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Is your Apple Watch waterproof? Everything you need to know

Apple Watch in pool
(Image credit: Anicka S / Shutterstock)

Is your Apple Watch waterproof? Well, the short answer is: no. But most models are water-resistant, so they won’t get damaged when exposed to or submerged in water up to a certain depth. But there are several levels of water resistance on apple watches, so it’s best to know precisely how your watch is rated before you go jumping into any jacuzzis or hot springs this winter. 

The good news for Apple Watch owners is that the days of destroying your costly Apple product because you got caught in the rain are gone. Even the oldest Apple Watches offer some degree of protection from moisture, and fortunately, each series of watch comes with a rating to tell you exactly the extent of moisture it can handle. 

If you’re in the market for a new Apple Watch and plan to wear it for soaking in the tub, swimming, or even ocean sports, read on to learn what activities and depth your new watch can handle. Remember that your Apple warranty doesn’t usually cover water damage, so it’s essential to heed the water-resistance ratings (unless you want to fork over for a new watch, of course.)

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Apple Watch, Apple Watch Sport, Apple Watch 1 |  very minimal water resistance
Bad news if you’re hoping to go for a swim with one of the earlier Apple Watch models: they’re not very water-resistant. If you have one of the first (called Series 0) or Series one models, produced until mid-2018, you’ll need to try hard to keep it dry.  While it should be fine to wear while washing dishes or washing the car, you want to avoid ever submerging it. And if you do accidentally submerge it, be sure to dry it as soon as possible to prevent damage. Water on the screen is far less of an issue than water in the ports or speaker.  

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Apple Watch 2, 3, 4, 5 | water resistant up to 50 meters
Though smartphones and most electronic devices use an IP rating for water (with IP 7 being safe to submerge), some companies use a depth rating for watches. If your Apple Watch is from the 2, 3, 4, or 5 Series, it was water resistant up to 50 meters when you bought it. Over time, most devices will eventually decline in water resistance in response to the effects of daily wear. 

If you have a Series 2 (introduced in 2016) or Series 3 (introduced in 2017) Apple Watch, it’s likely not nearly as water resistant as it once was. Reconsider wearing it while swimming, though you should be absolutely fine for wearing it to shower, clean, or do other tasks that leave your hands in water for a few seconds. It’s continued submersion that may be a problem. 

If you have a Series 4 or 5 (introduced in 2018 and 2019, respectively), you’re probably okay to continue wearing it during water sports. It should be safe for water sports like swimming, snorkeling, or going for an all-day river float. Several dedicated apps for swimmers are available on the App Store, though the Apple Watch itself (Series 2 and above) works well for swimming, with features that can guess what stroke you’re doing and measure your rate of exertion. 

Apple does advise that it’s best to avoid contact with potentially damaging liquids like bug spray, acidic substances, perfume, or shampoo and conditioner, regardless of what model you have, so try to rinse it off after contact with anything other than fresh water. 

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Apple Watch SE | water resistant up to 50 meters
If you opted for the Apple Watch SE to save a few bucks (it starts at $120 / £110 / AU$170 less than the Series 6, introduced simultaneously), you’re in luck. While you’ll lose a few health features and have to settle for a slightly slower processor, you don’t have to sacrifice on water resistance: the Apple Watch SE is also rated to 50 meters. So feel free to swim or soak in a hot tub – it should be able to handle all but the most extreme water activities.

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Apple Watch 6 | water resistant up to 50 meters
The Apple Watch 6 offers the same water-resistance rating and is the best choice for anyone planning to do extensive swimming. The Apple Watch 6 and the Apple Watch SE are the newest in the Apple Watch lineup, introduced in November 2020. And since water resistance deteriorates over time, the newer the watch, the better the water resistance. The Apple 6 also has some health features not offered in the SE that frequent swimmers may want, like an electrical heart sensor and an oximeter to measure how well your heart is pumping oxygen through your body. 

A note about water resistance

Unlike most electronics, including iPhones, iPads, and all other tablets and smartphones, Apple watches don’t use the IP water resistance rating. Instead, they use the standard rating method for watches, based on depth.

However, being rated to 50 meters doesn’t mean you should take it anywhere near 50 meters – it just means that in lab tests, it was able to withstand the amount of pressure you’d find at that depth (which is about 4.5 times the amount at the surface.) But there’s really no reason to test that yourself, considering it could damage your watch. If you need a smartwatch for scuba diving or freediving, you’re better off getting one that doubles as a dive computer, like the Garmin Descent.

It’s also important to know that Apple watches aren’t designed to withstand repeated high-energy impacts. Jumping into a pool or ocean is no problem, but avoid wearing it for more extreme sports, like water skiing or surfing. It’ll probably be fine a few times, but too many high-velocity impacts could start to compromise the water resistance, eventually ruining your watch.

Suzie Dundas

Suzie Dundas is a Lake Tahoe-based freelance writer and photographer. Her work has appeared in Business Insider, Forbes, Outside Magazine, SkyLife Magazine, TripSavvy, the San Francisco Chronicle, Frommer's, Fodors, and many more.