What's the real deal with watch water resistance?

If you're sufficiently interested in watches to be reading this you probably know that a watch which is rated as, say, 5 ATM/5 bar/50m is based on 'static pressure' tests and that it categorically is NOT guaranteed to survive being worn to that depth under water.

I've tried looking into this and finding empirical evidence of what watch water resistance ratings mean in real world scenarios but it's a fools errand and so I defer to the wisdom of the WC community: what's the truth about water resistance and watches?

Here's my take based on reading/advice I've gleaned over the years (based on the assumption that everything under 10 ATM/10 bar/100m does NOT have a screw-down crown:

WR: 30m (and under) = Don't even think about getting it wet. Seriously. Take it off before you wash your hands. Check the weather and take it off if rain is scheduled. Don't be sweating near this thing. In the box, back of the safe, that's about it.

WR: 50m = Probably OK to wash your hands but don't go immersing it in water. No dish washing, don't shower in it and don't even consider swimming.

WR: 100m (but no screw-down crown) = You're good to go. Not swimming, obviously, but everyday type stuff. You might even consider showering with it on (quickly) if you're not too attached to it.

WR: 100m (with screw-down crown) = Now you're talking. Swim your heart out. I wouldn't dive with it or anything, but jump in the hotel pool? Sure.

WR: 150m = Yeah, OK, you can probably dive with this thing but I'd top out at freediving and don't come crying to me if you neglect to screw down the crown or whatever. Get a dive computer, why don't you?

WR: 200m+ = Congratulations, you have a genuinely waterproof watch. Stay out of the Mariana Trench and everything should be copacetic.

Is this fair/accurate? Any stories from users proving/refuting this? Should we as buyers be demanding 'accurate' WR ratings from watch manufacturers that reflect how deep you can swim and/or something else to put the wearer at ease? I know I'd like a spec sheet that offers a binary 'can be immersed'/'can't be immersed' indicator so I know where I stand when taking a watch to the pool or on holiday.

Don't know about you, but an 'honest' 10m water resistance would cover me for absolutely anything I would ever consider doing outside of falling drunkenly over the rail of a luxury cruise ship.

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Well, there are a few inaccuracies in this and complications that make this sort of a general policy highly difficult to implement properly.

For instance in almost all cases a screw-down crown makes no difference to the water resistance whatsoever. It does help to prevent the user from accidentally pulling the crown while swimming, but if you don't do that, the type of crown makes no difference, so I don't see how a screw-down crown would be a requirement for swimming in general.

As for the other stuff, it's just annoyingly complicated. The water resistance ratings are fairly arbitrary and can change between watches. For example a lot of brands treat 100m as a minimum, for swimming, but Casio tells you that their 50m rated watches are perfectly fine for swimming and they aren't known to fail at this from what I have seen.

If you want something that you can trust to be water resistant, get something with a Diver's rating, which means that they genuinely have to be good enough to pass the relevant ISO standard and the company can't just apply arbitrary criteria.

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Excuse my naivety, but surely a screw-in crown would be less likely to fail apposed to a push in?

Just as a rule of thumb (and being a plumber) I would never swim with a watch without having a screw-crown,

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Rodiow

Excuse my naivety, but surely a screw-in crown would be less likely to fail apposed to a push in?

Just as a rule of thumb (and being a plumber) I would never swim with a watch without having a screw-crown,

Interesting if true that the screw down crown is not the last word in water resistance. Anyone have a take on how much the SDC is psychologically reassuring rather than practical??

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Anyone else remember those huge Russian deep sea dive watches with a massive canteen screw on crown?, surely that's not just for looks?

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WR rating is meaningless, Try to redeem a warranty for a flooded watch if you don't believe me.

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The WR rating on the dial is more or less a number. You can inspect the gaskets of the watch if you are so inclined. After having done so, and found that they are in good condition, in the right place, and free of dust, hair, etc. , you can have a reasonable expectations of water resistance. On the other hand I have seen watches where the person changing the battery in his little stall at the mall completely forgot the gasket.

While there is some reasonable expectation that a new watch is water resistant, the only way you know for sure is if you pressure test the watch.

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It’s a conspiracy

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This is one I’m wondering about.

Anecdotally, I wore a 50m push down Citizen from the age of ~20 to 30 and that thing has been in about half the world’s oceans, through dinghy racing and snorkelling and was always fine.

That said, Ihave a 100m push down crown on my Cartier santos and even though I have swam with it couple times in a pool, I am struggling to decide weather to bring that on an upcoming trip to Thailand because I worry about the WR so I’ll probably bring a Sinn or something for the water. Intellectually, I understand that the push down thing is psychological, but I can’t help but be nervous about swimming without a screw down crown.

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DixonSteele

Interesting if true that the screw down crown is not the last word in water resistance. Anyone have a take on how much the SDC is psychologically reassuring rather than practical??

I’ve also read a bunch on this and the crow type doesn’t change the effectiveness of the water rating, it’s just an added security measure to prevent the crown for popping out while submerged. 100m WR = 100m of WR, regardless if crown type. The SDC just adds more peace of mind.

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WBoggs

This is one I’m wondering about.

Anecdotally, I wore a 50m push down Citizen from the age of ~20 to 30 and that thing has been in about half the world’s oceans, through dinghy racing and snorkelling and was always fine.

That said, Ihave a 100m push down crown on my Cartier santos and even though I have swam with it couple times in a pool, I am struggling to decide weather to bring that on an upcoming trip to Thailand because I worry about the WR so I’ll probably bring a Sinn or something for the water. Intellectually, I understand that the push down thing is psychological, but I can’t help but be nervous about swimming without a screw down crown.

Very interesting regarding your Citizen. No way I would have the guts to risk the Santos, personally. For my money it feels like I need a watch to be 100m, SDC and probably under £1500 for me to feel comfortable submerging it.

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Watch industry setting WR ratings:

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Since I assume that if my Dive watches were to take on water regardless of what is promised in the specs my warranty would be meaningless, I therefore have one less expensive Dive watch that I wear to the beach as well as to the pool. Given the price, it has never been a risk I’m willing to take.

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BigIona

I’ve also read a bunch on this and the crow type doesn’t change the effectiveness of the water rating, it’s just an added security measure to prevent the crown for popping out while submerged. 100m WR = 100m of WR, regardless if crown type. The SDC just adds more peace of mind.

Thanks for this. Thinking about the psychological nature of this I think the way the watch is sold also plays into how comfortable I am with it around water. My Longines Sprirt 37mm is rated to 100m with no screw-down crown so, based on the above, should be fine... But I bought it on a leather strap. So now, in my head, it's a leather strap watch, not a watch that's suitable in water. First impressions and all that, I guess...

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Rodiow

Excuse my naivety, but surely a screw-in crown would be less likely to fail apposed to a push in?

Just as a rule of thumb (and being a plumber) I would never swim with a watch without having a screw-crown,

The fact is that my 200m Casio do not have a screw in crown, just as some other 200m och 300m watches I read reviews about and IF it actually is needed (or even better) for 100m, should it be even more needed for 200m watches!

And if a watch is rated for 100m, should the crown naturally handle 100m whatever way the crown work and it may also be SAFER with a crown, you simply can't forget to screw down!

Then depend the swim and shower recommendations on a completely different factor...

Every watch is rated for normal "medium hard" water and sweat, skin grease, soap, shampoo and any dish washer stuff, make the water little to a lot more "softer" and that help it penetrate... So 100m become actually like 10m when you swim and possibly only like 1m when you shower or do the dishes!

But I take anyhow off my watch - when I shower or worse, because the cleaning stuff may also damage the sealing in the watch... Except my digital Casio 100m, that stay on when I clean the boat and still live...

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My non scientific rule of thumb is if its 200m I swim in the pool, sea and snorkel with it. Anything below that I don't swim with it.

I used to do a fair but of recreational diving and only wore a dive computer.

My recent big purchase was a pelagos with 500m and an escape valve. Totally over engineered for my uses but it gives me a warm feeling!!