Explaining Water Resistance
Know the terms before you test or repair. Your customer will appreciate
By David Christianson
Certified Master Watchmaker
When customers ask about "waterproof" watches, perhaps a quick
lesson in terminology is in order. If you can explain the terms related
to water resistance in timepieces, you'll add to your credibility and your
ability to retain customers. First, explain to customers "water resistance"
not "waterproof" is the correct term to use. The Federal
Trade Commission Guides are clear on what terms to use and what they mean.
Here's are some guidelines on the main categories: non-water resistant cases,
water resistant cases and diver cases.
Non-Water Resistant Cases
These are mostly dress watches made with thin gaskets that provide only
minimal moisture protection. Some do include plastic or metal shields around
the stem to prevent dust from entering. But water will penetrate.
Identification: If there's no mention of water resistance anywhere
on the back of the case, it's not water resistant.
Use limits: These cases will resist everyday dust, humid August
days or an accidental splatter in the kitchen sink. But avoid prolonged
exposure to steam from boiling water while cooking or any extended full
water exposure. No swimming or bathing while wearing the watch.
Identification: The case or dial will say "water resistant"
for the minimum classification. When this is accompanied by a number, it
indicates the depth below sea level and accompanying pressure the watch
can withstand when new. Look for an ATM (atmospheres) marking or the term
"water resistant" combined with a figure of, say, 50 meters (5
ATM). For customers unaccustomed to the metric system, multiply the number
of meters by 3.3 to get feet (50 meters X 3.3 = 165 feet). The rating is
determined by a testing device when all the gaskets are fresh.
Use Limits (see table at bottom): Because a person doesn't normally
replace or test the watch gasket annually, recommend buying a watch rated
to withstand the most extreme condition the wearer will likely encounter.
Frequent swimmers may consider at least a 100-meter watch; casual swimmers
may do fine with a 50-meter watch.
Frequent use during sports would likely require at least a 100-meter
rating to keep out perspiration.
Professional Diver Case
Identification: These cases are rated at 300 meters or greater and have
heavy gaskets and crystals intended for use at scuba depths.
Use Limits: Few. If your customer is a serious diver, suggest
he or she bring the watch in for an annual pressure test and/or gasket replacement
to be sure the heavy gaskets are tight and don't leak.
With any water-resistant watch, remind customers not to operate the
crown or push buttons while underwater. Also remind them to dry the case
before setting the watch.
If the crown is a screw-down or locking type, tell them to be sure it's
in place before diving or swimming. Also note that chemical solvents can
penetrate many water-resistant cases. If these are nearby, they may affect
the water resistance of the watch.
Next month: Checking water damage.
David A. Christianson owns Christianson Jewelry, Kendallville, IN,
and is president of the American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute, a certified
master watchmaker and a fellow of the British Horological Society. He discusses
watch repair for the sales staff in this column each month. Please send
questions, suggestions and comments toProfessional Jeweler,1500
Walnut St., Suite 1200, Philadelphia, PA 19102; email@example.com.
Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.