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Hackernoon logoWaterproof or Water-resistant: What Does it Really Mean? by@stuart-whitman

Waterproof or Water-resistant: What Does it Really Mean?

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@stuart-whitmanStuart Whitman

Stuart has spent the last 20+ years working with a variety of organizations.

Different people need different watches. For some of them, wearing
a watch is fashion accessories or a matter of prestige, and there are those who just need it to work well in all situations. Those who are physically active often come to a situation where they sweat a lot or are exposed to rain while jogging in the park. And to be honest, no matter whether we really need it or not, we would always want a higher rated water resistant or “waterproof” watch.

If you think these two features are the same, we have to say they
aren’t. But what’s the difference, you may ask? Well, keep reading as we will try to explain the difference and give same more details about these watches in case you need to buy one. 

Waterproof or Water-resistant

These two terms are often misused and even used intentionally just
to sell the watches.

The truth is simple – waterproof watches don’t exist. To make this
a bit clearer, in the USA it’s been illegal to say a watch is “water proof”
since the ‘60s. This is the reason why you should avoid watches labeled as
waterproof. In most cases, that watch will stop working the minute it comes in contact with water. 

Now when you know this, you should only take water resistance into
account. There are specific ISO standards companies have to adhere to when they need to rate the water resistance capacity of the watches they produce.

What really makes a difference is the system used to build the
watches. It specifically makes a difference on how much water pressure the watch will be able to handle. 

Casual watches are generally not designed to handle high pressure, but in most cases, you can see their rating on how resistant they are from splashes. 

Diving watches are heavier than casual watches because they have many gaskets and because of the helium escape valve.

They also have screw-down crowns or screw-off case backs. The components for these watches have to be of highest quality which will guarantee the watch to continue working under huge water pressure. Of course, this also affects the price and because of that diving watches are much more expensive than causal watches. 

What makes a watch water-resistant?

A water-resistant watch has several specific features that make it
what it is. The first and most important feature are its gaskets. They are
generally made of Teflon, nylon or rubber and they seal all the joints between the watch case and the crystal, case back, and crown.

Additionally, these watches are lined with a sealant which keeps the
water out.

Another significant factor is the materials used to build the case
and their thickness. Strong materials like titanium or stainless steel are
needed to take care of the pressure so you can wear the watch safely

Next feature worth mentioning is the screw-in case back which
drastically increases the water resistance of the watch. 

And last, but not the least is the screw-in crown. It is normally
found in diving watches. When you screw it down if creates a watertight seal which prevents water from getting into the case through the watch-stem hole. 

Water Resistance Ratings

We measure water-resistance in watches using the following units:

- meters (m)
- feet (ft)
- atmosphere (ATM)
- pressure
- (Bar)

ATM and Bar are the key metrics here because in terms of water
resistance the specific depth is not as important as the pressure the watch
should handle. To better understand these measures, you should know this:

1 ATM = 1 Bar =10 m = 33 ft

Water Resistant (no rating)

From time to time, you will see a watch being labeled as water
resistant, but without any specific rating. Such watches should be able to
handle hand washing or a slight rain, but you should never submerge them in water. 


3 ATM or 3 Bar is the most commonly seen water resistance rating
in watches. To translate it in English, a watch with this rating is “splash
resistant.” It means it should easily handle any situation like washing your
hands, or having a walk in the rain, but you mustn’t have a shower with it and don’t think about submerging it in water. 


Although the number is a bit higher here it is always better to
stay on the safe side. Such watches will probably survive a shower or
accidental dip in the sink but don’t submerge them on purpose. 


This rating is the minimum we are looking for when buying a
water-resistant watch. Swimming and snorkeling with it are allowed, and also the activities mentioned above. However, avoid scuba diving with it. If you are into scuba diving you will need to go to the next level of water


We can say that a watch with this rating is an entry level diving
watch. They will easily handle deeper depths and swimming. But if you are into deep sea scuba diving read the following.


With this rating you are entering the world of professional scuba
diving. However, most people will opt for this rating even though they are just into swimming or surfing. After all, it’s always better to be safe than sorry,especially if you love your watch.

Water resistance in watches: Who invented the first one?

Water resistant watches have their history so since you are buying
one, it is good to know a little about the first water-resistant watch. 

The Rolex Oyster was the first “waterproof” wristwatch launched in
1926. Its hermetically sealed case protected the watch from water and dust,similar to the oyster shell. All the elements of the Rolex Oyster were screwed down. Since many people doubted the waterproofness of this watch, all the skepticism disappeared in 1927, when Mercedes Gleitze swam across the English Channel with the Rolex Oyster on. After ten hours of swimming the watch was till working perfectly. 


As we have already said a completely waterproof watch doesn’t
exist, there are only watches with high water resistance ratings. If you are
into any activities or work which puts you into direct contact with water, then these watches are the ones you should look for. 

And one more thing, no matter whether you have a casual or a diving
watch, taking good and proper care for it is a must. It will keep your watch in good condition and functional for a very long time.


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