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What does 'water resistant' mean in watch terms?

Most watches in the modern age are perfectly capable of being caught in the rain  without any cause for concern. Water resistance is a commonly discussed topic, with a fair amount of misconception shrouding what it actually is. Hopefully this article will help to finally explain exactly what level of resistance you can expect from your new watch.

An Introduction to Water Resistance

The majority of watches that have been tested to withstand any water will be labelled as being X amount of meters water resistant. It can be misleading, as we would NEVER recommend taking a watch that states 100m resistant into 100m of water, and here is why.

Watches are usually tested in pressure chambers, not water. They are also tested when brand new, and the simulation would be like very carefully immersing the watch into 100m of perfectly still water.

In reality, water constantly moves, and the wearer is moving too. Pushing and pulling the watch through water as you swim applies more pressure to it than gently lowering it into a pool. If you’re swimming in water with a current such as the ocean or river, this amount of pressure is amplified. If you’re wearing it while engaging in water sports such as jet skiing, surfing or canoeing, the pressure builds up tenfold.  

Other Things to Avoid

Several factors should also be taken into account. The main things keeping water out of your watch are tiny rubber gaskets, located around the face, caseback and crowns. These rubber gaskets can be adversely affected by things like oil, salt water or even soap which may cause them to corrode or become less effective at blocking water. Heat can also play a factor, for example choosing to wear your watch in a bath or shower will cause the gaskets to expand and then shrink upon cooling. It is NEVER a good idea to wear a watch while bathing, as the combination of expanding gaskets and soap chemicals will almost guarantee an accident over time, if not immediately.

These gaskets will eventually need replacing, usually around once every 3 – 5 years. In the case of quartz watches, if you intend to regularly immerse the watch in water you should have the battery replaced by a professional. This usually requires sending it away, not simply taking it to your local watch dealer. When the case back is removed, the gasket must be replaced, to ensure full water resistance.

What We Recommend

As a general rule, the best practice is to think of water resistance as a safe guard, in case of an accident. If surfing, swimming or diving etc are activities you want to enjoy while wearing a watch, purchase a divers watch for safe measure.

View a full range of divers' watches here.

 

 
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