The technology behind water resistance

Water-resistance is a common feature on watches, but there’s more to it than your watch being able to get a little wet. Whether it’s a leisurely swim or diving, you want to know that your watch is protected against water damage. 

Waterproof and water-resistant are very different; waterproof means no water will ever get inside and water-resistant means that under specific conditions water shouldn’t get inside the device.

You will usually find the water-resistance rating in depths or pressure on the dial of the watch – it may say water-resistant on the back, but it won’t bear the words ‘waterproof’. This is because the International Organization for Standardization has banned it for being misleading. 

What can it withstand?

You would like to hope that if your watch is marked as water-resistant to 50m (5 ATM/5 bar), you could swim to that depth and it still be like new when it emerges – but that’s not how it works.

The watch initially gets tested using static pressure on a new model, not taking into account the rapid pressure and changes of the water or temperature. And if a watch is marked as water-resistant, but has no depth indication, this watch shouldn’t be submerged in water and is designed for accidental splashes only. So you can keep it on for a run in the rain, but not for a swim.

Luxury watch brand Omega, which isn’t necessarily the first brand thought of for a water-resistant watch, has put its famous timepieces through rigorous testing to make sure its watches can withstand the toughest of conditions. Its Seamaster range, like these available from Watchmaster, is described as a ‘rugged diver’s watch [and] is water-resistant to a depth of up to 600m’.

Looking after it

When testing is carried out for water resistance, it’s on a brand-new model. Over time, the watch will begin to deteriorate, losing some of the capabilities it had once before. To ensure you enjoy the longest lifespan possible of your watch, follow these tips to maintaining its standard for as long as possible:

 

  • While watches are water-resistant, try and limit or avoid using it in hot temperatures – remove the timepiece when in hot baths, saunas or steam rooms; exposure to heat can make seals on the watch expand, creating gaps for water to get inside.
  • Don’t change the batteries yourself. Ensure they are changed by the manufacturer or an approved service agent. This way you can guarantee the seal has been checked and changed if required. If it’s not carried out by one of these professionals, you don’t have the assurance that it is still waterproof. 
  • When it comes to cleaning your watch, be sure to run it under fresh water to rinse any corrosives from it. This will prevent build-up and keep it in good working order.
  • If the watch has changeable straps, opt for one that water is kinder to. Leather deteriorates in water and over time will wear quickly. Ideally, choose a sports strap which can also be wiped clean of chlorine or salt after use.

The technology behind water resistance is great for those looking to always wear their watch, but don’t take risks with it. If you are unsure about getting it wet, speak to the manufacturer. 

About Mark Westall

Mark Westall is the Founder and Editor of FAD magazine, ' A curation of the world’s most interesting culture' [PLUS] Art of Conversation: A tri-annual 'no news paper'