Oyster Blue Rolex watch face with silver and gold band

Are Rolex Watches Waterproof (Water Resistant)? FAQs & Care Guide

Rolex watches are waterproof in the sense that you will never have to worry about water damage while swimming, in the rain, while washing your hands, or in the shower. However, there is no such thing as a truly ‘waterproof’ watch, the correct term is ‘water resistant. You do not have to think about water during normal use, as all Rolex watches are designed to be lifelong wrist companions.

Rolex water resistance is a matter of degrees, with some being able to withstand huge amounts of pressure. The most water-resistant Rolexes are the dive watches, which include the following:

  • Rolex Submariner
  • Rolex Sea Dweller
  • Rolex Deepsea

The level of water resistance for these watches is measured in atmospheres (ATM), depth in metres (m) or feet (ft) and bars (a scuba diving term relating to tank pressure). If a diver were to exceed the recommended depth, which is determined by pressure testing of the watches during manufacture, then the water resistance may fail. Read on to learn more.

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So Are Rolex Watches Waterproof or Water Resistant?

Rolex watches are what is known as ‘water resistant’, no watch is completely ‘waterproof’ as this would mean that they could be left underwater at great depths for many years and still work perfectly. As high performance as a Rolex watch might be, they are still only water resistant.

People who say ‘waterproof’ typically mean ‘water resistant’, and asking if Rolex watches are waterproof is, therefore, something of a misnomer. It is a common mistake, and people use the two terms interchangeably, but ‘water resistant’ is the correct term when describing watches.

Why Are Rolex Watches Water Resistant?

Although highly valuable and collectable, all Rolex models are designed to be worn and retain their lustre, which includes an ability to prevent water ingress inside the watch case. It does not matter if they are made from solid gold or stainless steel, Rolex watches all display robust luxury.

Hans Wilsdorf, the founder of the Rolex S.A company, developed the now famous Oyster watch case, and thus was born the world’s first water-resistant watch. Since then, all Rolex models have had the same feature – even flying watches like the Oyster Perpetual Air-King and GMT Master. 

Potential areas of ingress in a Rolex, or other watches, include the winding crown. To deal with this, the addition of a double or triple locking winding crown with gaskets and seals, inspired by the design of a submarine hatch, is utilised. All of the Oyster cases feature this innovative design.

Can You Shower with a Rolex?

Yes. You can shower, bathe or go in hot tubs with a Rolex watch without having to worry – just be careful the water is not too hot. So long as you are not somehow bathing above the maximum depth rating of your watch or you have damage to the Oyster case that might allow water to seep in, you are completely fine to splash, spray, rinse or completely submerge a Rolex watch.

The Rolex company itself mentions showering at the end of a day while wearing your watch in their care guide as being beneficial for rinsing off dirt, sand and grime, so you can be sure that it is completely fine. If you have an older Rolex with dubious water resistance or you have worries, you can simply give it a quick rinse in cold water instead or use a wet wipe or damp cloth.

Can You Swim in the Ocean with a Rolex?

Yes. Many Rolex watches that are not designed for deep sea diving are still designed with salty sea air and water conditions in mind. For example, the Rolex Yacht-Master and Rolex Yacht-Master II watches are designed as sports watches for sailing yachts, so they can withstand all the rigours of ocean-faring, which includes swimming.

If it has an Oyster case, the rule still stands that the watch is completely water resistant – salt or no salt. However, after swimming in the ocean it is certainly worth cleaning your watch.

Can Water Damage a Rolex?

If the Oyster case is working properly then there is no way that water can damage your Rolex unless you submerge it for long periods – and this would probably be days. One exception would be if there is any damage to the watch, which can easily let dust, water, air and moisture into the mechanism. Anything that gets into the intricate movement inside the case might damage it!

The following are common ways that water damage, or rather damage to the case that lets in moisture, can affect a Rolex watch:

  • Extreme temperatures, over time prolonged exposure to high heat or cold can cause damage to the moisture-protecting seals and gaskets inside of your watch
  • Older watches, simple age can make the seals and gaskets on the winding crown worn out and much more likely to have reduced water resistance
  • Off-brand spare parts, which are almost guaranteed to be inferior to original Rolex brand parts and may result in water ingress
  • Soap, shampoo or hygiene product residue, which may reduce the effectiveness of the seals in the winding crown if they build up too much

The problem is not just water but moisture, damaged watches or broken seals and gaskets on the winding crown can let in small particles of moisture over time – such as in humid conditions. So, this might lead to the scenario where your watch becomes damaged without having been exposed to water at all. The best way to make sure you prevent this is with Rolex servicing.

What Rolex Watches Are Not Waterproof?

Only a few exceptionally old or vintage Rolex watches are not waterproof unless the watch case is damaged. There is one exception to this, which is the Rolex Cellini, which will still be waterproof but only to 50 m – not the standard 100 m that all other Oyster cases will provide.

Any watch that has the word ‘Oyster’ on it means it has a water-resistant Oyster case

Every modern watch model that Rolex manufactures uses the Oyster case, so you can almost guarantee that any model (including the Air-King, Datejust, Daytona, GMT Master or Master II and Explorer) that has this case is perfectly water resistant – but only up to its certified depth.

Are Rolex Watch Bracelets Waterproof?

The metal bracelets including the Presidential bracelet, are entirely waterproof and will resist corrosion. However, fabric and leather or rubber straps are perishable and will deteriorate over time – whether in water or not. If you have a fabric bracelet this is typically cheaper and more easily replaced, so you can still swim, dive or just get the watch wet without too much worry.

How to Avoid ‘Rolex Anxiety’

Rolex watches are very expensive, so it is natural for you to be worried about losing or damaging them, but there are a few simple things you can do to reduce any anxiety about water damage:

  • Clean your watch with a moist wipe instead of rinsing in water
  • Add a desiccant, like a gel package, where you store the watch while not wearing it
  • Wear a cheaper watch if you are planning on going near or in water and for diving
  • Buy insurance for your Rolex watch, which will also protect you against loss or theft

Most people worry a bit about their watch, but if you have significant concerns regarding potential damage to the watch then you should just not wear one anywhere near water.

What Are the Signs of Water Damage in a Rolex Watch?

Sometimes accidents happen. Even small amounts of moisture and vapour can affect the intricate mechanism of a Rolex or any other watch. The effects can be so subtle that it is almost impossible to tell. Servicing, which is recommended every 5-10 years, can be the only way to tell if the mechanisms are off. If your watch is old, try to be careful or avoid wearing it in the water.

However, in some cases, the effects of water damage can be more obvious. A few signs of a potential moisture issue in your Rolex watch might include the following:

  • Malfunctioning hands, which may stick in one place or stutter instead of sweeping
  • Fogging, which can steam up the crystal face on the inside of the watch
  • Luminous dial problems, water can dampen the ‘glow’ on the numbers and hands

Even if you only suspect that the watch is damaged, it is worth taking it to the nearest service centre as soon as you can – or the damage may worsen and the repairs costs can creep up.

As the crown is often an entry point for moisture in the watch you should always make sure it is screwed back in after winding it or changing the date and time. Rolex watches use your body movement to power the mechanism, so if you simply try to wear it more so it does not stop then you will not have to screw and unscrew the crown to wind it so frequently.

Are Rolex Watches Waterproof? Almost Always, Yes!

Rolex watches are waterproof, or water resistant to use the proper term, and will withstand any form of submersion up to a specified depth – so long as they are not damaged. Rolex models are made with an ethos of luxury and robust craftsmanship, which forms the basis for their prestige.
We buy and sell many Rolex watches and other items using our unique private buying service. You can also browse our current stock of luxury watches if you are interested in buying one. Please feel free to get in touch with us to book a convenient and obligation-free valuation today.

August 31, 2022

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