Whether you’re a diver or just a person who happens to forget to remove their watch before showering, there’s a good chance that you’d like your watch to be water resistant. While this is now a common feature in many timepieces, it’s vital to keep an eye on the hardware to see if it’s time to replace a gasket or buy a new watch altogether.
And while it’s probably best to visit your local watchmaker to ensure the watch movement doesn’t become damaged in the process, it is possible to waterproof and then test your watch from home.
We’ve rounded up the steps and parts you’ll need to make your watch water-resistant (and a few extras you may want to invest in).
First thing’s first: there is no such thing as a truly “waterproof” watch, according to Esslinger Watchmaker Supply. Whether you wear a Rolex, a Fossil, a Timex or another brand of watch, it’s actually been illegal for companies to call their watches “waterproof” since the 1960s, at least in the U.S.
That’s because watches are actually crafted to be “water resistant” up to a certain amount of pressure, and that can mean anything from a watch that can withstand the water pouring out of your shower head to a deep dive into the ocean.
To determine how water resistant your watch is to begin with, check the dial (also known as the watch face) or the back of the watch. There should be a figure etched onto the watch in either bars, meters or feet that will tell you how much water pressure your timepiece can withstand.
Now, onto the process of ensuring your watch is water-resistant, according to Esslinger.
What you’ll definitely need: a watch gasket, silicone oil, Q-tips and ultraviolet epoxy.
Optional (but helpful) tools: ultraviolet light, tweezers and a Bergeon waterproof tester.
Step 1: Remove the back of the watch and replace the battery to ensure that the watch works. Once you’re sure it’s in good condition, remove all of the hardware from inside the watch, including the watch face, and set aside on a clean surface.
Step 2: Remove the gasket. After a few years, the gasket, or circular silicone band that protects the watch (also called an O-ring), will become hard and worn. It will lose its elasticity and become much less effective at trapping dirt and moisture over time, so you’ll want to replace this guy.
Step 3: Rub the gasket in silicone oil and place it back inside the watch. Silicone oil is key in the waterproofing process because oil and water don’t mix and it helps to keep any moisture out. Be sure to use the watch’s own mechanism to twist the gasket into place, as this will be much more precise than whatever you can manage by forcing it with your hand. If it’s not twisting into place, try adding more oil or adjusting the placement. It’s useful to place the gasket into its spot with tweezers for a precise fit if you’re having trouble.
Step 4: Inspect the back of the watch and look for any dirt or debris. Clean the watch back and case with a Q-tip dipped in silicone oil.
Step 5: Remove the stem and crown from the watch and clean them. If the crown is damaged, you must replace it before moving onto the next step.
Step 6: Swipe silicone onto the crown and the stem and fit them back into place.
Step 7: Once again using a Q-tip covered in silicone oil, clean the crystal and inspect for cracks or damages. If you find any imperfections, be sure to replace the crystal at this point.
Step 8: Use the ultraviolet epoxy to glue around the crystal and case at the edge. Only use a small amount to seal tiny imperfections in the crystal gasket. Let it dry at room temperature.
Step 9: Replace the watch back and ensure all of the parts fit together. Remove any excess epoxy.
Step 10 (optional): Test out the watch in a Bergeon Waterproof Tester to ensure water resistance. By following this method, Esslinger says that watches should probably be water resistant up to three bar and should be resistant to four or five atmospheres in a Bergeon Waterproof Tester.
To test that your watch is waterproof, you’ll need a waterproof testing machine, also called a Bergeon waterproof tester. These machines run a few hundred dollars each, on average, and you can even find them on Amazon. Depending on the caliber of watch, it may or may not be financially beneficial to waterproof the watch yourself versus buying a new one or at least employing the help of a professional shop. That’s mostly due to the cost of the waterproof testing machine, not the parts actually used to waterproof the device.
When using a Bergeon waterproof tester, you’re checking to see that water won’t get inside your timepiece. That said, only test the watch after the important parts inside, like the movement and the crystal, have been removed. The watch should be sealed as if it were being regularly worn, just without the hardware inside.
That’s just in case the watch is not water-resistant.