Rolex Watches: Waterproof vs Water Resistant | The Watch Club by SwissWatchExpo (2024)

Very few companies have been consistently associated with the combination of luxury and technical expertise. While many luxury timepieces are meant to be handled delicately, Rolex watches are designed to be robust and water resistant, so they can be worn even under harsh elements, whilemaintaining their elegant aesthetic all throughout.

One of Rolex’s key strengths is the water resistance of their watches. Having created the first water resistant watch in 1926, Rolex has continued to improve in this arena; and all their watches are water resistant up to certain depths.

So what’s the water resistance of your Rolex watch? And what does that mean for you as a wearer? Here’s a quick guide to Rolex water resistance:

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Are Rolex watches waterproof or water resistant?What is the difference?

Rolex watches are not “waterproof,” but rather “water-resistant.” The term “waterproof” suggests that a watch is impervious to water under all conditions, which is not possible due to the nature of watches and the fact that their water resistance can vary depending on several factors, such as age, wear, and the condition of the seals. Over time, gaskets can degrade, and the water resistance of a watch can diminish. That’s why regular maintenance and pressure testing are recommended to ensure the seals and gaskets are intact.

“Water-resistant” is a more accurate term and means that the watch can withstand water ingress to a certain degree, often up to a specified depth and for a limited amount of time. Different watches are rated for different levels of water resistance, typically measured in meters or atmospheres (ATM), where 1 ATM is equivalent to the pressure at a depth of 10 meters.

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Rolex has long been known for manufacturing watches with high levels of water resistance. Their Oyster case, for instance, which was introduced in 1926, was one of the first waterproof watch cases, providing a hermetic seal to protect the movement from water and dust. The Rolex Submariner in particular, is designed for diving and is water-resistant to at least 300 meters (1,000 feet). The Rolex Sea-Dweller and Rolex Deepsea are designed for deep-sea diving and offer water resistance to 1,220 meters (4,000 feet) and 3,900 meters (12,800 feet), respectively.
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The water resistance of a watch is achieved by using gaskets made of rubber, nylon, or Teflon to seal the places where the parts of the case come together, such as the crown, case back, and crystal. Over time, these gaskets can wear out or deteriorate, which is why watch manufacturers like Rolex recommend periodic service to ensure the water resistance is maintained.

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Rolex Twinlock vs Triplock Crowns: How do they make Rolex watches water resistant? What is the difference?

The Twinlock and Triplock systems are two different types of crown sealing mechanisms used by Rolex to enhance the water resistance of their watches. Each system is designed to prevent water from entering the case through the crown, which is one of the most vulnerable parts of a watch.

Here’s a breakdown of the differences between the two:
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Twinlock Crown:

– The Twinlock crown features two sealed zones to keep water out: one inside the tube of the crown and another inside the crown itself.

– It is typically used on non-chronograph Rolex watches with a water resistance rating of up to 100 meters (330 feet). In the current collection, it is used by the Datejust, Day-Date, Oyster Perpetual, Sky-Dweller, Air-King, Milgauss, and Explorer I and II.

– The Twinlock crown can be identified by the presence of two dots or a line beneath the Rolex coronet on the crown for stainless steel models, or a single dot for gold or two-tone models.


Triplock Crown:

– The Triplock crown incorporates an additional sealed zone, making three in total: one inside the tube of the crown, another inside the crown itself, and a third one around the outside of the winding tube’s thread.

– This system is designed for Rolex’s dive watches, which have higher water resistance ratings. It is used on models like the Deepsea, Sea-Dweller, and the Rolex Submariner, which can withstand depths of up to 3,900 meters (12,800 feet), 1,220 meters (4,000 feet) and 300 meters (1,000 feet), respectively.

– Some watches have water resistance ratings of 100 meters (330 feet), but are equipped with the Triplock crown, namely Daytona, GMT-Master II, and Yacht-Masterand Yacht-Master II, as their designs are more proportionate with the Triplock system.

– The Triplock crown is indicated by three dots beneath the Rolex coronet on the crown.

Both systems utilize rubber O-rings to create tight seals at each of these points. When the crown is screwed down, the O-rings compress to form a barrier against water ingress. However, the Triplock system’s extra seal provides an added level of protection, suitable for watches that are intended for more demanding underwater environments.

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Water Resistance Scales: What Do Each of them Mean?

The terms “bar” and “atm” are units of pressure used to denote water resistance in watches. They are essentially equivalent, with 1 bar being equal to the atmospheric pressure at sea level, and 1 atm (short for atmosphere) being a slightly rounded approximation of this pressure:

1 bar = 100 kPa (kilopascals)

1 atm ≈ 101.325 kPa

For practical purposes in the watch industry, they are often used interchangeably:

1 atm = 1.01325 bar

1 bar ≈ 1 atm

Rolex designates the water resistance of their watches in meters, and each level of water resistance is suitable for different kinds of activities.
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What activities are allowed under each water resistance rating?

30 meters (3 atm / 3 bar): Watches with this rating are resistant to minor splashes of water. You should not use these watches for swimming or diving. They are only suitable for everyday use and can withstand rain or water splashes.

50 meters (5 atm / 5 bar): A watch with a 50m rating can withstand swimming in shallow depths, such as in a swimming pool, but it is not suitable for diving. Activities like showering with the watch are still not recommended because the force of water from a showerhead can exceed the conditions that the rating is based on.

100 meters (10 atm / 10 bar): Watches rated at 100 meters are suitable for swimming and snorkeling but not for high-speed water sports or diving with scuba gear. This level of water resistance ensures that the watch can handle water pressure at depths that are typical for snorkeling.

200 meters (20 atm / 20 bar): A 200m rating indicates that the watch is suitable for all high-impact water sports, including recreational scuba diving. It’s not suitable for professional diving with mixed gases or deep-water diving.

300 meters (30 atm / 30 bar): Watches with a 300m rating are appropriate for scuba diving at depths not suitable for saturation diving. They are made for most water-based activities except for deep-sea diving.

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The Rolex Oyster Case

Most Rolex watches have the “Oyster Perpetual” title in their name and written on their dial, right below the Rolex logo.

The “Oyster” refers to their hermetic case. Introduced by Rolex in 1926, it is the first ever waterproof case made for a wristwatch. It keeps water out through its patented system where the bezel, case back and winding crown are screwed against the middle of the case, wherein all parts of the watch are securely fitted.
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Today, the Rolex Oyster case is made out of solid and elegant Oystersteel (Rolex’s unique blend of 904 stainless steel), 18k gold or 950 platinum.

The robust materials and patented system make for an impenetrable case that provides a safe and dry environment and protection against water, dust, and shocks for Rolex’s self-winding “Perpetual” movement.

Rolex Oyster Watches

With the exception of the Rolex Cellini, all modern Rolex watches are fitted with the Rolex Oyster case. This guarantees water resistance of up to 100 meters (330 feet) for the following models:

Rolex Datejust and Datejust II

Rolex Oyster Perpetual

Rolex Air-King

Rolex GMT-Master

Rolex Daytona

As part of Rolex’s quality control tests, each watch is subjected to water pressure that is 10 percent greater than the depth it has guaranteed (or in the case of dive watches, 25 percent).

This means Oyster Perpetual watches can be used safely in the water for a while, such as when swimming or bathing; but one must never go diving with it.
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The Rolex Submariner

Before today’s Rolex watches were developed to have their 100 meter depth rating, the Rolex Submariner was the first to achieve this feat.

Almost three decades after they developed the Oyster case, Rolex set out to create a timepiece especially for professional diving. In the Basel of 1954, Rolex introduced the Oyster Perpetual Submariner – the first commercially available watch capable of submerging to 100 meters.
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Today, the modern Rolex Submariner has a depth rating of 300 meters (1,000 feet).

Most owners of Rolex Submariners won’t actually go into the water with it, much less wear it near the said depth, but at its core, the Submariner was created and tested to be worn in real and harsh diving environments.

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The Rolex Sea-Dweller

While the Oyster case and the Rolex Submariner were already amazing feats, Rolex continued to develop and improve the water resistance of their watches. In 1967, they introduced their most water resistant watch yet – the Rolex Sea-Dweller.

At this point, the Rolex Submariner was already capable of reaching 200 meters (660 feet), which was by no means inadequate. However, it presented one problem – when used during saturation dives, the crystal would pop out during decompression.

Rolex’s solution to this problem was through the helium escape valve. By letting the helium particles escape through this controlled mechanism, they found a way to safely depressurize the watch as it reaches sea level. And so began the lineage of the Sea-Dweller line.
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Today, the Sea-Dweller has two lines of watches designed for extreme diving: the Sea-Dweller and the Deepsea Sea-Dweller.

The Rolex Sea-Dweller has a depth rating of 1,200 meters (4,000 feet). While the Rolex Deepsea, launched in 2008, has triple its depth rating – 3,900 meters (12,800 feet).

At the core of the Rolex Deepsea’s brilliant engineering is the Ringlock System. The result of decades of collaboration with diving professionals, the Ringlock case architecture is designed to withstand enormous pressure without making the case as bulky as is usually necessary.

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The Rolex Titanium Deepsea Challenge

The Rolex Deepsea, introduced in 2022, is Rolex’s most water-resistant watch to date, marking a significant milestone for the brand as it incorporates titanium – a first for Rolex – into its construction. The watch pays homage to the experimental watch Rolex designed for filmmaker and explorer James Cameron’s historic dive to the Mariana Trench in 2012, which was the deepest solo dive ever accomplished. The 2012 experimental Deepsea Challenge watch accompanied Cameron on the submersible’s robotic arm and reached a depth of 10,908 meters (35,787 feet), far below the surface of the Pacific Ocean.

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The case of the Deepsea Challenge is crafted from RLX titanium, a grade 5 titanium, which is a first for Rolex. Titanium is chosen for its exceptional corrosion resistance and its strength-to-density ratio, making the watch both strong and relatively light for its size. The watch has an astonishing water resistance of 11,000 meters (36,090 feet), thanks to a Ringlock system with a nitrogen-alloyed steel ring, a 9.5mm thick sapphire crystal, and a grade 5 titanium case back.

It has a substantial 50mm case, which is necessary to withstand the extreme pressures found at such depths. Despite its size, the use of titanium ensures that the watch is wearable. Inside, the Deepsea Challenge is powered by the caliber 3230, a robust and reliable movement with a Chronergy escapement and a 70-hour power reserve.
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The watch features a black dial with luminous round, baton, and triangular hour markers and Mercedes hands. The bezel is equipped with a black Cerachrom insert made from ceramic, which is highly resistant to scratches and corrosion. The Oyster bracelet is also made of titanium and features Rolex’s Oysterlock safety clasp, which prevents accidental opening. It also includes the Rolex Glidelock and Fliplock extension systems to adjust the bracelet for use over a diving suit.

How to Keep Your Rolex Watch Water Resistant

While Rolex watches are water resistant up to certain depths, the wearer must still exercise precaution when exposing the timepiece to water. Everyday activities have an impact on the watch parts and compromise the water resistance of your watch.

Here are some things to look out for:

1. Exposure to heat
While hot tubs, saunas, and showers are not deep, the heat in these places can cause damage to your timepiece. One should be particularly concerned about the gasket, which creates an airtight seal that prevents water from entering the watch case. As it’s made of rubber, high temperatures may potentially alter its shape.

2. Vintage models
When buying older Rolex models, one should assume that they have no longer kept their water resistance. This is because over time, gaskets and seals lose their elasticity, thus affecting their ability to form a proper seal against water. It is best to have your vintage watch checked by an authorized Rolex dealer before exposing it to water.


3. Aftermarket parts and accessories

Components of Rolex watches are subjected to rigorous tests and specific conditions before the company makes its claims. When you replace these parts with aftermarket or non-Rolex components, you also risk weakening your watch’s water resistance.

4. Leaving the crown unscrewed
Last but not the least, is this very common error. It’s pretty easy to forget to screw it back on after winding the watch or resetting the date and time. While there are seals and gaskets that work with the Oyster case, these may also undergo wear from everyday use, leaving your watch susceptible to water and dust when the crown is unscrewed.

Whether you take your Rolex watch diving or not, water resistance is still an important factor in maintaining the performance of your Rolex watch. It is advisable to have your watch checked every 3-5 years by an authorized Rolex dealer, in order to maintain its water resistance.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Rolex Water Resistance

What can impact the water resistance of my watch? What are some common causes of water damage?

Water resistance in watches can be compromised by wear and tear, impacts, improper crown sealing, extreme temperature changes, chemical exposure, saltwater corrosion, pressure variations, and incorrect servicing.

If water gets inside, avoid using the watch’s functions, place it in a dry environment, and get it to a professional for servicing. Regular maintenance is crucial to ensure the integrity of the water resistance over time.

Water got into my Rolex, what should I do?

If water gets into your Rolex, it’s important to act quickly to minimize damage:

Do not wind or adjust the watch, as this could push water deeper into the mechanics.

Pull out the crown to stop the movement. This can help prevent further damage internally.

Keep the watch face up to avoid spreading the water inside.

Send it to a professional immediately. Take your Rolex to an authorized dealer or a reputable watch repair service as soon as possible.

Professional watchmakers have the necessary tools and expertise to open the watch without causing additional damage, dry and clean the internal components, and assess any damage that may have occurred. It is essential not to delay this step; corrosion can start quickly inside the watch. Remember, Rolex watches require specialist care, and their water resistance should be tested after any incident involving water ingress.

What are the signs of water damage in a Rolex watch?

Signs of water damage in a Rolex watch can include:

Condensation: Fog or moisture under the crystal that doesn’t dissipate quickly.

Dial and Hand Discoloration: Water can cause the dial, hands, or numerals to discolor or fade.

Malfunction: The watch may stop working or not keep time accurately.

Corrosion: Over time, water inside the watch can lead to corrosion of its metal parts, including the movement.

Rust: Brown stains or actual rust on the steel parts of the watch, especially around the dial or the case back.

Dial Damage: Bubbling, peeling, or other visible damage to the dial surface.

Lume Degradation: The luminous material on the dial and hands may deteriorate.

If you notice any of these signs, it’s crucial to get the watch assessed by a professional as soon as possible to prevent further damage.

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Rolex: Waterproof vs Water Resistant – Final Thoughts

Rolex’s legacy as a purveyor of water-resistant luxury watches is unparalleled, a testament to its history of innovation since the Oyster case. Whether it’s the enduring Submariner, the deep-diving Sea-Dweller, or the pioneering Titanium Deepsea, each timepiece promises reliability beneath the waves. However, maintaining such resilience requires diligence.

Regular servicing, especially by Rolex-expert professionals like those at SwissWatchExpo, is essential to preserve the integrity of a Rolex’s water resistance. Vigilance in the face of heat, pressure changes, and the allure of aftermarket parts is vital. In essence, the care you invest ensures that your Rolex remains a steadfast companion in all your ventures, aquatic or otherwise.
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Rolex Watches: Waterproof vs Water Resistant | The Watch Club by SwissWatchExpo (15)

Rolex Watches: Waterproof vs Water Resistant | The Watch Club by SwissWatchExpo (2024)
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