Whether you’re swimming or surfing, choose a waterproof watch that can get as wet and wild as you do with our guide to the best swim and dive-friendly watches available.
First things first – just because a watch is labelled waterproof (or water resistant) doesn’t mean you can just stick on a snorkel and head into the ocean with it on.
Check the watch’s specs first – waterproofing is measured in water pressure, and listed either in units of 10 metres (m) of depth or by atmospheres (atm) of pressure. 10m equals one atom, so 100m equals 10atm.
But just because a watch has a waterproofing rating of, say, 100m, doesn’t mean you can take your watch right down to that depth. As a rough guide, a watch waterproofed to 30m can be used in rain, to 50m can be worn for surface swimming and snorkelling, one waterproofed to 100m is ideal for swimming, sailing and shallow diving, and a watch waterproofed to 200m is suitable for most recreational diving and high-impact water sports. Deep sea divers should choose a diving-specific watch (which are rated to extremes of 1,000m – a depth humans can never actually dive to).
As well as checking your watch can take on any aquatic adventures you have planned, we recommend choosing one with large, luminous dials that can be read underwater and in the dark. If you’re investing in a good quality waterproof watch, you’re likely to want to wear it for all kinds of adventures on land as well as in water – so pick a sturdy design, ideally with a shockproof outer casing.
It’s best to avoid getting leather straps wet regularly, as this shortens the leather’s lifespan – if you do choose a waterproof watch with a leather strap, pick one that is easily interchangeable, and swap it out for a rubber strap when you go surfing or swimming.
Don’t change your new watch’s battery yourself, and avoid wearing it in hot water such as showers and saunas. After use in salt water, wash your watch in fresh water and leave it to dry to stop the salt corroding any parts.
We’d consider most adult waterproof watches unisex. If you have a slim wrist or don’t like wearing heavy, cumbersome watches you could pick a women-specific watch – but your choices will be far more limited. It’s better to simply check the weight of the model you buy – on test we found that any watch under 70g felt lightweight enough to be comfortable for anyone to wear.
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