Water Resistance

 To leak or not to leak that is the question...

A big issue when you live in Vancouver, but especially so over the last month or so. I would say that every Vancouverite has now experienced what it's like to scuba dive with the amount of rain we've had!

This sort of weather can be really hard on the watches we like to wear every day unless they're really designed to take what we're going to throw at them in these conditions. So what sort of punishment can we comfortably dish out to our watches, and what are their limits? Conversely if we've punished our watches, and ignored their safe word calls, whats the next move?

Not all watches are created equal!

But first let me say this... THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A "WATERPROOF" WATCH! To be waterproof, by definition, means that they are impervious to water. Some watches however are "water resistant", which by definition describes some ability to resist the entry of water but does not mean they are impervious. There are particular watch case design considerations in a water resistant watch that will give it some degree of protection against water penetration, but not all watches are afforded the same protection! This is why watches are typically given some sort of water resistance rating ranging from splashproof through to "if you find yourself there you're probably not coming back ( but your watch might)!" This naturally leads to my next piece of sage advise, " just because you can doesn't mean you should!", and this really does pertain to watches too.

Ratings, Testing & Peace of Mind

Ratings of 25M, 50M, 100M, 300M, 600M, 1000M then there's all sorts of symbols from fish to water droplets. Which is best for you? But wait your 100m watch is fogging up!!

Ratings typically mean a watch has passed a given test condition where they were made. However, test conditions are not standardized for the above ratings so there can be differences in test implementation from manufacturer to manufacturer. However one fact will remain in that if a watch case is tested to 100M it means that it should be perfectly fine to resist water entry at 100M as long as its kept static. If a watch is moved under water, dynamic pressure (increase in pressure due to the force of movement of a watch in a fluid and the respective resistance due to the density of the fluid, remembering that sea water is more dense than fresh)  on the case is a real consideration.  Therefore dynamic pressure is a real consideration on water resistancy.

So if you purchase a watch that is resistant to 25M id could be safe to say ( as long as the integrity of the case is not comprimised) that you can safely submerge the watch to 12 M and have a spare 13M for dynamic pressure and any other mishaps like banging the watch on the head of a mermaid or more likely a rock you weren't paying attention to.

Conversely, if you take your watch to altitude the pressure on the watch, that compresses it, is reduced. This is in turn can predispose it to a leak. Remember that commercial airliners adjust the pressure of the cabin, reducing it, as the aircraft operated in a reduced pressure environment at altitude. This means that unless your watch is properly sealed, there is a greater chance it will let water/moisture in should you spill your drink on it during turbulence !

Temperature can also have an effect on the water resistancy of your watch, so keep that in mind when you're looking for water in the sahara!

Peace of Mind

If you have a need for a watch that is highly water resistant look for watches that have screw down crowns and threaded case backs with gaskets. The watch should have a crystal ( watch glass) that is fitted with a gasket or series of gaskets.

A watch that does not have screw down crown but has a tube and gasket is better than nothing, but should be treated carefully around water. However no matter what, you should keep on top of the condition of your watch if you need some type of performance around water.

Watch Testing

Watchmakers have a variety of tools that can be used to test water resistancy. These tools can be very expensive and require a lot of maintenance and so a bit of a premium is placed on the cost of work performed that require testing. However if you test your watch often you can have peace of mind in than as long as you don't compromise your case ( remember the mermaid) your watch will be fine.


 Table 1

Water resistance rating

Suitability Remarks
Water Resistant 3 atm or 30 m Suitable for everyday use. Splash/rain resistant. Not suitable for showering, bathing, swimming, snorkelling, water related work and fishing. Not suitable for diving.
Water Resistant 5 atm or 50 m Suitable for swimming, white water rafting, non-snorkeling water related work, and fishing. Not suitable for diving.
Water Resistant 10 atm or 100 m Suitable for recreational surfing, swimming, snorkeling, sailing and water sports. Not suitable for diving.
Water Resistant 20 atm or 200 m Suitable for professional marine activity, serious surface water sports and skin diving. Suitable for skin diving.
Diver's 100 m Minimum ISO standard (ISO 6425) for scuba diving at depths not suitable for saturation diving. Diver's 100 m and 150 m watches are generally old(er) watches.
Diver's 200 m or 300 m Suitable for scuba diving at depths not suitable for saturation diving. Typical ratings for contemporary diver's watches.
Diver's 300+ m for mixed-gas diving Suitable for saturation diving (helium enriched environment). Watches designed for mixed-gas diving will have the DIVER'S WATCH xxx M FOR MIXED-GAS DIVING additional marking to point this out.

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