The best waterproof watches on the market right now are practical, sure, but they’re also way cooler than they have any right to be. Water might make up two-thirds of the planet and most of your body, but getting as much as a drop of the stuff inside your watch can be a serious problem—as anyone who’s seen those dreaded beads of condensation on the underside of their watch crystal knows all too well. And unlike that time you dropped your iPhone in the toilet, a Ziploc bag full of rice probably isn’t going to do the trick. Fortunately, the world’s watchmakers have spent the better part of a century coming up with new ways to keep the delicate inner workings of your timepiece dry, whether you’re snorkeling in the Caribbean or just washing dishes at home.
Choosing a waterproof watch, however, isn’t as simple as finding something with “water-resistant” printed on the dial—especially if you plan on bringing it to the pool or the beach, or even wearing it outside on a rainy day. The first thing to understand about the depth ratings on watches is that no watch is truly waterproof, and eventually, with enough depth and pressure, some water will get into all of them. In the 1960s, following a blanket ban on the term “waterproof” by the Federal Trade Commission, brands switched to water-resistance ratings instead and have been using them ever since.
Still, the best waterproof watches come in a huge array of sizes, styles and capabilities, from rugged quartz sports watches to professional-grade analog divers. If you’re looking for a stylish timepiece that’ll stand up to more than the occasional splash at the bathroom sink, any of these selects will do the job with aplomb.
The Best Waterproof Watches Under $200
The entry-level is the place where you’ll find a lot of watches that might look waterproof, but really aren’t. Mostly, this is because water-resistance ratings are confusing. If a watch says it’s water-resistant to 50 meters, you’d think that ought to be plenty (it’s deeper than most recreational scuba divers will ever go), but what this actually means is the watch is splash-proof, and not really waterproof at all. That’s why your water-resistant watch should be rated 100 meters or 10 bar (the equivalent amount of atmospheric pressure at 100m underwater) or higher. This will cover you for most outdoor activities, including swimming and snorkeling—provided (and we can’t stress this enough) you remember to push the crown back in after setting the time. Anything rated less than 100m isn’t practical for everyday wear, and, more importantly in the sub-$200 range, lower depth ratings can also indicate sub-optimal build quality.
The Best Waterproof Watches Under $500
If you’re looking for the best waterproof watches under $500, you’ll find lots of solid quality quartz timepieces with water-resistance ratings of 100m or more, and even a few decent mechanical ones as well. This category not only offers more aesthetic options, but also more choices rated 200m, which is the safe minimum for any timepiece that’s likely to be used in the water. If you’re buying this watch specifically to wear underwater, look for one with a screw-down crown, which is one of the most reliable ways to keep H2O away from the movement.
The Best Waterproof Dive watches
The best dive watches under $1,000 all have three things in common: great water resistance, above-average durability, and classic dive watch looks. In this range, you can also expect to find higher-quality Japanese and Swiss movements, 316L stainless steel cases, scratch-proof sapphire crystals, and other hallmarks of professional dive watches. If maximum water resistance is your goal, you can find one here rated up to 300 meters, enough for the most serious scuba divers. On the style front, these watches tend to be big, bulky and utilitarin, making them more of a weekend accessory than a weekday one, particularly if you wear a dress shirt to work.
The Best Waterproof Fitness Trackers
Fitness trackers can do a lot more than keep tabs on your steps and heart rate, but if they can’t handle a bit of water, be it from sweat or a post-run plunge, they’re not really up to the job. Whether you’re training for a triathlon in the pool or grinding it out on the elliptical, the best waterproof fitness trackers won’t let a bit of moisture get between you and your essential metrics. These bad boys are designed to stand up to your sweatiest workouts and then some.
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