These days Apple loves talking about water resistance, but that hasn't always been the case: before the launch of the iPhone 7 (and Apple Watch Series 2), the company didn't release IP ratings, even while rivals were happily touting their devices' ability to cope with splash, spray and even total liquid immersion.
This makes it slightly complicated to talk about Apple Watch water resistance, since the company has been making and selling wearables since before it saw the light on IP ratings. Recent Apple Watches are officially certified as water-resistant to a high degree, but the matter is more complicated for older models.
In this article we discuss the water-resistance credentials of each model of Apple Watch - and of the straps, which are easy to forget and may be far less water-resistant than the main chassis. We also explain what to do if your wearable gets wet, and how to deal with a water-damaged Apple Watch.
Which Apple Watches are waterproof?
All Apple Watches are water-resistant to a greater or lesser extent, but Apple is careful to avoid adjectives like waterproof, which implies invincibility. There's always a limit.
You can divide the five generations into two groups, based on their liquid resistance and Apple's recommendations and warnings.
- Original Apple Watch and Series 1: Splash- and water-resistant, but submersion is not recommended
- Apple Watch Series 2, 3 and 4: Water-resistant to 50m, but Apple recommends that you stick to shallow-water swimming and avoid "high-velocity water"
We go into this in more depth for each model below.
Is the original Apple Watch waterproof?
The first Apple Watch from 2015 has a water-resistance rating of IPX7 under IEC standard 60529. We go into IP ratings in more depth below, but in brief this means that it's protected against liquid immersion, up to a depth of 1m for up to 30 minutes.
Apple warns that, while the first-gen Apple Watch is splash- and water-resistant (Tim Cook reportedly wore his in the shower), it does not recommend submerging it fully. If your watch does get dunked, proceed to What to do if your Apple Watch gets wet.
Is the Apple Watch Series 1 waterproof?
The Apple Watch Series 1 has a water-resistance rating of IPX7 under IEC standard 60529, the same as the Apple Watch first gen. Again, this means it's protected against liquid immersion, up to a depth of 1m for up to 30 minutes.
While the Apple Watch Series 2 is splash- and water-resistant, Apple does not recommend submerging it fully. If your Apple Watch Series 1 does get a full-on dunk, proceed to the relevant section of What to do if your Apple Watch gets wet.
Is the Apple Watch Series 2 waterproof?
The Apple Watch Series 2 has a water resistance rating of 50 metres under ISO standard 22810:2010. In other words, you can take it swimming quite safely provided you don't go super-deep.
But there are limits, and Apple is characteristically cautious about the precise aquatic behaviours that the Series 2 is capable of surviving.
Fine (according to Apple):
- Swimming in a pool
- Swimming in the sea
Not fine (according to Apple):
- Scuba diving
- Water skiing (or other activities involving high velocity water)
- Saunas and steam rooms
- Being lathered with soap, shampoo and conditioner
- Being doused with perfume, lotions and oils
- Acids and acidic foods
- Insect repellent
- Hair dye
Apple also warns that being dropped can damage the waterproof seals and membranes in the Apple Watch Series 2, and these may also degrade over time - so don't assume your Apple Watch is just as water-resistant after you've owned it for a year as it was on the day you bought it. (And there's no way to check if the water resistance is still okay, Apple says, nor to reseal it if it's not.)
If you inadvertently do any of these things with your Apple Watch Series 2, don't despair: it may well still be fine, because Apple is prone on a corporate level to manage expectations and underplay its products' ability to withstand rough handling. But you should nevertheless proceed to the relevant section of What to do if your Apple Watch gets wet.
Is the Apple Watch Series 3 waterproof?
The Apple Watch Series 3 has the same rating as the Series 2: water-resistant to 50 metres under ISO standard 22810:2010. So again, shallow-water swimming is fine, but you are officially advised to avoid scuba diving, waterskiing or anything involving "high-velocity water or submersion below shallow depth".
Is the Apple Watch Series 4 waterproof?
Finally, the Series 4 has the same rating as the Series 2 and 3: water-resistant to 50 metres under ISO standard 22810:2010, with an official warning to avoid scuba diving, waterskiing or high-velocity water.
This is an important consideration. The water-resistance ratings discussed above apply to the body of the watch itself, but the strap may not be as well protected against liquid damage.
Apple specifically warns that the Classic Buckle, Leather Loop, Modern Buckle, Milanese and Link Bracelet Bands are not water-resistant. The best band for water-resistance is the Sport Band.
Read our roundup of the Best Apple Watch straps for more advice.
Confused by the IPX7 rating given to the original Apple Watch and Series 1? What does IPX7 mean?
An IP rating, which measures 'ingress protection', or an object's ability to withstand physical intrusion, contains two digits. (The IP at the beginning is just an indication that you are currently halfway through reading an IP rating.)
The first digit, which generally goes up to 6, indicates how good the device is at resisting solid intrusions. A low number means relatively large objects will be able to get inside the device and cause problems; a high number means it's protected against smaller/finer solid objects such as dust. A rating of 6 means a product is dust-tight.
The second digit, which covers liquid intrusions, is more relevant to us here. This digit normally goes up to 8, although you rarely see a 9 or 9K rating when a device is able to resist pressurised or steam water. Here's what the digits mean in terms of water/liquid resistance:
- 0: Not protected against liquid
- 1: Protected against vertical dripping water
- 2: Protected against dripping water when tilted up to 15°
- 3: Protected against spraying water (at any angle up to 60°)
- 4: Protected against water splashing against the enclosure from any direction
- 5: Protected against water projected by a nozzle (6.3mm) against enclosure from any direction
- 6: Protected against water projected in powerful jets (12.5mm nozzle) against enclosure from any direction
- 6K: Protected against powerful water jets with increased pressure
- 7: Protected against liquid immersion, up to 1m depth for up to 30 minutes
- 8: Protected against liquid immersion, 1m or more depth (exact details vary)
- 9/9K: Protected against powerful high temperature water jets/steam-jet cleaning
An X rating in either category means 'unrated' or 'untested'. It doesn't mean it has no protection against that element: it just means that this IP rating does not comment on that aspect one way or the other.
So the IPX7 rating of the Apple Watch and Series 1 means: Protected against liquid immersion, up to 1m depth for up to 30 minutes, with no rating provided for resistance against dust and other solids.
More detail on the IP ratings here.
A wet iPhone is nearly always an emergency (see: How to fix a wet iPhone), but if your Apple Watch gets wet there's a good chance it'll be absolutely fine. Of course, this depends on which model you've got, and on how deep or pressurised the water is.
Apple Watch Series 2 or later
If you've got an Apple Watch Series 2 or later, ideally you should be using Water Lock.
Water Lock is a feature that locks the screen so it isn't activated by the moving water in a swimming pool or shower - very handy. Then when you make it back to dry land, you unlock the screen by rotating the Digital Crown dial, and the watch will automatically make a repeated beeping noise to vibrate the speaker diaphragm and dislodge any remaining water in the speaker aperture.
Apple is very insistent that you should not insert anything into the microphone or speaker ports, or shake the watch to try to get rid of remaining water. Just use the Water Lock beeping routine, then allow the watch to dry naturally.
Water Lock is activated by swiping up from the clock screen to bring up the Control Centre menu, then tapping the little water droplet icon. Depending on how your Control Centre screen is laid out, you may have to swipe up to find this icon.
(Water Lock is automatically activated if you start a swimming session in the Workout App.)
If you forgot to activate Water Lock before getting in the water, however - which is obviously going to be the case if you accidentally drop your watch in the sink, toilet etc - you can still use it to dislodge the water in the speaker aperture. Dry off excess water then bring up Control Centre and tap the droplet icon, then rotate the dial to turn off the lock and spit out the water.
Recent Apple Watches may be designed for swimming, but cautious old Apple still advises you to give them a clean after you get out of the pool or sea: after all, there will probably be chlorine in the pool and salt in the sea. Gently rinse the Apple Watch with warm tap water, then dry it carefully.
Apple further cautions that the watch should be cleaned with fresh water and dried with a lint free-cloth if it comes in contact with anything other than fresh water.
These steps should also be applied - with a greater degree of urgency - if your watch got a dunk in something it shouldn't have (whether sunscreen, orange juice or sulphuric acid), or if it went to a greater depth, was assaulted by steam etc. In extreme cases it would be worth doing triage yourself - rinse with warm tap water, wipe away excess, use the Water Lock vibration to dislodge interior water, dry with a soft cloth, leave to evaporate further on the charger overnight - and then go to an Apple Store to check everything is working okay.
Series 1 and original Apple Watch
The older-design Apple Watches are not designed for total immersion. Many early adopters tried it out anyway and we've not heard from anyone who regrets it but, since we're playing it safe, we'll carefully remove the water from the device as quickly and carefully as we can.
Apple suggests that you should check the various ports for (potentially damaging) interior water by placing the watch, speaker downwards, on a soft cloth to see if any drips out. You haven't got the option of buzzing the water out of these ports, as is the case with the Series 2 and its Water Lock feature, so the best option is to let the water evaporate: leaving the watch to charge overnight is likely to speed up this process.
As with later models, don't be tempted to poke around in the speaker and microphone ports in an attempt to clear them of water: this is more likely to cause other problems. Don't shake the watch either.
Even your watch has only been splashed - even if you've only sweated on it quite a lot - then you should still, for maximum safety and product care, give it a clean-up. Wipe off excess water with a nonabrasive, lint-free cloth. (Do not use heat or compressed air.) Remember to dry the strap too.