Can You Wear Your (Waterproof) Watch In The Shower?
When customers are discussing with us if they can wear their water resistant watch in the shower, they are surprised that water resistant doesn’t mean water proof and that even water proof doesn’t mean from the high pressure water from a hot shower.
So, in answering the question, “Can I wear my water resistant watch in the shower?” the answer from us is always no (with a few, tiny exceptions). We believe this to be the case even with dive watches.
Most tests carried out guaranteeing water resistance use static water at a cool temperature, neither of which a shower uses. Warm or hot moving water (like a shower) increases the pressure, often to 3 bar, which most water resistant watches can’t withstand. So, unless it’s been tested to ISO 4625 standard, you should not wear your water resistant or water proof watch in the shower.
We elaborate on why below:
Water Resistance vs Water Proof
In the watch industry there is a big difference between “Water Resistant” and “Water Proof’ and a “Diver’s Watch“.
Why Would You Shower With Your Watch On?
We would respectfully ask “Why would you want to wear your watch in the shower?”. It’s like showering with your socks on!
Even in the cleanest person, debris and skin cells mix with the natural oils in your skin and collect underneath your watch case and strap as you wear it. This debris can’t adequately be cleansed by having the splashes of water when you shower trickle underneath the case or strap. In our humble opinion, it’s always a good idea and much more hygenic to remove all your jewelry, including your watch, when you shower or bathe.
In fact, studies carried out at the outset of the Corona Virus outbreak found that skin under rings carried more germs than skin on fingers without rings, demonstrating that rings should be removed regularly when washing our hands and cleaned separately. Even hand washing with rings on wasn’t sufficient to remove germs. It’s safe to say that watches will be collecting germs too.
Unless you’re in a place where it’s risky to remove your watch, for the few seconds that it takes to remove a watch prior to showering, you will be helping to protect it long-term.
Water resistancE guidelines
tests for water resistance
The water resistance of your watch is always stamped on the back of your watch and shows the degrees of water resistance a watch can withstand.
The watch’s water resistance rating is an indication of the test given which tests the static water pressure that the watch was subjected to in a laboratory test, without it letting in water or, more precisely, without it letting out air (we talk about this in our article on Watch Water Resistance).
The water resistance of a watch is really a measurement of pressure.
static water vs moving water
Regarding the term waterproof, the key word here is static tests – ie the watch was tested with water that wasn’t moving against the watch. Moving water will only increase the atmospheric pressure on the watch and particularly high-velocity water such a a shower.
Franz Rivoira who wrote the Watch Manual says it is best not wear your watch in the shower and states that the water pressure created by moving water from a shower measures 3 bar which a ‘water resistant’ watch could barely withstand.
Therefore, a watch held under moving water such as a shower or especially a waterfall, will put more pressure on the watch. This of course includes water sports such as diving from a height or water skiing, riding on a jet ski, recreational scuba diving, etc. Conversely, shallow waters will not put as much water pressure on your timepiece.
A diver’s watch will be tested to ISO standards (ISO stands for the International Organisation for Standardisation) which does involve using different temperature water – see below.
cool vs hot water
They also test watches in cool water for water resistancy guidelines and are never subjected to extreme temperatures.
Therefore, a Water Resistance test is made to withstand static pressure and stable, cool temperatures. Neither of which happens in a shower or even a hot tub – unless you’re sitting in cold water.
Salt water is, of course, even more damaging than fresh water.
expanding and contracting metal
Heat can cause the metal in the stainless steel case of your watch to expand and allow water to penetrate the watch. Showering causes sudden temperature changes.
We all know from our school day physics lessons that when a material is heated the atoms inside that material become more active and the material expands. The metal in the watch case will expand when heated (and, conversely, contract when it cools). Consequently, the “fit” between the metal and the glass won’t be as tight-fitting (ie waterproof) as it was before.
Because metal is more conductive than glass, sudden changes in the tempearture mean that the metal case will expand and contract at a different rate to the glass. Water damage can occur without you even realising it.
This can then cause rust which, according to Franz Rivoira, is the worst thing that you want inside your watch.
The rubber seals inside a watch (the gaskets) are prone to wearing. The wear on gaskets will increase if they have been subjected to moisture or soaps. They are, after all, just little pieces of rubber. Even shocks or knocks to the crown can affect the wear and tear to the gaskets.
When we carry out watch battery replacement we regularly come across a seal which has stretched, to the point that it is quite a job to get it to fit properly inside the watch again.
It’s one of the reasons it’s important to get your watch serviced regularly. Most watch companies state that a watch should be serviced regularly (some say every year) and gaskets could be one of the first things to perish.
So, if your watch hasn’t been serviced regularly, you can’t rely on the gaskets to keep an adequate seal. If there is any opening or damage to the gasket a small amount of air will be sucked into the watch.
If this happens in a areas of high humidity (such as a steamy bathroom) then moist air will get inside your watch.
Tiny scratches on your watch glass may actually prove to be cracks in the glass and this will also compromise the water resistance.
This happens less so with sapphire crystal glass but many high-end watches have plastic glass over the dial.
Dive watches, which are tested by watch manufacturers in accordance to an ISO test, will be tested to withstand much higher pressure and also temperature changes so, in theory, you should be able to wear your diver’s watch in the shower.
You should always ensure the crown is adequately screwed in before entering water and never use the push buttons when in the water or during a deep dive.
ISO 22810 vs ISO 4625
The International Organisiation Standarisation (ISO) created a new test in 2010 for Diver’s watches which meant each and every watch with the new ISO had to pass more stringent water resistance tests.
The ISO 22810 test means the manufacturer can test a sampling of the watches to be able to withstand depths of water resistance.
Therefore, a 100-metre water-resistant watch made pre-2010 may not be as water-resistant as on made from 2010 which had to follow the new ISO test.
As already mentioned, you can only really guarantee it is safe to wear your diver’s watch in the shower if you have had regular services done to your watch – it is recommended that a service is carried out annually.
Soaps and Shampoo's
Soaps and shampoo won’t do your watch any favours. Detergents will damage the rubber gaskets if it comes into contact with them.
If you do get soap or shampoo on your watch always rinse it with clear, cool, fresh water afterwards to remove any debris.
Regular Servicing is important
Showering with your watch on will mean you should be stringent about having your watched serviced regularly to check there is no damage to the seals.
No Guarantee of Water Resistance After a Battery Replacement
Once the back has been removed from a watch, for instance to replace the battery, you will not be able to100% guarantee that the watch will be as water-resistant as you could with a new watch.
In order to guarantee this, it will need to be pressure tested after the battery has been replaced (which is often an added cost as many High Street jewellers need to send the watch away to get this done by a specialist centre).
Screw-back watches are less prone to losing their degree of ‘sealing’ after a battery replacement (hence most watches with higher water resistance will have a screw back – and often a screw-down crown).
why shower with your watch on?
But why shower with your watch on? We have tried to think of the reasons people give when saying they want to be able to wear their watch in the shower.
1. It Saves Time
It probably adds 5 seconds to your day to remove your watch before showering.
If you shower in the morning, you don’t even need to remove your watch (we’re assuming you don’t wear your watch to bed – which, as already said, you shouldn’t do either).
It takes all of 5-10 seconds to put your watch on.
2. It Cleans Your Watch
It doesn’t! Soap won’t do it any favours and, remember, that a leather strap should never get wet under any circumstances.
3. It’s Unsafe To Remove It
We’ll definitely give you that this is a valid reason to leave your waterproof watch on whilst showering. In fact, it’s one of our two reasons to do so.
If you’re away from home and in a situation where you wouldn’t want to take the chance of removing your watch to shower, for fear it may get stolen, mislaid or damaged then, yes, there is an argument for keeping it on (as long as the wr ratings allow.
4. It’s a A Quality Watch
Much like owning and driving a beautiful car, if you’ve got a quality watch, beautifully built and of the highest workmanship to be able to withstand all the things that lesser watches just can’t handle, then it gives great joy to use it in situations that less watches just can’t withstand.
We understand why you’d want to wear your Rolex Submariner all the time – after all that’s what it’s been designed and built for.
But do check on the back of the watch and even with with manufacturer whether your quality watch can be worn in the shower for your own peace of mind. Also consider:
a) Has it been regularly serviced? If not, you are risking it in trusting the gaskets are all in good order.
b) Was the watch made pre-2010 (when the new diver’s ISO 4625 standard was created – watches made before this date didn’t have the stringent tests they had to pass the 2010 ISO test).
This incredibly interesting article explains the difference here.
Reasons To Keep Your Watch On Whilst Showering
As just mentioned, the only time we wouldn’t recommend removing your watch (or other jewellery) to bathe is if it is unsafe to do so (for instance, if you are on a beach, camping or at a swimming pool) and wouldn’t want to take the risk of putting your watch somewhere whilst you shower.
In this instance, it’s probably safer and more secure to keep your waterproof watch on. With a quality watch, the safest places for it is either on your wrist or in a safe.
The bottom line ...
A watch is a beautiful thing, and the best way of looking after it is to remove it whilst showering.
For watch owners it is a tiny inconvenience that will pay dividends by protecting the fabulous timepiece on your wrist.
Or if you want to shower (or immerse your watch in any water) do so at your own peril, unless you have the guarantee and have had regular servicing to keep the guarantee valid.