through the stem hole if the form of the gasket varies or if the crown is not pressed all the way in.
If you intend to use the watch while swimming or diving regularly, we recommend that you acquire a watch with a screw-down crown mechanism.
Case Back: refers to the method through which the case back is fastened to the watch. Snap-on case backs are the least water-resistant because they are sealed by pressure. Water will enter the case through the tiniest nick in the case or deformation in the gasket (which will occur with time).
Gaskets: are rubber, nylon, or Teflon "O" rings that make waterproof seals at the joints where the crystal, case back, and crown contact the watch case. If the watch is a chronograph, the pushers for the chronograph will also have gaskets.
Gaskets degrade and break down with time, reducing a watch's water resistance. It is critical to test your watch for water resistance once a year. Any qualified watchmaker should have the basic equipment needed to test the watch, and the cost should be cheap.
Degree of Water Resistance based on Meters or ATM/Bars
Watch Trivia: What does ATM or BAR mean?
ATM is an abbreviation for "Atmosphere," which is equal to 10 meters. Another term for ATM that is often used in Europe is BAR, which also equals 10 meters.
When you see 30m water resistance on the back of your watch, you automatically believe that means it is water-resistant to 30 meters, which is false. A 30 meter watch is just water-resistant enough to handle normal handwashing, a light rain shower, or puddle splashing while cycling. Swimming, diving, or even showering and bathing are not resistant enough. So, what do these ratings actually mean? We’re going to break down each level below.
30m or 3 ATM - Water resistant to 30 meters, whereas in fact, 30m indicates your watch can tolerate water droplets and rapid handwashing.
50m or 5 ATM - means that Its water resistance can tolerate swimming and cold showers. Hot showers are unusual because hot water causes the watch to expand, perhaps allowing water to enter.
100m or 10 ATM - Water resistance of up to 100 meters implies that the watch can be worn when swimming or snorkeling, but it is not suitable for diving.
- 200m or 20 ATM - Water-resistant to 200 meters usually indicates you can dive while wearing your watch. Still, as the seals are exposed to different factors, their water-resistance will deteriorate over time. Wearable while scuba diving at depths not requiring helium gas.
Here's our top 10 affordable water-resistant watches this summer.
Some Real Life Scenarios to take Note
These manufacturers test a watch in a laboratory under ideal conditions, such as a new gasket, sitting immobile in a pressurized water tank, and with still/motionless water. Real-world activity, on the other hand, will yield radically different effects. Here are a few examples:
The shape of the gasket seals is affected by the temperature of the water in a hot tub or a hot shower. Especially if the watch is removed from heated temperatures and instantly immersed in cold water, such as when transferring from a hot tub to a pool.
Sudden and rapid pressure fluctuations, such as diving (even shallow diving) into a pool, or the force of slamming your arm into the water while swimming, will stress the gaskets for fractions of a second. If the gaskets are not up to standard, they may burst and allow water into the watch.
- As the watch ages, the seals deteriorate and no longer provide the same level of water resistance.
How to Maintain Your Water-resistant Watches?
- Do not expose your watch to sudden and fast variations in air pressure
- Once a year, have your watch water-tested
- Do not expose your watch to excessive temperature fluctuations
- Do not expose your watch to corrosive chemicals such as abrasive soaps or excessively chlorinated water
- Make sure the crown is always pushed in, and if it's a screw-down crown, that it's always fastened. Before immersing in water, double-check
We’ve shared some tips and ways how to maintain your water-resistant watch. However, it’s essential to have it checked by a watch specialist once a year to check its durability. Click the button below to learn more about Watch Republic’s watch repair center locations in the Philippines.