The rugged Apple Watch Ultra is understandably getting most of the attention as the smartwatch for extreme outdoor adventure enthusiasts. After all, it offers durability and protection against elements never before seen on an Apple Watch.
However, just because the Apple Watch Ultra can handle 40-meter dives and has been certified to military standards for temperature, immersion, shock, and vibration, that doesn’t mean that Apple’s newly released Apple Watch Series 8 isn’t also durable in its own right.
If you’re heading out on a mountain-climbing or undersea exploration adventure, there’s no question that the Apple Watch Ultra is ideal, but the standard Apple Watch can more than handle a day at the beach.
In fact, all of Apple’s smartwatches have a high degree of water resistance. The company bills them as “swimproof” — and that’s been the case since swimming workouts came to the Apple Watch Series 2 in 2016.
The original Apple Watch and Apple Watch Series 1 were certified with an IPX7 water-resistance rating. Apple claimed it was splash- and water-resistant but recommended against deliberately submerging it in water.
This changed with the Apple Watch Series 2, but it was easy to miss since Apple changed its certification standards. Instead of using the IEC 60529 ingress protection (IP) standard, Apple certified the Apple Watch Series 2 under ISO 22810:2010 — a new standard created explicitly for water-resistant watches.
Under this more specific set of guidelines, the Apple Watch Series 2 was determined to have a water-resistance rating of up to 50 meters. Apple still uses the IP code to define the wearable’s dust resistance, IP6X, but the “X” in the spot customarily used to identify liquid ingress protection has misled some to believe that the Apple Watch is not truly water resistant.
However, even an electronic device rated IPX8 or IP68 is only guaranteed to withstand immersion in up to 10 feet of water for a fixed amount of time. To make the Apple Watch “swimproof,” it was necessary to ignore this standard and go for something that would demonstrate even greater water-resistance capabilities.
All Apple Watch models released since the Apple Watch Series 2 have had the same IP6X dust rating and 50-meter ISO 22810:2010 rating, with the obvious exception of the Apple Watch Ultra, which is certified to an even higher IOS 22810 standard for up to 100 meters of depth and recreational scuba diving to depths of 40 meters.
However, it’s important to note that Apple does not call the standard Apple Watch “waterproof.” In fact, Apple pointedly states in a support article that the Apple Watch is not waterproof, merely water resistant (at the time of this writing, Apple’s support article had not yet been updated to include the Apple Watch Ultra).
Water resistance on the standard Apple Watch is primarily to allow the wearable to be used “for shallow-water activities like swimming in a pool or ocean.” It’s not recommended for “scuba diving, water skiing, or other activities involving high-velocity water or submersion below shallow depth.” Those activities are what Apple designed the Apple Watch Ultra to handle.
Since the Apple Watch Series 8 is water resistant to a depth of 50 meters, you might assume you’ll have no problem taking it in the shower with you. However, this is something else that Apple specifically recommends against doing.
While an occasional shower shouldn’t be much of a problem, exposure to soaps and shampoos can weaken the water resistance of your Apple Watch over time. These chemicals can cause the seals in the wearable to break down, allowing water to get inside.
This means it’s not a good idea to wear your Apple Watch while shampooing your hair, doing the dishes, or engaging in other water-related activities that may involve soap or other chemicals getting onto the device. Apple says it’s also a bad idea to expose the Apple Watch to “perfume, solvents, detergent, acids or acidic foods, insect repellent, lotions, sunscreen, oil, or hair dye.”
In summary, the Apple Watch is resistant to water; it’s not guaranteed to be resistant to other liquids, especially with repeated or prolonged exposure.
Apple also recommends against exposing the Apple Watch to high-velocity water or wearing it in a sauna or steam room. These activities can also allow water to penetrate the water-resistant seals.
Even the Apple Watch Ultra may be subject to some of the same limitations, particularly where chemicals are involved. Apple certifies its more rugged wearable for dives of up to 40 meters and high-speed water sports. However, Apple still stops short of calling it waterproof and notes in the fine print that “water resistance is not a permanent condition and can diminish over time.”
Lastly, it’s also worth remembering that the water resistance of the Apple Watch doesn’t necessarily apply to the watch band you get with it.
This includes Apple’s collection of stainless steel and leather bands, such as the Classic Buckle, Leather Loop, Modern Buckle, Milanese, and Link Bracelet. The same logic applies to third-party Apple Watch bands. If you plan to swim with your Apple Watch, it’s best to avoid anything too fancy and stick with a basic rubber, plastic, or fabric strap.