My shower is not a hyperbaric chamber. What gives?
August 5, 2011 11:14 AM   Subscribe

What are the rules for finding a "waterproof" watch that really is - one that can be reliably taken into a shower or pool, long term, without leaking?

I like to be able to shower or swim without having to take off my watch; but I don't seem to be having much luck finding one that really keeps the water out. My latest is Swiss-made "Mondiane" timepiece which boasts that it is "Water Resistant 10ATM". At 3 months old - having never had a new battery fitted - it leaked while in the shower. Am I unlucky in my shopping or just unrealistic in my expectations? Is there anybody testing watch water resistance in a manner which tallies with real-life expectations?
posted by rongorongo to Shopping (18 answers total)
My Casio F-91W goes in pools, showers etc all the time. The only reason I've ever had to replace successive versions is that the strap wears out every three years.
posted by MuffinMan at 11:17 AM on August 5, 2011

Go for one that's water proof to a certain depth, rather than just water resistant. There's a huge distinction between those two things.
posted by Stagger Lee at 11:19 AM on August 5, 2011

Ditto to what MuffinMan said re: my Timex Ironman Triathalon. It claims to be water resistant to 100 meters, not water proof -- but I have had no problems with it in the water. My last one (that I lost) lasted over 10 years - replaced the band maybe 3 times and the battery at least once.
posted by reptile at 11:26 AM on August 5, 2011

Sounds like you have a duff watch. 10 ATM is a depth of 100 meters and so showering with it should have been fine.

There is no difference between "water resistant" and "water proof" (think about it, how can something be resistant to 100m and yet not water proof?).

I'm guessing you're thinking of "splash proof" which is so useless that it doesn't guarantee it'll continue to function after being out in the rain.
posted by mr_silver at 11:27 AM on August 5, 2011

There is no such thing as a "waterproof" watch because the deeper you go the higher the pressure and eventually anything not specifically designed for work at that depth will fail. So they are rated water resistant to x depth; however, that can be compromised by improper use, such as leaving the stem (if it has one) pulled out or not replacing gaskets properly while changing the battery. Having said that, I have had a succession of the original Casio G-Shocks which are affordable and last until the plastic casing disintegrates. I have worn mine not only in the shower but while water-skiing and scuba diving as deep as 120 feet among other things without any problems with leaks. If that model is not stylish enough, there are some nicer (but more expensive) G-Shock models, all of which should be tough enough for shower and swimming.
posted by TedW at 11:44 AM on August 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Why not a true diving watch?
posted by cazoo at 11:55 AM on August 5, 2011

2nd-ing a true dive watch. i have a seiko dive watch. cost me about $200 at a seiko outlet. its an automatic so no batteries, and its rated to 200M. i wear it in all conditions, swimming etc etc without issue. had it for years.
posted by chasles at 12:00 PM on August 5, 2011

When I surfed I used cheap digital watches. They were rated for either 50M or 100M. I spent a lot of time in the water. I spent almost all my time on the surface. Occasionally I might spend some time underwater for a minute or so, maybe at 5 meters depth. The watches were exposed to breaking waves which contain quite a bit of energy. I never had a problem with the watches dying due to exposure to water.
posted by rdr at 12:01 PM on August 5, 2011

Stick with Casio digital. Even the cheapest water resistant Casio passes the shower/pool/snorkel test no problem.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:25 PM on August 5, 2011

It's not totally clear what your needs are (do you want to dive with it?). I've worn various Timex watches for 20 years or so, in the shower and bath tub and swimming pool and ocean, and I've never had a problem with water damage. My current watch (timex expedition---fantastic!) says WR 50.
posted by leahwrenn at 12:27 PM on August 5, 2011

Thanks for the answers and recommendations so far. I don't dive: not to 100 metres, not even to 30 metres. I take showers; I swim along the surface of pools or of the ocean. I would like a watch which is reliably water resistant - not when static at the bottom of a testing tank on a one-time basis - but when stuck on the end of my swimming arm or reaching for a spoon at the bottom of a full kitchen sink.
posted by rongorongo at 1:00 PM on August 5, 2011

I think you were unlucky. I'd contact the manufacturer if you bought it new, and/or just get a new watch you like that says it's waterproof/-resistant/whatever. Most consumer watches should be just fine.

I have a $10 Timex (1440 line) that I wore swimming, snorkeling, and diving for a year in the tropics, and for daily wear for ~another year. It isn't rated for diving, but I was willing to be out ten bucks, and it turned out to be fine swimming around 100 ft underwater, repeatedly. Basically, it's not that difficult/expensive to make a watch waterproof.
posted by momus_window at 1:30 PM on August 5, 2011

Despite the fact the you won't be going to 100m metres depth, those ratings on watches don't account for currents etc that can dramatically raise the pressure of water. The minimum water resistance for everyday wetness is 50 metres. Anything lower is not guaranteed to work in the pool at at the beach etc.

In real world conditions, 100 metres water resistance is the minimum recommend for regular swimming etc. 200 metres realistically equates to about 30 metres depth, not 200.
posted by smoke at 7:13 PM on August 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Based on your requirements, I'd get a Casio g-shock. Plenty of models in various price ranges, colours, styles and features. Mine goes swimming and diving (30m) without problems.
posted by mr_silver at 2:42 AM on August 6, 2011

I have had no problems with water-resistant watches leaking, except for clearly damaged ones and ones bought in China, and even some of the Chinese ones have been OK. This is after replacing batteries (I got some watch-grade O-ring lube, and cleaned the O-rings and sealing surfaces before closing the cases.) Your Mondiane is defective; take it back to where you got it.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:45 AM on August 6, 2011

Seconding that your Mondaine is defective.
posted by Brian Puccio at 3:38 AM on August 14, 2011

In the end my solution to fix my watch was to buy a tool to remove the back, take it off and leave the watch in the sun for a couple of hours to dry out. It does seem that the waterproofing of the watch depends on the correct placement of a simple rubber washer which is supposed to sit in a groove where it will be pressed down on by the back, as it is screwed in, making a seal. I guess that a pretty similar design will be used on all watches.

However the fact that a given design of watch may be certified to be water resistant to X metres does not, I guess, imply that an individual watch will actually turn out to comply with that figure - especially if the rubber ring happened to be incorrectly placed when the back was closed in manufacture. Perhaps that was what happened in my case.
posted by rongorongo at 3:51 PM on September 4, 2011

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