What makes a Water-Resistant Watch?

What makes a Water-Resistant Watch?

Updated May 2023

Water-resistance is often a key factor for anyone who regularly wears a high-quality watch. Both for the sake of convenience and durability, water-resistant watches are a popular choice among watch owners.

But exactly what does it mean when a watch is water-resistant? And furthermore, how do you know how much water a watch can withstand?

What is a Water-Resistant Watch?

If the back of a watch is stamped with a “water-resistant” label, that means that it is designed to be humidity-protected. These watches can stand up to small amounts of water, like the splashes that occur when you wash your hands or are caught in the rain. 

However, you should not assume that a water-resistant watch can withstand being submersed while swimming or even worn while you shower.

Water-Resistant vs. Waterproof Watches

The term “waterproof” suggests that a watch is completely immune to all water, but that is not necessarily the case. In truth, there are no watches that can be considered 100% waterproof. Every watch has a certain limit to the amount of water pressure it can handle before moisture permeates the outer case and damages the inner mechanism.

This is why professional watchmakers prefer to use the term “water-resistant” rather than “waterproof.” Technically speaking, water resistance is a watch’s ability to withstand a certain amount of water pressure.

Different Water Resistance Ratings and Standards

There are various methods of measuring and labeling a watch’s level of water resistance. The three most commonly used are BARs or ATM/Meters, standards established by the ISO (International Organization for Standardization), and IP Code/Rating. 

BARs or ATM/Meters

If you look at the back of a water-resistant watch, you’ll notice a stamped mark. This mark is used to indicate the amount of water pressure that the watch is able to sustain before risking a leak. Oftentimes, this value is stated in BARs and ATM (atmosphere), but the most common way to communicate water resistance is depth and meters. 

Standard water-resistant watches will have a water resistance rating that is 30, 50, 100, or 200 meters (m). Unfortunately, these ratings can often cause confusion for watch-wearers. For example, you may assume that a 30m water-resistant watch will be resistant to water at depths up to 30 meters, but that is incorrect. The watch in question would actually only be able to withstand minor splashes.

So, exactly what do water-resistance ratings mean?

  • 30m: Can tolerate exposure to water droplets or brief handwashing
  • 50m: Can be worn during swimming or a cold shower (hot showers result in the expansion of watch parts, making a timepiece more susceptible to water getting in)
  • 100m: Can be worn for swimming and snorkeling but not suitable for diving
  • 200m: Can be worn while diving, but the water resistance will likely decrease over time

ISO Rating

In addition to the system above, the ISO (International Organization of Standardization) has established a second methodology for rating watches’ water-resistance levels

You may see watches labeled as ISO 2281 or ISO 6425 (the standard for a diving watch).

  • ISO 2281 (Water Resistance Standard): This standard is used for any water-resistant watches that are not diving watches. 
  • ISO 6425 (Divers Watch Standard): This standard is applied only to watches that meet the standards set specifically for diving watches.

The ISO 2281 water-resistant testing methodology assesses a device’s water resistance, as well as its reaction to temperature, condensation, and pressure.

Comparatively, ISO 6425 watches must undergo far more rigorous testing. This standard demands that a watch be able to measure up to specific expectations for its resistance to saltwater, reaction to condensation and extreme changes in water temperature, and reliability underwater.

IP Code/IP Rating

IP codes/ratings are a system developed by the International Electrotechnical Commission and is often considered the most trusted method for judging a watch’s water-resistance level. A watch’s IP code is based on the degree of protection its casings and electrical enclosures provide, specifically against water, dust, accidental contact, and intrusion.

When you see an IP rating, it will begin with the letters “IP.” Then, there will be four digits immediately following. The first two are related to solids, but most watches will be labeled with an “X” because resistance to solids is relatively unimportant in the watchmaking industry. The second pair of digits tells you the types of liquid (moisture) the watch has been able to withstand. 

It’s important to be aware that companies are not required to test/rate each watch for all IP codes. So, a watch may be labeled IPX6, meaning it can endure powerful water jets. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that it has been tested and approved for the previous IPX codes. If a watch has undergone multiple IP tests, each one will be listed. This labeling will appear as a series separated by forwarding slashes, such as IPX1/IPX3/IPX7.

Explore a Curated Selection of Water-Resistant Watches from Serket Watch Company

Water-resistant is a valuable quality in a watch, but craftsmanship, style, and long-term durability are equally vital. Serket Watch Company offers a collection of premium watches for the discerning wearer, including various options providing water resistance.

Browse our full selection to find an outstanding watch to add to your collection today.

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