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  • 6 min read

With everything from phones to jewelry, natural elements can take a toll on their durability. Drops on the concrete, dirt build-up from gym activity, and damage from too much time in the sun are typical accidents that can ruin our most high-quality gear.

Water damage is no exception, and it’s a common menace to most of our jewelry and technology. Luckily, new advancements in waterproof and water-resistant technology have given us more protection than ever.

However, there’s a difference between the two, and it’s important to understand what that entails before getting your possessions wet.

Waterproof vs. Water-resistant

You’ve probably heard these terms thrown around interchangeably, but there is a difference.

If something is classified as water-resistant, it is built in a way that makes it difficult for water to get inside. Sometimes, devices may have a thin coating that dispels water away from the surface. This is called ahydrophobiccoating, meaning that itdeflects water. Items that repel water are considered to be water-repellant. 

Water-resistance is a very common term used among watches, giving them the ability to withstand the typical hand washing or light rain shower. Water-resistance does not usually mean that you are able to submerge a device underwater.

On the other hand, if something is waterproof, it is made of a material or coated with a membrane that makes the device impervious to water. This insinuates that water cannot damage the device, even if submerged.

What’s the Difference: Waterproof vs. Water-Resistant?

Spinning 2-Faced Custom Picture Pendant

Waterproof means that your item will withstand water and liquid elements to a higher degree than something considered water-resistant. You’ll often hear of phones being labeled as waterproof, as well aspendants, boots, and clothing items. You can feel confident that extensive exposure to water will not damage these types of products.

Why Is Water-Resistance So Important?

Water tends to be extremely destructive, especially to electrical devices.

It’s usually not the water itself that can cause damage: it’s the impurities within it. Pure water such as distilled water can actually be considered agreat insulator, but it can be hard to find truly pure water in nature. H20 that you might get from your sink, rain, or the pool will havecharged ions that could cause problems for your electronics.

When water enters a device that uses electrical components, it may cause the product to short circuit. Water is one of the most effective conductors of electricity, so if the ions within the liquid are charged by an electric current, they will move around to certain places that they are not supposed to. 

Circuits within your phone or watch rely on electrical currents to move to very specific places in order for proper functionality. Water can easily make these currents travel to unwanted spots, which is the primary reason why your devices might break because of water damage.

Products with water-resistance can help avoid unwanted malfunction due to water and give you a bit more versatility in everyday use.

How Is Water-Resistance Measured?

Water-resistance is a common term used to describe watches. Before you buy your next watch, this might be a factor that you want to consider depending on when and where you slap on your wrist piece.

A watch’s water-resistance is measured in atmosphere, or ATM for short. This signifies the amount of pressure that a watch is able to endure. One atmosphere is equal to about 10 meters, or 30 feet. Note that ATM refers to the amount of pressure the watch can withstand, not the water depth that it can be submerged. So if you have a5 ATM water-resistant watch, it can withstand pressures of up to 50 meters (135 feet).

What’s the Difference: Waterproof vs. Water-Resistant?

Iced Presidential Watch w/ Blue Dial White Gold

Watches with 3 ATM or less are suitable for daily use but really should not be submerged underwater at any point in time. A watch at 5 ATM can be durable enough for some quick swims in the pool but shouldn’t be taken for a dive. If you’re in the water often, you’ll want something upwards of 15-20 ATM to be able to withstand extensive lengths underwater.

Waterproofing does not have a scale that can measure its protection. The closest thing is something known as theIngress Protection Scale, which measures a liquid’s ability to enter a device. At the low end of the scale, a 0 IP rating means that the product has no ability to withstand the ingress of water. At the high end, an 8 IP rating means that the device is likely hermetically sealed. Though, if water were to enter, it would have no harmful effects.

If something is called waterproof, it is likely that it would garner an IP rating of around 7-8. This means that it can be submerged up to one meter without any damage to the product.

Can Waterproof Devices Still Get Damaged?

We know if something is water-resistant, it can still be damaged when submerged. But waterproof products can be tarnished because of water as well.

The reason for this is not because of the water itself, but rather chemicals that might exist within it. This is especially true for objects made out of metal, particularly jewelry. And one of the most abrasive chemicals for any piece of jewelry is chlorine.

Even if your piece says it is waterproof, take extra care to keep it away from the pool or the ocean. Chlorine is an intense chemical that can strip away metal plating or discolor its outer layers

This is especially true foriced watches covered with diamonds. Chlorine can have a negative effect on their appearance, so be extra careful.

What’s the Difference: Waterproof vs. Water-Resistant?

Iced Jet-Setter Watch 18k Gold

Similarly, salt from the ocean can damage watches even at higher ATM levels, as the salt has a tendency to dry out inner mechanisms once it becomes dry. It’s a great rule of thumb to remove jewelry and watches before taking a dip in the pool or the sea, just to be safe.

How Can I Spot Water Damage on My Phone or Watch?

For electronic devices, water damage can be obvious because its electrical circuits will likely give out. This can mean that the phone does not turn on, glitches, or has improper touch screen response.

For watches, the biggest clue that it has sustained water damage is to look for condensation on the watch case. If you notice some dew or water crystals inside the case, it might mean that water is corroding the tiny, sensitive elements inside of the watch that allows it to work properly.

How to Fix Water Damage

Accidents happen, and you may notice that your watch or electronics are malfunctioning due to water damage. There are a few things you can try before looking into a replacement.

One of the most common options is to place the device in a desiccant, which is ahygroscopic substance that will absorb moisture. Uncooked rice is a cheap, cost-effective option to try to fix a damaged product. Try to carefully submerge your watch or phone into a bowl of uncooked rice for about a day. This might draw out any water from inside.

If the storage area for your watch is particularly humid, you may want to place a packet of desiccant crystals inside your jewelry box to absorb some of that unwanted moisture. This can help keep your precious metals gleaming and sturdy.

If that didn’t work, try leaving the piece face side down on a windowsill or on a radiator to heat and dissolve the liquid inside. Be cautious with this method, though, as it might cause further unwanted heat damage. 

If the damage is extensive, it might warrant a trip to a local watchmaker who can safely deconstruct its pieces and repair whatever necessary. Note that this is different from a jeweler, though you can go to them if you just need a routine cleaning or need to replace some of your watch’s studs and gems.

In Summary

While waterproof and water-resistance sound similar, they are both quite different. If something is water-resistant, it means that it can withstand water damage up to a certain point, whereas waterproof insinuates that the product cannot be damaged by water in any capacity.

Water-resistance in watches specifically is measured in ATM, and watches with 5 ATM or above can offer some amount of water durability. Keep in mind that chemicals within water can still damage waterproof products depending on the materials that they are composed of.

Regardless, any product with water-resistance is a step above the competition, giving you more quality and permanence than most other options.