Built to Last
One of the most common reasons why a mechanical watch loses its chronometric precision is magnetism. Because the movement within is made up of hundreds individual components, all of them made from iron-based metals, prolonged exposure to magnetic fields will cause them to be magnetised. When that happens to the critical timekeeping components, a watch will begin to run either too fast or slow, or it may stop working entirely.
Mechanical watches by their very nature require at least some degree of proper handling. It’s shockingly easy to break even a simple three-hand automatic movement, especially one with the date display. Most watch collectors know by heart that before adjusting the date, one must always change the time first to position the hour and minute hands below the 3 and 9 o’clock level. This prevents the gears of the date mechanism from jamming up.
With grand complications, things get far more complicated. Here’s where you’ll want to break out the kid gloves to touch any of the buttons and hidden pushers. Perpetual calendars and minute repeaters are notoriously vulnerable to any form of mishandling. Typical mistakes include tampering with the crown of a perpetual calendar watch when the minute hand is too close to 12 o’clock and pulling the sliding lever of a minute repeater when the watch is still chiming or failing to engage the sliding lever completely. These are guaranteed to send the entire system of wheels, springs, racks, and snails into a tailspin.
Unless – and this is a pretty significant ‘unless’ – your watch was made within the last five years. That was when the result of years of technical R&D spearheaded by the industry’s leading firms finally tricked down to the market at large. With the ambition to take haute horlogerie into the 21st century, they focused on improving the core aspects of watchmaking. Age-old bugbears relating to magnetism, precision, and robustness could soon be a thing of the past thanks to these innovative marques.
Here is our series we look at the industry big names who have gone that extra mile and made their timepieces to last. The first is Omega.
Read the full series here.
Magnetism has been an issue for watchmakers since time immemorial. The most straight-forward method of protecting the movement from magnetisation is to encase it in a Faraday cage. Most amagnetic timepieces are made this way but in 2015 Omega introduced a new solution which eliminates the use of a Faraday cage altogether.
With the Seamaster Aqua Terra >15,000 gauss, Omega went back to the roots of historical watchmaking. Its movement, the Co-Axial Calibre 8508, utilised key components fashioned out of non-ferrous materials, so it needed no protection whatsoever from magnetic fields. The material in question is silicon.
Not only was it a more elegant solution – a Faraday cage requires a thicker case and did not allow an exhibition case back or a date display – the watch was 15 times more resilient to magnetic forces than a standard amagnetic watch. The latter could typically withstand fields of up to 1,000 gauss while the Seamaster Aqua Terra >15,000 gauss, as its name suggested, wouldn’t be fazed by a staggering 15,000. Even more impressively, the watch is a COSC-certified chronometer and remains so even after strong magnetic exposure.