Water Damage and Rolex Watches


Maybe you took that “water resistant” indication too seriously, or maybe you just had bad luck. Whatever the case, you’ve gotten your Rolex wet, and suddenly it has gone from being a prized timepiece to a sort of time bomb: if water gets into the movement, you have about ten days to fix it before your Rolex turns into a bracelet. If it was wine (for instance) you may only have a day or two.

Before we talk about how to fix this problem, let’s talk about how you can avoid it next time. Rolex sells watches at various degrees of water resistance, but even the best of these will degrade over time. When you take your watch in for repairs, you should ask to have the gaskets checked and, if necessary, replaced. Failing that, a good rule of thumb is that if your watch is water resistant to “X” feet, you lose about ten feet a year as the gaskets degrade and the seal gets looser.

Faced with a wet Rolex, you should avoid three things. First, don’t panic. This happens to people all the time, and it is usually fixable. Second, don’t get your hopes up if you see the fog in the crystal has disappeared. The fog is not a good indicator, and water is not going to magically disappear from the inside of your watch movement. Third, do not make your problem worse by overheating your watch. Many home remedies for wet movements involve applying heat, but don’t get carried away.

Here’s what you are going to do. First, get the watch into a warm, dry environment at once. The water vapor trapped inside the watch is not going anywhere unless the outside of the watch is drier than the inside. Dry air often means cold air—think of an air conditioner—but what you want is warm, dry, air, like a heating register. Again, don’t overheat the watch. If the watch is noticeably hotter than it feels on a sunny day, you are going too far.

Next, you want some type of desiccant. Dry rice and salt are classics, but you can also buy desiccant powders at hardware stores or most drug stores. Many of these are slightly corrosive, in that case, you want to make sure that your Rolex is not actually touching the material. (Salt is corrosive; rice is not). They will wick up any traces of water vapor still in the air, including the ones coming out of your poor watch.

You have now done everything you can for the watch on your end. Leave it there, and call your jewelers. They are going to need to take the watch apart and dry it piece-by-piece, then re-assemble it. Depending what you dropped it in and how much time has elapsed, this may be an emergency. They’ll let you know. But in the meantime, you are doing the best first aid you can with hot dry air and desiccant. Good luck!

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