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Everything you need to know before buying a Water Resistant Watch

Posted on April 01 2017

Whether you're going diving, or simply washing the dishes, it is good to have a handle on exactly how far your watch will get you when you submerge it under water. In this article we are going to explore the difference between water resistance and waterproof and what it all means in relation to your watch.

Water resistance

According to current valid standards, a wristwatch may be termed "water resistant" if it is able to withstand perspiration, water drops or rain. It is not suitable for swimming.
Higher resistance values are usually indicated on the dial or case, for example, in the form of the test pressure in bar or in metres.

What features make a watch water resistant?

The watch’s most important property is the gaskets or O rings, made of rubber, nylon or Teflon, which form watertight seals at the joints where the crystal, case back and crown meet the watch case. Another factor to consider is the sturdiness of the case, which must withstand pressure without distorting. A steel or titanium case or a steel case plated with gold can be worn safely underwater. Gaskets are also lined with a sealant to keep water out. A screw-in case back is also preferable to one that is pushed in.

How can I test my water resistance is still working?

No. All water resistant watches should have their water resistance checked every time the battery is changed or the case is opened and the gaskets dislodged. That’s why it is important to take your watch to a repair centre with water resistance testing equipment. If you wear your watch often while swimming or expose it to a lot of sweat, it should be checked at least every two years.

How do you test for water resistance?

Two methods are used

"dry" testing using air pressure measurements to see if the case expands as a result of air leaking into the case – if it doesn’t the watch is water resistant.

"Wet" testing – the watch is subjected to air pressure, then submerged in water. Emerging air bubbles will point to air seepage into the watch before it was submerged.

Water resistance ratings and what they mean (International Standard ISO 2281)

  • WATER RESISTANT - Suitable for everyday use. Splash/rain resistant. NOT suitable for swimming.
  • 5 BAR 50 METRES - Suitable for water related work, recreational swimming & fishing. NOT suitable for diving.
  • 10/15 BAR,100/150 METRES - Suitable for recreational surfing snorkelling, sailing & water sports. NOT suitable for diving.
  • 20 BAR 200 METRES - Suitable for professional marine activity & serious surface water sports. NOT suitable for diving.

(International Standard ISO 6425)

  • DIVERS 200 METRES Scuba diving at depths NOT requiring helium gas.
  • DIVERS 300 METRES requiring helium gas and over
  • Deep sea diving at depths (Dealer’s advice should be sought)

This guide has been developed by the Jewellers and Watchmakers of New Zealand (Inc.) in conjunction with the major watch importers and wholesalers in New Zealand.

In time, the seals on your watch may deteriorate. We recommend that you have the water-resistance of your watch checked once a year by a watchmaker who will replace the seals if necessary.

The Jewellers and Watchmakers do not recommend using any watch whilst in the shower, spa or hot pool.

How permanent is water resistance?

Any manipulation of the case or ageing of the sealing material may allow water to penetrate even cases with good water resistance. Gaskets can become corroded by chemicals or crystals loosened or broken. Hairsprays, perfume sprays and heavily chlorinated water can also cause damage.

What does a water resistance guarantee cover?

Your guarantee covers defects in material and workmanship for a certain period from the date of purchase. When purchasing your watch make sure the conditions of the guarantee are explained and the appropriate form is filled in by the vendor. Well-known brands often come with an international guarantee. When buying your watch in New Zealand your purchase is also covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act. Keep your guarantee in a safe place.

Looking for a water resistant watch for driving? Shop our diving section here

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