Watches have different purposes. While some use them as a fashion statement, many hobbyists and professionals rely on their capacity to properly function even under pressure. This holds true especially to people who frequent water-related activities. With this, they typically look for functional timepieces with good water resistance ratings.
Waterproof or water resistant? You’ll see these terms used interchangeably to describe a watch’s features. However, there’s a difference between the two which you should know if you plan to buy a watch.
What Does Waterproof or Water-resistant mean?
Many watch companies misuse the terms waterproof and water resistant. Some even lie about it just to make a sale.
In reality, there’s no such thing as a waterproof watch. Some organizations have even banned the use of the term in describing a watch’s features. If you see a watch that says it is waterproof, avoid it at all cost. You now know it’s a lie and that most probably, they’ll stop functioning even with just a splash of water.
What you should look at is water resistance. Legitimate watchmakers follow ISO standards in rating the water resistance capacity of their products.
The difference in the way the watch is built defines how much water pressure it can handle. Diving watches, for example, usually have screw-down crowns or screw-off case backs. They’re usually heavier because they’re filled with gaskets and have a helium escape valve. They’re made with the highest grade components to make sure the watch keeps functioning even under strong water pressure. For these reasons, they’re several times more expensive than your ordinary water-resistant timepiece.
On the other hand, fashion and casual watches are usually given a rating for splash resistance. They’re not designed to be submerged underwater for prolonged periods of time.
Regardless of whether you have a diver’s watch or a casual watch, take note that going beyond the recommended depth or pressure risks the chance of water leaking into the watch or moisture appearing behind the lens. Keep an eye on the water level to make sure you still have a functioning watch after the activity.
Water Resistance Ratings
The term “water resistance” in the watch community refers to the accessory’s ability to properly function up to a certain water pressure level. Usually, you’ll see them described in units like atmosphere (ATM), Bar, feet, or meters. The most commonly used are the ATM and meters. One ATM corresponds to 1 Bar, to 10 meters, or to 33 feet.
When you see a watch that’s water resistant for up to 3 ATM, that means it can withstand water pressure up to a depth of 30 meters; 10 ATM corresponds to 100 meters, and so on. Diver’s watches are usually rated at 20 ATM or more.
Don’t trust outright the water resistance rating you see on a watch. A watch’s water resistance has been tested on a laboratory with a controlled environment. It will be much different in the real world where there are variables that can alter the conditions the watch can handle. There’s the chlorine content of the pool, the osmotic pressure caused by transfer from saltwater to freshwater, the force of the splashing waves, and the occurrence of microorganisms that can hasten the corrosion of the gaskets or screws.
To be safe, keep in mind the following guide of the kind of activities you can do depending on a watch’s water resistance rating.
- 3 ATM or 30 meters
Getting water splashed on it during hand washing or when it’s raining are okay. It’s not that suitable for swimming or showering, though.
- 5 ATM or 50 meters
This is okay for swimming and other activities that require water immersion but only for brief periods of time.
- 10 ATM or 100 meters
Safe bet to use in swimming, snorkeling, and other water sports that don’t require driving.
- 20 ATM or 200 meters
Watches with this rating are okay for shallow diving and high-impact water sports like water polo.
Few watches pass the ISO 6425 requirements to achieve this status of water resistance rating. These watches can withstand water pressure up to 1,000 meters or more, depending on its build and components. These are the watches needed for scuba diving and similar sports.
Maintenance Tips and Safety Precautions
- When you’re underwater, avoid pushing the buttons or turning the crown of your watch. Water can get in the tiny spaces that these actions produce.
- Always keep your watch clean to prevent dirt and grime from accumulating on the miniscule corners and spaces.
- Bring your watch to certified jewelers for regular maintenance, especially for diver’s watches which are subjected to constant water pressure. A general watch repairer will usually replace the battery and not inspect the other components that need to be replaced.
- If you own a diving watch and you always use it for diving and other deepwater sports, make sure to have it checked by your jeweler at least once a year. Even if they’re made with high-quality materials and sealed with topnotch gaskets, they’ll eventually erode when always exposed to water pressure. This increases the risk of water damaging the components inside your watch. To be safe, have it serviced and have the worn out parts replaced to maintain the integrity of your timepiece.
There’s no such thing as a completely waterproof watch. There are only those that have high water resistance ratings and these should be the ones you’re purchasing when you frequent water-related activities.
Whether you have a diver’s or a casual watch, make sure you perform a maintenance routine to keep them functional and reliable. Time, they say, is a valuable thing so make sure you take care of the accessory that keeps track of it for you.