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Rolex Water Resistance – Have You Checked Lately?

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If you’re anything like the majority of all Rolex owners, chances are you’ve given little thought to the water resistance of your Rolex. Realize it or not, it’s a concern every Rolex owner should have – regardless of the model or how you use it.

In this photo, you can see one of the gaskets which used in combination with the crown helps ensure water resistance.  If the crown isn't screwed down however, the water resistance rating is severely compromised.
In this photo, you can see one of the gaskets which used in combination with the crown helps ensure water resistance. If the crown isn’t screwed down however, the water resistance rating is severely compromised.

Aren’t all Rolex watches waterproof?” Rolex does a fantastic job marketing their impressive Rolex Oyster case – used on nearly every Rolex made. So much so, that many people mistakenly think that it is impossible for water to ever penetrate a Rolex Oyster case. So let’s begin by clearing up one common misconception – no Rolex watch is completely water proof.  Instead, each Rolex watch caries a water resistance rating which essentially certifies to what depth a Rolex will remain water resistant under ideal circumstances. A water resistant watch like a Rolex isn’t water proof just like stainless steel isn’t stain proof. And the level at which your Rolex is water resistance rated again assumes ideal circumstances. If your watch hasn’t been maintained recently, chances are its true water resistance rating is considerably less than the advertised rating. So don’t take for granted that your Rolex watch is “water proof” before going near water.

I’m not a diver so why do I care?” You don’t have to be Jacques Cousteau to be concerned about maintaining the water resistance of your Rolex. Because there are many, many factors which can over time reduce the water resistance rating of your Rolex, making the watch susceptible to water damage from even benign, mundane every day activities. All Rolex watches have gaskets and seals around the various entry points into the case (at the crystal, the case back, and the crown). These components and their effectiveness can degrade over time under the best of circumstances. Extreme temperature inversion (such as what happens when you enter and exit a sauna, hot tub, or even a hot shower while wearing your watch) can accelerate the natural degradation of the seals. Left unchecked, that degradation will slowly chip away and reduce the water resistance of your Rolex to the point where nearly any moisture source can penetrate inside the case. But water resistance can also be impacted by simple human error. To wind your Rolex, you have to unscrew the crown. When you do so, the water resistance rating of the watch is compromised and reduced until the crown is screwed back down. It’s a pretty simple mistake to make to forget to screw the crown back down. In some cases, the crown on a Rolex will simply come unscrewed on its own and “pop out”. If you don’t know that it’s happened, it’s easy to overlook and accidentally jump in the shower or just wash your hands. Now, just because water is present with the crown unscrewed, it’s not an immediate death sentence for your watch. Again, there are rubber gaskets and seals that work in conjunction with the Rolex crown to keep water out. But if those gaskets and seals haven’t been changed in a while or have been degraded by other factors, water could penetrate the case.  The take away here is that everyone (not just deep sea divers) should be concerned with maintain the water resistance rating of their watch.

The Sea-Dweller is one the most water resistant watches Rolex has ever made but without proper care and maintenance, even limited exposure to moisture can ruin it.
The Sea-Dweller is one the most water resistant watches Rolex has ever made but without proper care and maintenance, even limited exposure to moisture can ruin it.

After Market Modifications/Accessories Can Degrade Water Resistance.

In order to achieve their industry leading water resistance, Rolex designs and manufactures components to highly precise and extremely specific tolerances. When you replace factory components with non-Rolex “after market” components, there’s a risk that the water resistance of your Rolex is diminished. In some cases, people use after market components to save money – like replacing their factory Rolex sapphire crystal with a sapphire crystal made by other 3rd party manufacturer. But the crystal covers a huge hole in the watch where moisture can enter. Does this 3rd party manufacturer know the precise measurements needed to ensure the crystal they are providing maintains the same water resistance when placed in your watch? Does the manufacturer have both the expertise and the machines necessary to achieve the exact measurements and tolerances that a factory Rolex crystals does? Do you even know who this 3rd party manufacturer is in order to ask these important questions? These same questions should be asked of any non-Rolex component you intend to install on your Rolex for any reason.

Life Happens – And It Can Affect The Water Resistance Of Your Rolex

Normal, everyday things which just happen can and do impact the water resistance of your Rolex. Have you ever bumped your watch into something like a door knob? Chances are, such an impact won’t even scratch the finish, much less do any internal damage. But there’s a very real chance that a strong impact could unseat a seal or gasket, which would in turn reduce the water resistance of your watch.  The worst part is, if it happens, you won’t know it because all outward and visible signs indicate that your watch is just fine. Of course, if “life happens” and you do get some visible damage to your watch (like a cracked crystal) then make certain to get the watch repaired before going near water.

Most any Rolex can be used in and around water - but be smart!
Most any Rolex can be used in and around water – but be smart!

If the water resistance of your Rolex is compromised, you might get lucky and only experience condensation forming under the crystal – which if caught early usually doesn’t translate into permanent damage. If you’re not so lucky, the dial will get wet and usually must be replaced. If you’re really unlucky, water will seep into the movement and go unnoticed for months – until the watch’s time keeping functions cease altogether due to water damage. When this happens, it’s really expensive. You start asking questions like “is it cheaper to replace the movement or just by a new watch?” You don’t ever want to have to ask those kinds of questions. Because so many variables outside of their control can impact the water resistance of a watch, most pre-owned Rolex vendors do NOT warranty the water resistance of a pre-owned Rolex.

What can I do to maintain my watch’s water resistance rating? In order to ensure your watch remains at the same water resistance level to which it is rated from Rolex, you must regularly pressure check your watch. This is particularly true if you do dive with your watch, or engage in other activities which place the watch at greater risk for water penetration.  But it’s also important even if your watch never sees any depth greater than your kitchen sink. The good news is that most watch service professionals have the equipment necessary to properly pressure test a watch, and it’s normally not expensive to do. Neither is it very expensive to replace the rubber gaskets and seals on a Rolex, which should be done annually at a minimum. The cost of regularly pressure testing and maintaining the water resistance rating of your Rolex pales in comparison to the costs of repairing watch damage – which could easily equal the cost of buying another Rolex. So don’t ignore regular testing and maintenance…and remember to keep that crown screwed down at all times.

  • Mercedes Pelleya

    I took my watch to a very reputable jewelrer…for first time in like at least, 10 years, he changed the glass maintained etc. the glass has moisture…i thought because the ac at store was extremely cold. Its been a day and moisture is still there. Is ther anything i can do at home to get it dried up? Granted, my watch is 35 years old!

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