Smartwatches and normal watches come with water resistance ratings. The rating tells you about the depth pressure that a watch can sustain. When we swim, and go under the surface, the watch experiences a pressure due to the water current. The IP68 and 5 ATM ratings tell us the exact pressure that the watch can take or sustain.
Earlier, watches would come with IP67 and IP68 ratings. However, as the smartwatch technology progressed, the watch ratings improved. Now, we have most smartwatches being marketed under 5 ATM water ratings. Garmin produces 10 ATM and 100 ATM or Dive-rated watches as well.
What does IP68 smartwatch mean?
IP68 implies Ingress-Protection 68 rating. Some people may also call it the International Protection marking. We will break the IP rating numbers into 2 numerals.
- The first numeral after IP represents the dust protection. So, in an IP68 rating, we see that the number 6 represents dust protection. Dust protection of a device is rated on a scale between 0 to 6. 0 means no dust protection. 6 means fully protected against dust ingress into the device. So, in an IP68 rating, we can see that the smartwatch is fully protected against the dust ingress.
- The second numeral in the IP rating implies or measures the water protection or water ingress protection. Water ingress rating is given between a scale of 0 to 8. 0 means that the device has no water ingress protection. 8 means that the device has full water ingress protection. This is assuming that no external force is applied on the watch to break its seals and cause the water to ingress into the compact unit of the smartwatch. An IP68 rating means that the device or the smartwatch is fully protected against water ingress into the watch’s internal unit.
At best, an IP68 rated smartwatch implies that the smartwatch is protected against ingress of dust and water into the watch. But, this can change quickly when you swim. When you will go under water, the depth will cause pressure to be exerted on the watch. Such pressure could cause the watch’s seal to come off and allow water to ingress into the internal compact unit of the smartwatch.
IP68 watches can go under water surface to a level between 1 to 3 meters. In terms of feet, that means you can go under water between 3.3 feet to around 10 feet. IP68 watches, therefore, have a very narrow band of performance for use during swimming. Extended periods of swimming sessions can cause damage to the smartwatch. So, we are not particularly big fans of wearing an IP68 while swimming. I would have concerns wearing an IP68 watch during shower as well.
Due to feeble water resistance capabilities, IP68 watches are considered ‘water-resistant’ to a certain degree. IP68 watches, are by no means, water proof. This is a point you need to be aware of. My personal opinion is to not use an IP68 watch while swimming.
What does 5 ATM watch mean?
A 5 ATM watch is leagues ahead of an IP68 watch in terms of water resistance and swimming. 5 ATM watch means that the watch can sustain a pressure of 5 Atmospheres or 5 Bars (bar is a unit of pressure just like Atmosphere is a unit of calculating pressure). Such a depth pressure prevails at depths of 50 meters or 165 feet below water level. You will notice that the normal pool swimming will never reach such depths at any time.
Due to better pressure handling capability of a 5 ATM rated watch, these watches are considered water-proof. In respect of water resistance standards, we find that Garmin offers the best information and capabilities of the smartwatches. For 5 ATM watches, Garmin suggests using these for pool swimming. Because, apart from the depth, we also need to take into account the time duration for which you are swimming.
For brief periods, you could go to a depth of 50 meters under water surface level. However, extended use of a 5 ATM watch at depths of 50 meters may cause damage to the watch. Sadly, the time duration that is recommended for each smartwatch differs from one manufacturer to another. We suggest checking your smartwatch manufacturer to find out the best recommendations for 5 ATM watch in terms of time duration for swimming under water.
The bottom line of this discussion is that a 5 ATM smartwatch is much better than the IP68 rated smartwatch for swimming. 5 ATM watch is water proof, and can be used while swimming or showering. It comes with enough protection to see through pool or shallow water swimming activities.
Do bear in mind, though, that Garmin suggests open water swimming for watches that are 10 ATM rated. 10 ATM means that the watch is water resistant at depths of 100 meter or 330 feet below water surface level. We feel that Garmin has better water resistance guidelines that most other smartwatch manufacturers. Therefore, we tend to follow Garmin’s recommendations about water resistance and water proof character of the watch.
IP68 or 5 ATM for Diving or Scuba Diving or Snorkeling?
IP68 watches should not be used while diving, scuba diving or snorkeling. These watches are absolutely not suitable for any sort of deep water sports or diving. We, actually, have our concerns about using an IP68 for swimming too.
5 ATM watches are not suitable for diving or scuba diving or snorkeling. There is a high chance of water damage due to leakages in the water seal of the watch when you dive. 5 ATM are appropriate for pool swimming or shallow water swimming only.
For diving, we suggest using DIVE rated smartwatches. DIVE rated smartwatches have a water resistance rating of 100 ATM. These watches have 20 times higher protection against water damage for a smartwatch. So, I will suggest using a DIVE rated watch if you intend to wear it while diving or snorkeling.
IP68 watch, theoretically, is water resistant. However, most IP68 watches have a water depth rating between 1 to 3 meters. These watches, are best to be avoided for swimming. 5 ATM ratings for smartwatches have become the standard water resistance rating for contemporary smartwatches. 5 ATM watch can be used while swimming in the pool or for shallow water pool activities.
Rajesh Dhawan is a technology professional who loves to blog about smart wearables, Cloud computing and Microsoft technologies. He loves to break complex problems into manageable chunks of meaningful information.