I’ve been talking about watches a bit recently, and will keep doing so for a bit longer, so I thought a quick post on what water resistance ratings mean to me would be handy to post.
The first thing to note is that no watch is really “waterproof” which is why you see the term “water resistant” and typically this is given in one of two metrics. As a pressure metric, 10bar/ATM (I’ve seen it both ways, no clue) water resistance, or as a depth, 100m water resistant. Both of those are the same (because of how watches are tested) what is being tested is how resistant the watch is to pressure from water. The deeper you go in the ocean, for example, the more pressure is being exerted on the watch.
This is important, because it doesn’t actually mean that you could necessarily take the watch to that depth and it would be fine. If that were the case, a water resistance of 10 feet would likely suffice for most people in the world. However, such a watch would likely not survive a splash from the sink faucet. That said, 100m is a pretty close approximation to what you might expect under ideal circumstances — it’s just that the world is never ideal. (More info here.)
Having said that, when I look at watches here’s what I think, broken down by common water resistance ratings I see.
30 meters and under
A watch at this rating simply is not worth my time. I never want to have to think twice about plunging my arm into water because it might destroy my watch. With a rating like this, I would not get the watch wet. For me, that’s a deal breaker, and thus I won’t buy a watch with this low of a rating — as I’m not even sure it could survive a humid environment well.
This is the absolute lowest water rating I would accept, but only for a dress watch. Something I wear with a suit, and only with a suit, then yes this is a sufficient enough water rating — but I don’t love it.
This might be the most standard water resistance you can find in more well known watches. And it’s very hit and miss whether you can “swim” with a watch like this. I’ve done it with some of mine, as well as showered with some of them on, while I’ve heard friends destroy theirs doing the same. (Even popular watch blogs struggle with this, and from watch review to watch review you’ll see inconsistencies. “Water resistance is 100m, suitable for swimming” and then later on another watch “It’s resistant to 100m, so you won’t want to swim with it…”.)
The key here is that with 100 meters you know you can at least get the watch submerged for short periods of time without destroying it. Plunging your hand into a bath to keep your kid from going under won’t ruin the watch, and perhaps you can swim with them, but I wouldn’t say you should swim with them at this rating. That will also very widely between manufacturers.
When you get into this class of water resistance, you are typically talking about a watch which you’ll never have to be concerned with water around. Even swimming, showering, or diving should be of no concern at all. There’s many dive watches — made for actual diving — that have this level of resistance. Basically, when I see 200 meters on a watch, I know that it’s sealed well and I stop worrying about it coming into contact with water in any form.
300 meters and up
Now you get into the specialty realm of “water resistance I’ll never need, but hot damn is it cool”. If I were actually looking to dive with a watch, or spent my time on a boat, this is where I’d be looking — it’s a bit of a different breed of watch.
Weighing this all when shopping
Whenever I’m looking at a watch, the water resistance is one of the first things I check, as I can quickly weed out the ones I’d actually wear, from the useless. Under 100m and I put it in the negative column for the watch, exactly 100m and I don’t make note, 200m and above and it’s a positive for the watch.
Keep that in mind as I talk about watches a bit more.