Water-resistant vs. Waterproof Watches

Many people use “water proof” and “water-resistant” interchangeably, but they’re two completely different terms. Waterproof watches should be impervious to water, while water-resistant timepieces can endure contact with water for a limited time.

However, only those watches that can withstand the conditions and pressures of the deepest underwater explorations can be considered waterproof.  Those that fail to do so are called water-resistant. So how can you distinguish a waterproof watch from a water-resistant timepiece?


Repeated exposure to water can damage waterproof watches. Thus, watchmakers replaced the term waterproof with water-resistant to market their products. If you have an old timepiece that was considered waterproof, it would be a good idea to take it off when you’re swimming or showering. 

So before wearing your watch during your water adventures, you should know its water resistance rating. Remember, watchmakers test watches for static pressure. Thus, movement can significantly alter the actual pressure. That’s why you shouldn’t use your timepiece near the depth rating given.


The water resistance of a watch is usually expressed in meters (m), atmosphere (ATM), or Bar. One ATM is equal to 10M. On the other hand, one bar is equal to 1ATM. Thus, 10 Bar is equivalent to 100M and 10ATM. What do these ratings mean?

  • 30M/ 3ATM/ 3Bar

Fashion watches are usually water-resistant up to 30 meters. This rating provides enough protection against accidental splashes, rain, and hand washing. You can’t wear a watch with this rating while swimming or showering.

  • 50M/ 5ATM/ 5Bar

You can submerge watches that are water-resistant up to 5ATM for a short period. However, it is not ideal for snorkeling, diving, or vigorous swimming. It only covers quick submersion and showering.

  • 100M/ 10ATM/ 10Bar

This rating is ideal for daily wearers and sports watches. Watches that are water-resistant up to 10M can be used for repeated submersion and shallow water activities such as snorkeling, swimming, and boating.

  • 200M/ 20ATM/ 20Bar

Watches with a water resistance rating of 20 ATM perform well at extreme depths. These watches are ideal for shallow diving, jet-skiing, and other high-impact water activities.

  • 300M/ 30ATM/ 30Bar

These watches are ideal for snorkeling and scuba diving, but they don’t have an ISO 6425 certification yet. In other words, these timepieces don’t count as diver’s watches. The only time that it can be called a diver’s watch is when it meets all ISO 6425 standards.

  • 1000M/ 100ATM/ 100Bar

Watches with a water resistance rating of 1000ATM are designed for saturation diving and other challenging conditions. These watches have thick sapphire crystals and cases that can withstand immense external pressure.


Before submerging your watch, you have to adjust its crown. Watches with screw-down crowns have the greatest water resistance, but you have to ensure that it’s tightly closed. You should also avoid wearing your timepiece during sauna, Turkish, or hot baths. That’s because high temperatures and pressures can damage the watch gaskets.

Here are other tips to consider before and after submerging your watch.

  • Don’t forget to wash the watch with clean water if you didn’t remove it while swimming. That way, you can protect it from chemicals that can damage the watch gaskets.
  • Test the watch’s impermeability once a year. Remember, the watch’s impermeability will depend on the maintenance and quality of the gaskets.
  • You should also pay attention to your watch. If the watch glass fogs up, it’s a sign that there’s water inside. When that happens, seek assistance from the watchmaker immediately.

Despite being water-resistant or waterproof, it’s essential to keep your watch clean and dry. It doesn’t matter whether you have a manual or automatic timepiece. You should keep it away from chemicals and high temperatures, as these factors can damage your watch.  Furthermore, you should have your watch professionally serviced every three to five years. With proper care, your timepiece can last forever.


Now that you know the difference between waterproof and water-resistant watches, it’s time to choose a watch that fits your style and budget. Whatever you pick, make sure that it can withstand your water adventures. If you’re into boating, snorkeling, or swimming, get a timepiece with a water resistance rating of 10ATM. But if you’re not fond of water sports, you can go for a 3ATM watch. Knowing the waterproof ability of your watch can give you comfort when encountering situations that may threaten your timepiece.