Waterproof watch? I don’t think so!!

Some time ago, I found out, to my peril, that a waterproof watch does not do what it says on the tin! Splash-proof, maybe, but waterproof – oh no!!

So what exactly is the difference between waterproof, water resistant, splash-proof, or any other term the watch manufacturers care to throw at us? This guide will help you and, hopefully, prevent your beloved timepiece from actually disintegrating at the merest sniff of a water droplet!

Suppose a watch has a water resistant rating of 30 metres. This does not mean that you can dive to the bottom of the nearest lake and then resurface to boast to your mates about the capabilities of your new watch. If you do this, the chances are that you will be left looking rather silly and be facing a hefty bill to repair said timepiece. So, why do the manufacturers tell us it is water resistant to 30 metres? Is it just so that they can charge us an exorbitant amount of money to repair it? No, of course not. What 30 metres water resistance actually relates to is static pressure. That is, if the watch was static at 30 metres depth, it would not let in water. So, you can take it down to the bottom of that lake and leave it there and no water will get in. But, to retrieve it and bring it back to the surface would result in a pressure of far greater than 30 metres, because it is not static and therefore, likely to get soggy!

The table below is a guideline:

Water Resistance Guidelines

  • Water resistant – can survive splashes only.
  • 30 metres (3 ATM) – Splash-proof and waterproof in small amounts of water. For everyday use, but not for swimming.
  • 50 metres (5 ATM) – Can be submerged in water. Suitable for swimming, but not guaranteed to be resistant to jumping into the pool.
  • 100 metres (10 ATM) – Suitable for swimming and shallow diving.
  • 200 metres (20 ATM) – Suitable for diving – not deep sea.
  • 1000 metres (100 ATM) – Suitable for deep sea diving.

Dolphin Standard

New Rotary watches now feature┬áthe unique ‘Dolphin Standard’, a waterproof specification meaning that they are suitable for swimming, showering and watersports, with the exception of scuba diving. View the collection here.


When wearing your watch in the sea, it should be rinsed afterwards in clean fresh water to remove the corrosive salt. You are also advised not to wear a water resistant watch in a hot shower or sauna. This is because the heat may cause the seal to expand, which could then let in water droplets.

You need to ensure that the crown is in it’s normal operating position prior to wearing it in the water. On a watch with a screw-down button, it is no longer water resistant when the crown is in the unlocked position.

Another point to note is that, should you need a new battery for your watch, you should ensure that it is subsequently resealed and pressure tested by the manufacturer or approved service agent. In any case, the watch should be tested for water resistance every two years, in case the seals have perished.

This article has 8 Comments

  1. I wish I would have read this article a few days ago. I just purchased a new watch that said it is waterproof to 30 meters. I was planning to wear it while swimming in the pool (not actually diving down 30 meters).

    So, based on your article, my new watch cannot be used for swimming?

    I still have the receipt so I may try to return it and get one that is at least water proof to 50 meters.

    1. Hi Simone, glad to help and I hope you manage to exchange your watch. If not, just get another one, you can never have enough watches!! Or is that just me?

  2. Hi there,

    Thank you kindly for that explanation of what exactly a watchmaker means by waterproof I have lost many a fashionable good looking watch due to them being barely shower proof due to not understanding what they mean by “waterproof”

    Shocking, and they should be more clear in their language as I do expect something that says water proof to be exactly that!

  3. Wow! I though water proof or water resistant was just that. It amazing how some manufactures manipulate with play of words.

    I not a swimmer in the first place, but still, if my is suppose to be water proof, then I expect to not worry about it coming into contact with water, period. I guess nowadays, you just have do your due diligence and research before you purchase, and this is where information such as this can be very helpful.

  4. This is actually a very useful article. I’ve always been confused by waterproof watches. I have a pretty expensive ‘Wittnauer’ Swiss watch that says water resistant, and I was genuinely thinking of not taking it off in the summer. It turns out I would have been toast.

    Can I get your opinion on the those Wittnauer company watches? It’s not the most known brand, but I’m sure an expert can tell me more about it. Anyway, great post!

    1. Thanks for the comments, Makki. I am not very familiar with Wittnauer watches, but will take a look for a possible future article.


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