Are Rolex watches waterproof?

Posted by Suzie Kidger-Clarke

on 1st August 2022

When it comes to purchasing a luxury timepiece, there’s no denying it that Rolex watches are the most prestigious watch of all. But when an item is so luxurious, it can feel somewhat unnatural for us to wear it near water, let alone in water.

Many companies producing luxury timepieces are often created with the intention of being handled delicately. However, modern Rolex watches are designed to be both elegant and robust, with the ability to withstand even the harshest of elements.

But when questioning, ‘are Rolex watches waterproof?’ it’s fair to wonder if all are created equal. So, are all Rolex watches water resistant? Or waterproof entirely? Here’s a quick guide to understanding Rolex water resistance.

are rolex watches waterproof

Waterproof watch or water resistant watch?

All Rolex wristwatches are ‘waterproof’ to depths of at least 100 metres for Oyster Perpetual models, and 50 metres for the Cellini model. Some Oyster watches can withstand depths of 1,220 or even 3,900 metres.

However, it’s important to recognise the difference between a waterproof watch and a water resistant watch. Any watch, left immersed long enough can be compromised. Put simply, water resistant watches carry a rating which essentially certifies to what depth they can keep water out, under ideal conditions.

While it may be difficult for watch brands to claim true waterproofness, Rolex in particular can certainly claim true water resistance in their watches, to the depth specified. Plus, it’s interesting to learn that when they undergo testing, watches are tested at their guaranteed waterproofness depth plus an additional 25%.

Each of Rolex’s Oyster models is water resistant to at least 100m, meanwhile Rolex’s dive watches – the Submariner, the Sea-Dweller and the Deepsea – come in at 300m, 1,220m and 3,900m.

The famous Rolex oyster case

Introduced by Rolex in 1926, Rolex founder quickly observed the connection between pocket watches and their inability to be protected from the elements as its wearer looked to enjoy sports and outdoor activities. Off the back of this realisation, Hans Wilsdorf wanted to – and successfully managed to – create a beautiful, yet resilient watch that would be relied upon by even the most active of watch wearers.

While many know plenty about the water resistance capabilities of modern Rolex watches, few knew that in 1922, Rolex launched the Submarine – a watch attached to a hinge inside a second outer case. This was a pivotal point in Rolex’s mission to create waterproof Rolex watches.

Four years later in 1926, the Oyster case was patented. The name? Well, Hans Wilsdorf chose to name it the “Oyster” because:

“Like an oyster, it can remain an unlimited time underwater without detriment to its parts.”

Over time, the renowned Oyster case has undergone changes to further reinforce its waterproofness, allowing its wearer to dive even deeper safe in the knowledge that their Rolex can withstand great depths.

Rolex Oyster watches

With the exception of the Rolex Cellini, all modern Rolex watches are fitted with the Rolex Oyster case. This guarantees water resistance of up to 100 meters across the following models:

  • Rolex Datejust and Datejust II
  • Rolex Oyster Perpetual
  • Rolex Air-King
  • Rolex GMT-Master
  • Rolex Daytona

The Rolex Submariner

It wasn’t too long until Rolex watches branched out even further, turning their attention to the design and development of watches fit for deep sea divers. It was in the early 1950s that the Submariner was created, with guaranteed waterproofing up 100 metres.

Other changes also enhanced the security of the Oyster case, as well as it sporting a rotatable bezel with a graduated insert which allows divers to monitor their time underwater.

Almost three decades after the development of the Oyster case, the Oyster Perpetual Submariner was introduced, as the first commercially available watch capable of submerging to 100 meters.

The Rolex Sea-Dweller

In 1978, we saw the launch of the Sea Dweller, the perfect divers’ watch with guaranteed waterproofing to 610 metres. Equipped with a helium escape valve, it was the ideal tool for saturation divers.

How have Rolex watches changed since?

Since the release of early Rolex watches, including the famous Rolex Oyster case, Rolex have continued to perfect their watches and their water resistance. In 2008, the brand revealed the Rolex Deepsea, whose patented case architecture – the Ringlock system – enables it to withstand pressure at a depth of 3,900 metres.

In March 2012, the Rolex Deepsea was attached to a manipulator arm of the submersible piloted by explorer and filmmaker James Cameron. As a guaranteed water resistant watch of up to 12,000 metres, it even successfully withstood the pressure exerted at 15,000 metres during testing.

The new generation of Rolex water resistance

In 2020, Rolex presented their new generation of Oyster Perpetual Submariner and Oyster Perpetual Submariner Date – both of which feature a redesigned, slightly larger 41mm case and broader bracelet.

price of gold increase rolex watch

Does that mean that even vintage Rolex watches are waterproof or water resistant?

Here’s something we’re asked quite often. Most recently about a 1983 Rolex Datejust. To which, here’s the info you need:

While your Rolex watch may have recently passed a pressure test, meaning it is splashproof / water resistant – as with all vintage ‘dress watches’ it’s never advised to wear in baths/showers/swimming for the obvious reasons of water damage. This is because it is difficult to know when the current seals in the watch will next fail due to natural wear and tear.

To avoid this, you can have frequent pressure tests and re-seals, but our advice will still always be the same as above, which is to only use as splashproof / water resistant – such as being okay outside in the rain or being able to withstand small splashes of water. 

Looking for the perfect Rolex?

From the Rolex Oyster Perpetual to the Rolex Submariner, we’re well equipped to source the perfect water resistant Rolex watches for your needs and style.

Get in touch with our expert team to discuss your requirements or take a look at our current collection of Rolex models.