If you’re not a hardcore traveler and don’t take the plane very often, you might wonder: can I wear my watch through airport security? And the answer might not be as easy as you think.
Some airports set their metal detectors with a higher sensitivity than others. Some watches are considered jewelry, some aren’t. Same goes for smartwatches. So, what do you do?
Can you wear a watch through airport security?
Yes, you can wear your watch through airport security. Just keep it on your wrist, especially if you’re afraid that it might get scratched or stolen if you put it in a tray. If you want to get through security as fast as possible, take your watch off your wrist and put it in the pocket of your jacket or carry-on bag.
Some watches might set off metal detectors, depending on their size or used materials. Smartwatches might too. Also, there are some things to keep in mind regarding automatic watches or smartwatches (see below for more).
On numerous forums and blogs, you can find many travelers reporting having no issue whatsoever by going through the metal detector with their watch on, regardless of the type of watch they wear or the country.
Just always make sure to remove your belt though: these are a no-go in pretty much every airport on the planet.
Do watches set off metal detectors?
It’s very unlikely that your watch will set off a metal detector. Most of them don’t contain enough metal to be detected as a potentially harmful metal object.
Now, this really depends on the watch that you are wearing and how the metal detector from each airport is set. Obviously, when metal detectors are set on a high sensitivity, anything with more than a few grams of metal will trigger the alarm.
If an officer lets you know you that your watch is the reason why the walk-through metal detector fired off, he or she will inform you and try to clear the alarm with you.
It might involve a visual inspection. And in some marginal cases, you might have to take your timepiece off.
The thing is: you never know how the sensitivity of a metal detector is set. So:
- if you want to go through airport security as fast as you can (because you’re in a hurry or don’t want to bother the other travelers), remove your watch and put it alone in a pocket. The one from your jacket or carry-on bag is perfect.
- if you don’t want to run the risk of scratching your watch, damaging it or it being stolen, keep it on your wrist. Most of the time, it won’t trigger the metal detector. When it does, the security agent will let you know what to do: simply show it or remove it for further inspection.
Regarding watches, chunkier metal watches or watches with metal bracelets will most likely trigger the alarm of the walk-through metal detector.
Conversely, watches made out of plastic or resin (like a Casio G-Shock for example) should not trigger the detector – so you should be fine wearing those through the metal detector.
However, you never know when a random screening will occur. So even if you wear a watch made primarily of plastic, you might have to go through additional security checking measures. Don’t stress out, this is a normal procedure.
Important note: if you don’t mind to put your watch in a tray, beware!
- Try not to put it in small trays with uneven shapes or bowls. These can move around on the conveyor belt and then tip over. As such, your precious piece or jewelry could pass through the conveyor rollers, where you won’t be able to get it back ever again.
- Everything you put in a tray for x-ray scanning might be a temptation for thieves. You just need a second of distraction to kiss your precious watch goodbye.
So let me state this again: in case of doubt, always keep it on your watch on! Better safe than sorry.
Can you wear a watch or smartwatch through a TSA Pre check?
Yes, you can.Many travelers report wearing their watch or Apple Watch without a problem and without triggering the detector’s alarm.
But as stated on the TSA website, just like any other security check:
“TSA uses unpredictable security measures, both seen and unseen, throughout the airport. All travelers will be screened, and no individual is guaranteed expedited screening“.
Even stainless steel watches should be fine. So you can wear them until further notice from the security agent.
Are airport scanners bad for automatic or mechanical watches?
No, they are not. Unless you are wearing a vintage or very delicate watch, airport scanners are not bad for automatic or mechanical watches. You can wear them while going through them and they will be fine.
As you may know, mechanical watches (be it hand wind watches or automatic watches) are sensitive to high magnetic fields. As a matter of fact, when subject to magnetic fields, mechanical watches can deviate from their regulated timekeeping property.
And of course, the way metal detectors work is by applying a magnetic field and detecting how much it changes when you go through it.
Most modern watches are built to withstand quite high magnetic fields without a problem.
Without going into technical detail, the magnetic field created by a metal detector is not strong enough to deregulate your mechanical watch.
This is true even if you pass through the detector with your hand on the side of your body and at waist level – where the magnetic field of the metal detector is the strongest.
Tip: if you want to lower the magnetic field that is applied to your mechanical watch, just scratch your nose while going through the detector.
Your head sits right in the middle of the detector – where the magnetic field is weaker than at the sides – and generally, less magnetic fields are found around the head area for health reasons.
An officer might think that you may have something to hide though, so your call really… I just walk through with my arms on the side.
Can I wear my watch on a plane?
Yes, you can. definitely can! There is no reason you couldn’t wear your watch, even a digital one. Enjoy your timepiece at 40.000 feet high as much as you would enjoy it on the ground.
Can I wear an Apple Watch on a plane?
You can wear an Apple Watch on a plane without a problem. Even if you put your iPhone in airplane mode during the flight, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do the same for your watch. So it’s best practice to put your Apple Watch in airplane mode.
You can even put your Apple Watch into Power Reserve mode and save even more battery power (which is always a good idea).
If for some reason you need to be connected, you can use the Wi-Fi on your phone and answer messages thanks to your watch.
Also, don’t forget to take full advantage of your seat’s USB port (if it featured one), with which you’ll be able to charge your watch during the flight.