For as long as watches have been around, watchmakers have looked for ways to protect their products from exposure to the elements. Waterproof watches have been around as early as 1851 when W. Pettit & Co. displayed a pocket watch submerged in water at the Great Exhibition in London.
It’s important to note that no watch offers complete protection against water—even those with modern innovations and practices. As such, the term “waterproof” is incorrect and illegal in the world of watchmaking. However, today’s water-resistant watches offer various levels of protection to suit ocean lovers and landlocked wearers alike.
The difference between waterproof and water-resistant watches—or, more importantly, how water resistance ratings function—is a crucial detail that influences the kind of timepiece you want to add to your collection. Explore the standards of water resistance in horology with this expert guide.
How Moisture Affects Watches
Water and moisture can do a lot of harm to your luxury watch. Water can cause various parts to corrode, and the internal mechanisms may stop working entirely.
One of the biggest indicators that moisture has seeped into your watch is condensation on the crystal. A broken seal or cracked crystal are also warning signs that water might have gotten into the watch. If you notice moisture in your watch, take it to a certified watchmaker for servicing as quickly as possible. An expert will be able to repair any damage, replace broken parts, and pressure-proof the watch to ensure its continued water resistance.
Understanding Water Resistance Ratings
Water resistance refers to the rate at which a specific watch can withstand water exposure. Watchmakers usually rate water resistance levels in meters. For example, the Panthère de Cartier collection boasts distinguished women’s watches with a 30-meter water resistance rating. These timepieces would be safe and functional in water up to 30 meters deep.
This applies to all water-based activities within the water resistance rating. As such, a watch with a 30-meter water resistance rating will be fine in any kind of shallow water. Whether you’re washing your hands, taking a shower, or jumping into the pool, a lower water resistance rating is still enough to protect your watch.
Go Deeper With Dive Watches
Dive watches include any watch that features a water resistance rating of 100 meters or more and a device to measure immersion time. Makers of dive watches use rigorous tests to guarantee protection in deeper waters. These tests also examine corrosion resistance, performance in extreme temperature changes, and performance during and after pressure changes.
How Does Water Resistance Affect Your Purchase?
Learning the truth behind waterproof watches, water-resistant watches, and water resistance ratings helps you choose the right luxury watch for your collection.
A 30-meter rating is sufficient for casual water-based activities like showering, lounging in a pool, or even swimming, surfing, and snorkeling. Even scuba divers rarely dive deeper than 40 meters, which means a 100-meter rating suitable for nearly all water enthusiasts. That said, peace of mind, appearance, or sheer bragging rights can make deeper water resistance ratings more appealing. That’s why dive watches with ratings of up to 6000 meters deep—such as the Rolex Submariner, Omega Planet Ocean, and Panerai Luminor Submersible collections—are popular among divers and non-divers alike.
When it comes to finding a watch with the right water resistance rating, the key is to choose a quality watch from the start and keep up with regular servicing and maintenance. That’s why luxury watch enthusiasts turn to Phigora as their watch dealer. And if you're in New York, stop by our store in Great Neck. Our sophisticated collection includes styles and features you’ll love from brands you’ve always admired. Explore our range of dive watches and more at Phigora.