Is the Apple Watch waterproof?

Image credit: TechRadar

Welcome, seasoned surfer. You've come here to learn one single thing: whether any of the Apple Watch range is waterproof. Well, the short answer is no... but that doesn't mean you can't get it wet, shower with it or take it swimming.

The reason for the stark (and confusing) answer is the terminology here: there are almost no electronics on the market that are 'waterproof'. That means they're completely impervious to water, and it's a dangerous claim for any manufacturer.

What they are is 'water-resistant', meaning they can survive in certain conditions when dealing with the deadly aquatic nemesis. Even a submarine isn't completely waterproof, because at some depths the water pressure would just make it crumple, unless it's incredibly advanced.

Image credit: Apple

Image credit: Apple

You're not buying a submarine though, but a smartwatch that can do all manner of things, and you just want to know how much water it can take. The good news is that all the Apple Watch range is water resistant - it just varies how much.

Any water-resistant electronics won't always stay that way, which is why brands are so desperate to not make a big deal about what can be done with their devices in the wet stuff. 

Over time, the seals that keep out water can degrade or get damaged, which make the whole process quite tricky to navigate. Here's what Apple says you should avoid with a Watch to keep it more waterproof-ish:

  • Dropping Apple Watch or subjecting it to other impacts.
  • Exposing Apple Watch to soap or soapy water, for example while showering or bathing. 
  • Exposing Apple Watch to perfume, solvents, detergent, acids or acidic foods, insect repellent, lotions, sunscreen, oil, or hair dye. 
  • Exposing Apple Watch to high velocity water, for example while water skiing. 
  • Wearing Apple Watch in the sauna or steam room. 

The reason for this is all about the seals: spending too long with anything that nibbles away at them (whether that's steam, slightly corrosive substances or dropping it to possibly crack things).

This is pretty unlikely to happen in reality, but it's the kind of guidance that brands have to offer to make sure that users understand the difference between completely impervious to water, and capable of somewhat resisting it - and it will invalidate the warranty if you've done any of these things.

Is the Apple Watch Series 1 waterproof?

Image credit: TechRadar

Image credit: TechRadar

Have you ever imagined Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, in the shower? Now you have. And you know he's got a lovely bathroom. Probably one of those rain shower heads... and we bet he's got perfect water pressure too.

Imagine staying in his guest bedroom. The quality of the towels would be... anyway, we're getting off track. The first Apple Watch isn't waterproof, and the least water-resistant of all the range.

Apple was at pains to say that this Watch isn't waterproof when launched, but accidentally it's more fluidy-defensive than we expected. 

We began to suspect when Cook mentioned using it in the shower (hence the beginning paragraph to this section - although we hope he wasn't getting too soapy with it) and it turns out that there is some measure of protection.

It's IPX7 rated, meaning you can plunge it up to a meter for half an hour - sounds fine for swimming, right? 

Wrong. It would be probably OK if you tied it to a string and let it trail behind you in a very shallow pool, but the issue comes when you're slapping it into the water with ferocity as you struggle to remember how front crawl works from your school days. This puts too much pressure on the seals and can let water get inside.

Remember: electronics and water are not friends. That's why all this hoo-ha exists.

(That said, DC Rainmaker, a prominent fitness gadget tester, found that the Apple Watch 1 was far more water-resistant than Apple claimed - you can see just how here).

You could also invest in a case if you're worried - however, they're not super cheap, like this one from Catalyst (although oddly this claims IP68 rating to 100m of depth, when the 8 usually signifies a meter and a half of submersion).

So... is the Apple Watch 3 waterproof?

Image credit: TechRadar

Image credit: TechRadar

Still no. Did you not read the first section about what waterproof means? But, good news: you can take the Apple Watch 3 swimming thanks to it being 5ATM safe.

(You've probably noticed that we've skipped over the Apple Watch 2 - that's not on sale any longer, but it has the same protection as the Watch 3. Imagine they're the same thing and you're golden).

This is the standard water-resistance that you'll see on most watches - it essentially means that you're good for up to 50 meters of depth. You can't take the Apple Watch scuba diving really, but for most things (including, well, shallow snorkeling) it's going to be fine.

The thing to note here is that the water ingress protection is higher here, so the Apple Watch 3 can handle higher impacts - which really includes swimming and more prolonged exposure to water.

That doesn't mean you can do anything weird with soap suddenly and still expect a warranty to hold, but the Watch 3 is more capable than the first iteration at not falling apart at the first sign of rain.

Apple marketed the Watch 3 (and Watch 2) as great for swimming, and added in a cool little feature that see the watch make a buzzing sound to clear water out of the speaker. It's fun to watch.

Is the Apple Watch 4 waterproof?

Image credit: TechRadar

Image credit: TechRadar

Would be weird if it wasn't, right? Well, it's NOT waterproof. We tricked you. None of these are waterproof.

But the Apple Watch 4 is water-resistant to 5ATM, like the Watch 3. There's no more protection on offer here than before, but it would be a weird extra from Apple to make it less resistant to the wet stuff.

It's a larger screen on the Watch 4 though, which makes it easier to glance at what's happening underwater (if the app you're using allows for that.)

What can I do if my Apple Watch gets wet?

Well, if you're using the Apple Watch 2, 3 or 4 then you've got the beauty of Water Lock. This locks the phone from doing anything when there's water present, so the screen won't misread the pesky conductive aqua as a random touch.

If you start a swim workout, then Water Lock will automatically occur, or you can just swipe up from the bottom of the screen in the standby mode and tap the water drop icon.

This is handy, but that's not the coolest bit. When you're ready to get tapping on the screen again, you'll spin the Digital Crown and the Apple Watch will actually make a beeping noise to clear the speaker. That's right: sound to destroy water. 

It's like some sort of elemental fight happening right on your watch.

Apple then recommends you dry the Watch and band with a soft, lint-free cloth... but, you'll probably just wriggle it around a t-shirt for a bit. 

Gareth Beavis
Formerly Global Editor in Chief

Gareth has been part of the consumer technology world in a career spanning three decades. He started life as a staff writer on the fledgling TechRadar, and has grown with the site (primarily as phones, tablets and wearables editor) until becoming Global Editor in Chief in 2018. Gareth has written over 4,000 articles for TechRadar, has contributed expert insight to a number of other publications, chaired panels on zeitgeist technologies, presented at the Gadget Show Live as well as representing the brand on TV and radio for multiple channels including Sky, BBC, ITV and Al-Jazeera. Passionate about fitness, he can bore anyone rigid about stress management, sleep tracking, heart rate variance as well as bemoaning something about the latest iPhone, Galaxy or OLED TV.