Magnetized Watches: Symptoms and How to Fix it
One of the most basic, yet all-important tools for men and women alike since the 16th century is watches. It started being worn in pockets before transitioning down to the wrists in the 1910s as a need for adaptation brought about by wars and the changing times.
It has been used by military men when synchronizing their maneuvers, by the rich people keeping their fashion in check, and by the general public. For whatever reason it may be, owning one for yourself is a must.
A pilot wearing an early model from Sinn. Source: NY Times
Upon seeing this trend, clockmakers have continuously been developing new designs and mechanisms for watches. The materials that were used, how they were built, and the way they operate has changed for the better - to satisfy every wearer's needs and demands.
This development made the usage of watches possible for a wide variety of professionals working in extreme conditions like high altitudes (pilots and mountain climbers), increasing water pressure (divers), and in places of high and cold temperatures (geographers and archaeologists).
Still, it does not matter how expensive or complicated a watch’s material and structure is made with, there are still enemies it has trouble winning against - magnetism.
How Does Magnetism Affect a Watch
So how does this natural force affect the mechanism of a mechanical watch?
Simply put, magnetism is a natural phenomenon producing either an attracting or repelling force when it comes close to a magnetic material, aka metal. It is produced naturally or reproduced artificially.
Source: Access Science
Take a compass, for example. This small instrument is specially made for navigation because once exposed, it detects the natural magnetic fields of the Earth, thereby locating the North and South poles.
Similarly, analog watches can also substitute as an alternative for navigation in some circumstances. However, unlike a compass, being exposed to such force for long periods and at certain levels would cause upsetting changes on the watch.
The small components forming the movement of a mechanical watch operate on a very intricate and miniature scale, providing accuracy with each passing tick.
The many fragile components of a watch calibre. Source: Monochrome Watches
The stainless steel, ceramic, titanium, and metal or alloys make them durable and high-performance.
Now imagine if one of these minute details is suddenly misaligned or altered in form by an invisible force. One particularly vital yet fragile part that can be affected by magnetism is the balance spring.
The coil in the middle is responsible for the accurate ticking of your watch. Source: Amazon
The balance spring is a thinly coiled stainless steel (or any suitable spring material) that is responsible for maintaining the release of energy on the balance wheel - causing it to swing the same distance on either side – something that directly affects the accuracy of a watch movement.
When a watch becomes exposed to a magnetic field, the balance spring sticks to itself, making it shorter, leading to friction on the escapement’s movement. This causes the watch to move faster, slower, or completely halt its movement.
And we all know, a watch losing accuracy also loses its purpose. It is a nuisance if your profession and everyday tasks are very time-sensitive.
But worry not; a magnetized watch is not necessarily damaged for good – there are still fixes you can do as we will share with you later in this article.
Things that can Magnetize a Watch
One of the common mistakes that many people make but not realize is exposing their mechanical watches too close to a magnetic source.
You might be exhausted after a long day, wanting to just take a bath and lie down on the sofa. After entering your home, you prop your keys, wristwatch, phone, and everything in your pockets on the counter for the whole night. Phones are actually magnetic, and can affect your watch.
You may also be accidentally brushing your hand against the refrigerator door when you’re busy in the kitchen.
Indeed, magnetic fields are found everywhere inside the house. From household appliances like microwave ovens, hairdryers, and washing machines to other electronic devices like PC speakers and cell phones.
The truth is, small exposures do not automatically magnetize a watch. But as mentioned earlier, depending on the length of exposure and strength of the magnetic field, it could influence your timepiece negatively.
Symptoms and How to Test for Magnetization
Now that you're aware of how magnetism and everyday objects can influence the accuracy of your watch, what should you look out for that will indicate your watch is magnetized?
First off, changes might range from the watch gaining speed, running slow, or even stopping time completely; when you have no memory of it being dropped or impacted.
Not that you have to familiarize yourself with these changes. If you pay close attention to small details, you might first notice these differences on the second hand, gaining or losing momentum by several ticks.
However, simply observing your watch might not be enough. Whenever in doubt, here are three easy and common ways to tell if your mechanical watch is indeed magnetized.
A relatively helpful app for iOS users. Source: APK Pure
First, IOS users can download an app called Lepsi. Once set up, you can immediately use it by hovering your watch above your phone screen where the detector is located. Doing this will not cause your watch to be magnetized further as it will only take a few seconds.
A simple homemade compass. Source: Saskatchewan Science Center
Secondly, if you have one with you, set a standard needle compass flat on a table. Now, hold your watch near it. If you see the needle following your watch, it is magnetized.
If the last two home diagnostic tests do not give you a reliable answer, consider having your watch checked by a local watchmaker or any authorized service center in your town. They will most likely have the proper equipment to check for magnetism in your watch.
How To Fix a Magnetized Watch
If you choose to have your timepiece checked by a professional, you can ask them to fix it for you and have them check for other damages as well, which would probably only take a few minutes.
Or, if you want to invest in a solution that you can access anytime, here’s how to fix it from the comforts of your home.
The only device you need to fix a magnetized watch. Source: Hodinkee
A watch enthusiast should consider getting a demagnetizer. This tool is also widely used by watchmakers, so you know it’s a tested solution. It might cost you a few bucks, but you can keep using it in the long run. Much better if you own a collection of mechanical watches.
Using a demagnetizer is very simple as well. Lay your demagnetizer on a flat surface, then place your watch on top of it. Now, press and hold the button for 10 seconds. Afterward, without removing your finger from the button, move your watch upwards away from the demagnetizer.
This technique will generally remove the magnetism from your watch. You can confirm it by testing it again with the Lepsi app or a compass.
Fixing a magnetized watch is pretty easy but having to encounter this problem is, without a doubt, an inconvenience to busybodies.
Contrary to belief, magnetism within our daily environment is not a product of technological evolution. The watch industry has been racking up its innovations to solve this problem throughout the years.
Looking back, one of the primary solutions was to protect the internal parts of the watch by switching up the inner cage material with soft iron. This material attracts magnetic field lines but does not stay magnetized once the source has been removed - acting as a faraday cage.
A watch for scientists. Source: Rolex
The renowned watch designer and manufacturer, Rolex, utilized this method with The Milgauss back in 1956. The anti-magnetic watch can withstand up to 1000 gauss levels of a magnetic field, made exclusively for the scientists of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).
Other alternative methods were introduced way earlier in 1915, when Vacheron Constantin, the first credited watchmaker, successfully created an anti-magnetic pocket watch. Unto which, years later in 1930, Tissot broke through the industry, producing their first anti-magnetic wristwatch named Antimagnétique.
Antimagnetic and classy. Source: Rescapement
Their secret? The steel that was once commonly used for a balance spring had changed into palladium. Others went in pursuit with nickel-iron alloy and similar alloys to combat magnetism.
A pioneering innovation - the Freak. Source: Monochrome Watches
It was only until the early 2000s that Ulysee Nardin changed the game. Launching the Freak, they created the first wristwatch to use silicon material in its escape wheel - gaining favor over the previous innovations and the market.
Soon after, the watch manufacturers, watchmakers, and watch modders have also preferred to use silicon because of its superior advantages. Big names like Christophe Claret and Breguet even combined magnets and silicon in their 2012 and 2013 designs, challenging what was once problematic in a mechanical watch.
Some weighed in the merits and went all out, changing the entire metallic movement of watches into anti-magnetic materials throughout the years.
Setting high standards for magnetic resistance. Source: Caliber Corner
Yes, Omega did that, as they introduced another strong contender in the watchmaking industry in 2013 with the Master Co-Axial movement (Calibre 8508), withstanding a new record of up to 15,000 Gauss.
Of course, with the conversation on anti-magnetic watches and big brands, we can’t leave out one of the leading names in watchmaking and modding, Seiko. Designing practical and reliable watches is their philosophy, and they do not fail to deliver.
Dedicated to following the ISO minimum standards for movements of divers’ watches, Seiko produces their timepieces with a minimum magnetic resistance of 60 gauss. Some of their well-known anti-magnetic calibres include the versatile NH35A and NH36A.
Mod with an Anti-Magnetic Movement
Seiko modding for beginners might even be more nerve-wracking than when buying the first timepiece.
We want you to create the perfect build that would suit your preferences best and which will last for a long time. Getting the complete set of aesthetics, functionality, and sturdiness is always a plus in a timepiece.
One of the key points you want to look out for when you want to mod your watch is longevity. Automatic movements can offer you longer winding periods, unlike a battery-powered or quartz watch model.
And since you are modding to ‘upgrade’, it’s better to choose one with anti-magnetic properties to save you the time and trouble of demagnetizing.
This modder-favorite movement has so many perks! Source: The Watch Blog
For starters, the NH35A can give you a quality timepiece with its ISO standard magnetic resistance in addition to shock-absorbent properties and impact resistance.
If you’re looking for an option with day and date complication while having the same features, then check out the NH36A.
Routinely regulated and ready to use upon purchase, we at namokiMODS ensure that you get only the authentic and quality standard mod parts to help you achieve your first, second, and many more Seiko mods to come.
With the right equipment, you can fix a magnetized watch with ease. However, with the right Seiko mod tools, compatible Seiko mod parts, and a good set of skills, you can customize your timepiece to your advantage.
Excellent craftsmanship can take a while, yes. But this satisfaction is what keeps the Seiko modding community growing and continue to attract more budding watch modders into the hobby.
The first time is always the hardest, as they say. So once you get the hang of modding on your own, you can start expanding your modding arena with the wide variety of Seiko mod parts we offer here at namokiMODS, where we're always available for you and your watch modding needs.