Can A Mechanical Movement Get Wet?

Watch expert Ariel Adams ( answers some of your most most popular watch questions…

Q. What Happens If A Mechanical Movement Gets Wet?

If there was ever a time when a mechanical watch movement is most unhappy, it is when water somehow enters the case. Small moving metal parts, which can easily rust, are not all that friendly to water. That doesn’t mean that the presence of all moisture will totally destroy a watch movement, but in plentiful amounts it would not be incorrect to consider your expensive investment dead…ouch.

First of all, let me say that the chances of you getting water inside a watch really varies on the specific timepiece. Most watches sold today have some degree of water resistance, if not a lot of it. Vintage or highly complicated watches are those that are the most susceptible to water damage because they aren’t designed with a sealed case. These are to be worn carefully and taken off when washing your hands. Otherwise you may as well flush your watch down the toilet with everything else.

That might sound harsh but the reality is that water in watch movements can cause such intense damage a movement may have to be rebuilt or replaced. Consider that sometimes many hundreds of small parts with tiny tolerances are not subjected to even small amounts of rust, the entire mechanism will instantly lock up and rust is not something that can really be removed without damaging the parts.

Waterproof or Water Resistant?

Even a water resistant watch can be vulnerable, if you do something careless like leaving a crown pulled out. Speaking of water resistance, it is a topic infrequently explained by the industry very well. Oh, and “water proof” does not exist, so if you see the term it is an error. Also, it is a bad idea to subject a watch to very hot or high pressure water (like in a shower). There is no need to bathe with your watch so please leave it on a counter.

Those swimming or diving ideally have the right watch, but should be mindful to wash off saltwater or chemicals from their timepieces when they are out of the water. Furthermore, water resistant watches typically rely on rubber gaskets that wear out every few years, so servicing older watches is a good idea.

Once water has entered a watch you pretty much can send it in a coffin to a watchmaker and hope for the best. Otherwise your best policy is to prevent it.

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