Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"Water Resistant 50 Meters" My Butt

As an unsupervised postdoctoral researcher, it can sometimes be tough to self-motivate. To help maintain a productive and efficient schedule, I decided to invest in a wristwatch. So when I was in West Marine last week I picked up a Timex 1440. I checked to make sure it was water resistant, and it was, to 50 meters depth, supposedly.

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Well, I went windsurfing today and the dang thing got water in it. Now it's chirping like an epileptic sparrow and flashing nonsensical messages in an alien language.

Turns out "Water Resistant 50 M" watches can tolerate a static pressure equal to 50 m depth for 1 hour, but are actually not suitable for swimming at ANY depth, because the real-life forces experienced by a watch on a wrist are much worse than what it feels when motionless in a pressure chamber. Here's the the industry standards for water resistance, along with the real meaning, from wikipedia.

Water Resistant 30 m or 50 m - Ok for fishing, but not for swimming
Water Resistant 100 m - Ok for swimming, but not for "serious surface water sports", i.e. windsurfing
Water Resistant 200 m - Ok for anything besides scuba diving*

*There are other standards for scuba watches, but I'm not going to get into those.

Anyway, the point of my rant is that I think it's an evil marketing trick to display the misleading test rating (i.e. WR50M) on a watch, instead of its actual water resistance. I know they probably mention the practical usage recommendations in the fine print, but nobody reads that. It has to be something intuitive, right on the label. Any ideas?

14 comments:

Sergey Menshikov said...

"50 meters - I often swim farther than that!" - one lady to another in the store

dailybits said...

Nothing that beats the original g-shocks....

WIndsurfing/surfing/... All perfect and you will only loose it when your hand is ripped off. ;-)

Scott said...

This happened to my son's "50 meter" watch while playing in a 3-foot deep swimming pool. Liars.

That being said, I have one of the Timex "Iron Man" watches and have used it for windsurfing, and it has held up just fine.

Johnny Douglass said...

My 100 meter ones have done just fine under water. The problem has always been that the bands fall apart in about two heartbeats. Some Timex watches even have custom bands that wrap around the watch for attachment. I had one of those; no replacement band is available. That watch has been sitting in a box in the attic with its broken band keeping perfect time for the last two years.

John said...

james i have a freestyle watch that is rated for 100 meters and it holds up great. I'v had this watch on in some pretty epic conditions and not a dew drop of water inside....and you know i can take some pretty serious falls haha...its the freestyle predator

James Douglass said...

Sergey- Ha ha. :)

Dailybits- I think I had one of those, and cherished it until the band broke or I left it somewhere or something.

Scott- Yeah, "50 m" is misleading to the point that I would definitely consider it a lie.

Dad- Yeah! I've got two perfectly functional and waterproof watch faces with no bands. One is in my desk and the other is in my glove compartment. The latter chirps at 9 am every morning.

John- The "freestyle predator" is a pretty cool name for a watch. If it can withstand your wipeouts it MUST be tough.

John said...

I love your segue from self-motivation to watch buying. Pretty awesome.

I'm a big fan of my Casio G-Shock GW1000DA. Sure it's chunky. Sure it has over-the-top James Bond features like solar power and atomic clock synchronization. But it has taken some serious hits from my boom and survived the hyper-saline environment of tje Laguna Madre.

The watch is good for 200M, stainless all around, and it cost around $80 when I got it on Amazon. That still seems like a big, fat deal, although I think they've updated and replaced my model. The new ones probably include a laser beam, or a secret garrote.

PeconicPuffin said...

How could you not know that, James? Of all people I'd have figured you'd be da guy on top of it.

Meanwhile Dailybits is right...the original g-shocks are peerless. I have one I received as a gift in 1998...never mind that I've sailed it while getting my tail kicked in Maui, Aruba...you name it...I've only had to replace the battery once in ten years. Seriously. AND it has a stopwatch!

cammar said...

Here's my policy for water proof watches: buy the cheapest available at Long's.
No matter how good it is, if you surf or windsurf a lot, sooner or later you'll end up losing it.

Amazingly enough, my last $20 50m waterproof Casio is now lasting more than one year. Had to change the belt once, but it took numerous memorable wipeouts and never failed.

PeconicPuffin said...

That's two votes for the Casio...I may have to do a post about this!

Paul Richardson said...

yeah dude, G-SHOCK! I love mine.

Erik Loots said...

Nice Blog! I started to follow.

Did you ever heard what a garmin gps has for water resistant:

1 meter and maximum 30 minutes! Or in better words NOT water resistant (I'm using my 4th gps now with aquapack)

Morley said...

I have a Timex somethingorother - Indiglo? Heart-rate monitor, and WR for 50 m. Its about 4 years old now, windsurfs virtually every session, no probs.

Shane Tunnell said...

I've had a Casio g shock every since I got out of the military. That was what we were issued when I graduated bud's and I for one can tell you they are tough as nails never had one quit me yet the one I have now is the same as I had throughout my career as a seal.