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Magnetism

by Jordan Ficklin

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A customer comes in with their watch, it isn’t keeping time. Usually this means it needs to be serviced. Most of the time it should have been serviced years ago but they have waited until now and it isn’t running well at all. This time it is something different. They just purchased the watch a month ago and it has gained several hours. Hours! Yikes! As it turns out it is a quick and easy fix. I put the watch on the demagnetizer, push the button a couple of times and it’s keeping time again as it should.

So, how does this happen? What causes a watch to become magnetized. Magnetic fields of course. They are all around us. Simply exposing a ferrous metal to a magnetic field causes it to become somewhat magnetized. The longer the exposure or the stronger the field the more magnetized it becomes. The closer you are to the source of the field, the stronger it is. The more magnetized it is the poorer it tells time.

Common sources for magnetic fields are:

  • Anything with a permanent magnet in it like:
    • The refrigerator door
    • Any speaker
      • You have a speaker in your cell phone
        • When the watch is on your wrist they may not be close enough but if you set them down next to each other at night the watch may be exposed to the magnetic field
  • Medical equipment
  • Scientific equipment
  • Laptop
  • Can opener
  • Vacuum
  • Electric motors

Most people seem to keep their watches from becoming too magnetized but if it is a problem you might try avoiding these sources or getting an anti-magnetic watch like the Rolex Milgauss. I really like the Anniversary edition.

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4 Comments

  1. le-combier
    Posted September 2, 2008 at 1:25 am | Permalink

    I am aware of three kinds of demagnetizer: the “Etic” unit with a small platform, the bigger ones with a large flat platform (several brands) and the coil type where you pass objects in and out of the hole. Which is best for what purpose? Thanks.

  2. J.Peter
    Posted September 2, 2008 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    le-combier,

    I think the coil type is the best at removing magnetism. They tend to be the strongest. The working principle behind all of them is the same. I have both in my shop. When I need to de-magnetize something small I will just set it on the platform type. For demagnetizing an entire watch (especially when inside the case) I use the coil.

  3. Prem
    Posted September 3, 2008 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    Hi Jp,
    FYI- Rolex use a special steel that has an appellation ‘904L’ in production circles. The product is actually reserved for the medical industry, and in essence is a fabulous alloy of steel- it doesn’t get magnetized easily. The watches that other companies make are different variants too of the same steel standards. Magnetism is the bane of the watchmaker, and has to be understood correctly, quite rightly as Jp points out- a couple of different de-magnetizers in the workshop should do the trick. I use Etic too for de-magnetising hairsprings and small parts.
    Cheers mate,
    Prem

  4. Mark Webber
    Posted May 7, 2017 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    I got my Dad’s Seiko 6533-8000 date watch to run after a new battery and cleaning. It was accidentally touched by a magnet on the back with the back removed and hasn’t worked since. Did I put it out of alignment so badly it won’t run? Can a demagnetizer fix this? Thank you for your time on this

2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] in September, we talked a little bit about magnetism;  more recently, as I’ve been working my way through reading the whole of Donald de […]

  2. […] been exposed to a magnetic field (for more on magnetism and watches, check out J.Peter’s post here). Unlike most quartz watches, the hands of the T-Touch are driven by two independent, […]

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