Water Proof vs Water Resistant vs Diver's Watches Explained!

We explain the differences between waterproof, water resistant, and vs diver’s watches.

Lots of people love to wear watches. From functional time pieces, to fashion statements, to accessories used in water related activities, there’s a lot to consider, especially if you’re looking for a watch that can go in and out of both fresh and saltwater.

The issue is many people and companies often confuse terms, misrepresent water resistant ratings, or flat out lie about “waterproof watches”. There are a few things we usually go over with any prospective customer looking for a new watch, or bringing in a “waterproof” or water resistant watch for a battery change or repair to ensure they’re up to speed on terminology and water resistant ratings.

Watches are not waterproof.

The most important thing to know is that there is no such thing as a “waterproof” watch.

In fact, the Federal Trade Commission actually banned watch makers from using that term because it’s literally impossible to guarantee. So, if you see “water-proof” written on a watch, I would suspect shenanigans and steer clear. It’s an empty promise that can’t deliver on what it promises.

What you can get however is a watch with a rating of “water resistant” or “diver’s”. These ratings are enforced by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO for short). For anyone interested, these ratings are ISO 22810 and ISO 6425, and you can read more about these ratings on Wikipedia’s Water Resistant Mark page.

With these ratings, the good news is if you would like to go into the water with a watch, there is still hope. The timepieces that are specifically made for going in the water are called, you guessed it, “diving watches”. These watches are specifically constructed with special features to keep water out of the watch at various depths. Features in diving watches can include a screw down crown, screw off backs, heavier and more numerous rubber gaskets, and even a helium escape valve. It also might contain numbers on a unidirectional bezel for keeping track of the amount of oxygen you have left in your tank.

Diving watches are made with premium materials and are very carefully- almost painstakingly- crafted by experts, piece by piece. If you are looking for a diving watch to adorn your wrist, expect to pay a little more than your average watch due to these reasons.

For snorkeling or swimming on vacation or something, you should be fine with a watch that has a depth rating of at least 100 meters or deeper. If you plan on strapping on a scuba tank any time soon, I’d say you would be in need of a diving watch!

If you happen to own a diving watch, be sure to bring it to a jeweler or send it back to the manufacturer at least once a year if you are actually diving with it. This will ensure all the seals are working and the watch is safe to take the pressure of going underwater. The older the watch is, the greater the chance of water getting into it, so have it checked before you do any water sports!

Don’t trust the depth on water resistant watches.

So now that we know about water resistance, let’s go over the depth rating on water resistant watches.

In short, just because it says 200m on the front or back of your watch does not mean you’ll be able to tell time at that depth. The reason is pretty simple: depth is determined in a lab, and not a real world environment. In the real world, water conditions can vary. From freshwater to saltwater, to chlorine pools, a watch can go through a lot of different environments that can impact how much pressure it can be subject to.

In most labs, the test to determine depth is conducted with “static conditions”. The water is room temperature, in freshwater with no currents, and the watch is brand new with perfectly sealed gaskets. The watch is most likely lowered slowly in a tank and not getting pressure shocked by repeated trips in and out of the water, which is stressful for the seals.

In the real world, things can, and do, impact how durable that watch will be, and how deep it will go. Saltwater impacts the depth, as does the watch’s age.

And in case you’re wondering, the numbers and letters you see on front or back of a watch tell you how deep the watch should be able to go. You might see things like 5 ATM or 100 meters or 620 feet, which is the limit of what the watch can take. These ratings are different, but it’s pretty easy to figure out what it means. One ATM, or atmosphere, is equivalent to 10 meters, or 33 feet. You also might see BAR, which another way of saying ATM. These ratings are used to measure the pressure at any point on the earth, but for our purposes we are talking about going under water.

Watch condition affects water resistance.

The condition of the watch comes into play as well. The rubber seals and gaskets in watches can dry out over time if not lubricated and/or replaced periodically. So, if you take an old watch swimming and it stops working, this could be a reason.

Another thing to remember too is that most watch buttons should not be pushed while it’s underwater or wet. Water could get in this way, so most manufacturers highly discourage this.

It is also important to keep your watch clean. If you never wipe down or clean your watch every so often, over time the dirt and foreign particles will creep into the watch itself. This dirt and grime could get into the movement when the back is taken off. It can easily get pushed into the watch just by pushing the crown in and out while setting it or if you have chronograph buttons.

One way to keep your watch as waterproof as possible is regular maintenance and cleanings. When in doubt, bring your watch into a reputable jeweler for a cleaning and check-up. This goes double for when you replace a battery. If you have a battery replaced by a place like Walmart or a kiosk in the mall, the person replacing the battery most likely won’t inspect any other aspect of the watch. When you visit Braunschweiger Jewelers, we give the watch a thorough inspection while replacing batteries.

To learn more about keeping your watch ready for the water, feel free to visit either of our New Jersey jewelry store locations in Morristown or New Providence to see for yourself and talk to any of our expert jewelers.

If you’d like to talk to someone directly about watches, you can contact us online anytime by emailing us directly at info@braunschweiger.com or simply filling out our contact form and we’ll answer your questions quickly.