What Is The Difference Between Waterproof Watches vs. Water Resistant?

Explore the difference between waterproof and water-resistant Rolex watches. Learn how they're measured, when to choose each type, and essential maintenance tips for long-lasting performance.

What Is The Difference Between Waterproof Watches vs. Water Resistant?

In the world of horology, terms like "waterproof" and "water resistant" are often thrown around, but what do they really mean for watch enthusiasts, from the seasoned Watch Idiot Savant (WIS) and watch snobs to the eager newbies? Understanding these terms is crucial, not just for the sake of knowledge, but for making informed decisions about which watch to strap on your wrist next.

In this post, we'll explore the nuances between waterproof and water-resistant watches, how their ratings are measured, and when one might be preferable over the other. Plus, we'll share some essential maintenance tips to keep your timepiece ticking perfectly.

Understanding Waterproof vs. Water Resistant

First things first, the term "waterproof" is somewhat of a misnomer in the watch industry. No watch is entirely impervious to water under all conditions. Thus, the more accurate term used today is "water resistant." This distinction is not just semantic; it's a crucial factor in how watchmakers design and market their timepieces.

Water-resistant watches are designed to withstand a certain level of exposure to water, typically measured in meters or atmospheres (ATM), which refers to the amount of pressure a watch can endure. However, this does not mean you can take a 30-meter water-resistant watch 30 meters below the surface without consequences.

How Waterproof and Water Resistant Ratings Are Measured

The water resistance of a watch is determined through rigorous testing in laboratory conditions, not in actual swimming or diving scenarios. Here's a quick rundown of what common water resistance ratings actually mean for usage:

  • 3 ATM/30 meters: Can withstand splashes or brief immersion in water, but not suitable for swimming.
  • 5 ATM/50 meters: Suitable for short periods of recreational swimming, but not for snorkeling or diving.
  • 10 ATM/100 meters: Suitable for snorkeling, swimming, and similar water activities.
  • 20 ATM/200 meters and above: These watches are designed for high-impact water sports and professional marine activity, including scuba diving at depths not requiring helium gas.

For watch enthusiasts looking to invest in a timepiece that skillfully balances elegance with durability, buying a watch that can withstand the rigors of both daily wear and adventurous undertakings is paramount. One of the top recommendations for a water-resistant watch that meets these criteria is to Buy Rolex at A&E Watches. Rolex, known for its unwavering quality and precision, offers a range of models designed to suit any lifestyle, from the professional diver to the urban explorer.

When to Choose Waterproof Over Water Resistant

For most everyday wear and casual swimming, a watch rated at 5 ATM or 50 meters should suffice. However, if you're into more serious water activities like scuba diving or water sports, you'll want to invest in a watch with a higher water resistance rating.

Avid divers or anyone frequently involved in water activities should consider watches with at least 20 ATM (200 meters) water resistance. These timepieces are specifically engineered to withstand the pressures encountered in deep water.

1. Professional Diving

For activities that go beyond casual swimming or snorkeling, such as professional or amateur scuba diving, a watch with a water resistance of at least 20 ATM (200 meters) is indispensable. These watches are designed to handle the high pressures found at deeper depths.

2. Water Sports Enthusiasts

Individuals engaged in water sports like surfing, water skiing, or wakeboarding would benefit from a watch with higher water resistance. It ensures durability against not just immersion, but also the high pressures encountered during crashes or falls.

3. Marine Occupations

People working in marine environments, such as sailors, fishermen, or marine biologists, need watches that can withstand constant exposure to water and potentially high pressures, making a sturdier, more water-resistant watch a practical necessity.

4. Extreme Weather Conditions

For those exposed to extreme weather conditions or who engage in activities such as rafting, a watch with a higher water resistance rating will provide peace of mind and reliability, assuring functionality in wet conditions.

5. Longevity and Durability

Opting for a watch with a higher water resistance rating can also be a matter of durability. Such watches often come with better sealing mechanisms and superior build quality, potentially extending the watch’s lifespan even if regularly exposed to water.

Maintenance Tips for Waterproof and Water Resistant Watches

To ensure that your water-resistant or waterproof watch remains in top condition and retains its ability to fend off water, regular maintenance is essential. Here, we'll go over some straightforward yet critical tips to help maintain the water resistance of your timepiece over time.

To ensure your watch maintains its water resistance, regular maintenance is key. Here are some tips to keep your watch in shipshape:

  • Regular Servicing: Have your watch checked and serviced by a professional every 1-2 years to ensure the water resistance seals are intact.
  • Rinse After Use: Always rinse your watch with fresh water after exposure to chlorinated or saltwater.
  • Crown Care: Ensure the crown is fully pushed in or screwed down before any contact with water.
  • Avoid Extreme Temperatures: Sudden temperature changes can affect the seals and gaskets of your watch. Avoid hot showers or saunas while wearing your watch.
  • Chemical Exposure: Keep your watch away from chemicals, solvents, and detergents that could degrade its seals.


Understanding the difference between waterproof and water-resistant watches and how their ratings work can help you choose the right watch for your lifestyle. Remember, proper care and maintenance are crucial for keeping your timepiece ready for whatever adventures lie ahead, be it on land or at sea. Whether you're a discerning collector or a newcomer to the world of watches, respecting the limits and capabilities of your watch will ensure it serves you well for years to come.