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Water Resistance


There are many questions in regards to a watch’s water resistance, as well as misconceptions that everyone should be made aware of so that small mistakes with big consequences aren’t made. We do have a FAQ on the Stuhrling Original website that explains everything, but for your convenience, I’ll summarize the questions here.

What makes a watch water-resistant?

Several features make a watch water-resistant; the most important components are the gaskets (O-rings), which are usually made from rubber, nylon, or Teflon. They form watertight seals at the joints where the crystal, case back, and crown meet the watch case. If the watch is a chronograph, the chronograph pushers will also have gaskets. Watches cases are also lined with a sealant, applied in the form of a quick-hardening liquid that helps keep water out.

The thickness and material of the case also affect a watch’s water resistance; it must be sturdy enough to withstand pressure without caving in. Stainless steel or titanium are optimal materials for water resistance, and watches made from solid gold or have gold plating can be made water-resistant if they are sufficiently thick.

Screw-down case backs also contribute to a watch’s water resistance. Screw-down crowns, typically found in divers’ watches, help prevent water from getting into the case through the watch stem hole; screwing it down forms a seal similar to the lid on a jar.

Why aren’t watches ever labeled or advertised as “waterproof?”

“Waterproof” implies that the watch is impervious to water under all conditions, which is something that no watch manufacturer can claim. While you diver watches have incredible water resistance, under enough pressure, all watch cases will begin to leak. The term “waterproof” was discontinued in the 1960’s after several government organizations investigated the truthfulness and accuracy of product labeling and advertising.

When you see a watch’s water resistance, say 100 meters, or 330 feet, it means that under “still” conditions at depths no greater than 100 meters, the case should not leak. The movement of water over the case while swimming drastically changes how it affects the water-resistant seals – it alters the pressure while it’s moving through the water.

Levels of water resistance and practical applications

30 meters (100 feet): Can withstand splashes of water or rain. Not recommended for swimming or diving.
50 meters (165 feet): Can be worn while showering or swimming in shallow water.
100 meters (330 feet): Suitable for swimming and snorkeling.
150 meters (500 feet): Suitable for snorkeling.
200 meters (660 feet): Suitable for skin diving.

Diver’s 150 meters (500 feet) specified to meet ISO standards: Suitable for scuba diving.
Diver’s 200 meters (660 feet) specified to meet ISO standards: Suitable for scuba diving.

It is crucial to keep in mind that these tests are done in a laboratory, not in the ocean, and are done under still water conditions.

Is water resistance permanent?

Short answer, no. A watch’s water resistance will wear down over time through wear and year. The gaskets can become corroded or misshapen, and dented cases and loose crystals can ruin water-resistance. Preventative maintenance will ensure that your watch will last for years and years. After swimming or diving in salt water, immediately rinse the watch with fresh water to prevent salt buildup and corrosion of important water-resistant components. This goes the same with heavily chlorinated water, some perfumes and hairsprays, and other corrosive chemicals that can make their way into the watch’s seams and gaskets. If your watch is still wet, do not push any of the buttons or pull out the crown! This will likely lead to water getting inside the case and cause condensation to appear on the crystal.

What other factors affect water resistance?

Temperature. Drastic changes in temperature, particular with the water in which it’s submerged, can affect water resistance because heat and cold causes the metals to expand and contract. Opening the case back by yourself can ruin water resistance, which is why only a professional should work on your watch (also voids your warranty if you do it yourself). Have your watches inspected and worked on periodically by a watchmaker, and you will be golden.

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