How safe is it to swim with your watch?

When a watch says it is water resistant to 60m, does that means its safe to go diving in it? Is it safe to use it in a swimming pool?

I have to put my hands up and admit that the subject of how “waterproof” my watches are is one I have not examined much. Basically, having started in vintage world, I never took my watches anywhere near water and have generally continued that trend even with my modern watches. For many, however, knowing exactly how one should treat a “water resistant” watch is important information and it is surprisingly complicated.

I remember seeing my first “waterproof” watch as a child when it said “water resistant up to 30 metres.” To my mind, that told me that I could take my Timex and go into a swimming pool with it and there would not be a problem. That was wrong!

No water resistant claim

But lets start at the beginning. If a watch makes no claims to be water resistant, then maybe it will be OK if you get caught in the rain but under no circumstances let this watch be immersed in water. Bath? No. Shower? No. In all likelihood, the watch will absorb water like a sponge and it will ruin the movement.

Water resistant to 30m

There are plenty of watches that claim to be water resistant up to 30m. This does not mean that they will survive a dive down to 30m. In fact, the probability is quite high that such a dive would lead to water making its way into the movement. There is a chance that the watch would survive such a dive, but it is no guarantee. Would it be Ok in a swimming pool? I would say that this would also be quite a risk. In many ways, 30m water resistance is probably best defined as splash resistant. If you got caught in a heavy rainstorm, the watch would be OK. Take it into a swimming pool, and you are spinning the wheel of fortune with it.

Water resistant to 50m

OK, now we are getting into swimming pool territory. With 50m of water resistance, the watch has a decent probability of remaining intact in a swimming pool (or in the bath!). No guarantee, but it should be fine. Beyond swimming pool? No. A 50m dive would be a very bad idea.

At 60m water resistance, the Ref. 5712A is going to be OK in the swimming pool

Water resistant to 100m

This is a decent water watch. It is not a diving watch, but extended swimming and even light snorkelling would be fine.

Fancy some snorkelling with the Ref. 5711A? Fine.

Water resistant to 200m

Again, this is not a true diving watch. Going deeper than 50m would not be recommended. However, the watch would be perfectly happy in most other circumstances and would be the level of water resistance that I would consider acceptable if I was to go swimming on a regular basis.

Water resistant to beyond 200m

At this level of water resistance, the user is most likely a diver who knows what they are doing. This watch will be capable of use in most water situations.

ISO standard

If a watch has an ISO standard rating, then it is a watch designed for diving. This will usually mean at least 100m of diving depth in still water.

Most watches make some claim to being waterproof. Understanding just where the water tolerance is can be tricky. It is made even more tricky by the fact that these “guarantees” will vary according to how long it has been since the watch has been serviced. Seals deteriorate and will affect a watch’s capacity to resist water. An ISO standard watch that has not been serviced for 5 years may not even be fit for a swimming pool.