Inside Watch Series: How Water Resistant is My Watch?
This week, we are excited to kick off our “Inside Watch Series!” Check back every month to gain tips, tricks and insights about this stylish and functional accessory!
You should always think about taking your watch off before you hit the pool or sauna, but just how worried should you be if you forget? Many watches are water resistant, but resistance levels are not one size fits all. Whether your watch can handle water — and how much — depends on its ATM level.
What’s an ATM Level and How Can I Find It?
ATM stands for “atmospheres” and is a measurement for pressure. Your watch’s ATM level basically lets you know how much pressure your watch can withstand before it sustains water damage.
This rating generally relates to depth. One ATM level actually stands for 10 meters of depth, or 10 times the atmospheric pressure at sea level. The most common water-resistant watch ATMs are set at 3, 5 and 10. For instance, your 10 ATM watch is made to withstand up to 100 meters of depth — or around 10 times the atmospheric pressure at sea level.
But it’s not always an exact science. Water pressure can be affected by all kinds of factors, including movement. Jumping into a pool or diving into a lake will exert much more atmospheric pressure than a simple swim on the surface. You also need to consider the age of your watch. The seals will be less able to handle pressure over time. In addition, water temperature and other factors can fluctuate atmospheric pressure. Take these aspects into consideration before you decide to take the plunge.
Your safest bet is to remove your watch, but if you forget or don’t want the hassle, you can check your watch’s ATM to figure out your safety level.
Most watches have the water-resistance level indicated on their caseback — the part of the watch that lies against your skin. That’s where you should check to see your ATM.
What Activities Can I Do Without Damaging My Watch?
Safe Activities at 3 ATM
Most watches have at least a 3 ATM level. Remember, this means that your watch can withstand about 30 meters of pressure, or a depth of around 100 feet. Don’t go diving into large bodies of water, though. A 3 ATM rating is really only safe for splashes of water. Your watch will probably survive an accidental immersion if you’re doing dishes or get caught in a sprinkler, but it might not. Most watch experts do not consider this level safe for a shower.
You’ll be safe for light rain or similar exposure (like washing your hands, but not your wrists). For anything more, take off your watch just to be safe.
Safe Activities at 5 ATM
If your watch has a 5 ATM, that means that it should have an atmospheric pressure tolerance up to 50 meters. That’s around 160 feet. But again, that doesn’t translate to a precise depth. It’s all about the pressure. At 5 ATMs, you’re safe for swimming in shallow waters. You’re also good to go for sports like water polo or pool volleyball. But take it easy with diving or anything else that’s going to add a lot of pressure to your watch’s seals.
Safe Activities at 10 ATM
A 10 ATM level gives you protection at up to 10 times the atmospheric pressure at sea level. That equals 100 meters, or around 300 feet, of pressure. If your watch has a 10 ATM level, then you’re safe to wear it for diving into a pool but not for scuba diving. Snorkeling is safe, as are jet-skiing and other water activities that keep you relatively close to the surface.
A 10 ATM water-resistant watch is the way to go for most water sports and activities. If you’re into scuba or deep-sea diving, you will require special watches with much higher ATMs that are built to resist much more intense pressure.
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