Magnetic Moments

Magnetic fields are one of the major origins of inaccuracy in watches, causing moving parts of the movement to stick together, repel each other and behave erratically. With more electronic machines producing more magnetic fields, Omega is unveiling the most powerful anti-magnetic watch yet – the latest in a line of watches battling magnetism dating back to the 19th century. Companies then were researching materials that could be used in a movement instead of ferrous steel and brass, but it was not until 1930 that this could be successfully used in a wristwatch. It was IWC’s invention of shielding inside the watch case that really moved things forward in the 1940s.

1933 – Tissot Antimagnetique

The first mass-market antimagnetic wristwatch, Tissot’s watch used palladium in the crucial escapement mechanism to reduce magnetic interference.

1948 – IWC Schaffhausen Pilot’s Watch Mark 11

Made for RAF pilots, the Mark 11’s movement was placed in an inner case of soft iron, which acted like a Faraday cage to deflect magnetic fields emanating from cockpit instruments.

1955 – IWC Ingenieur

IWC introduced the inner shielding tech from the Mark 11 to the civilian market in a watch aimed at engineers and scientists working in fast-developing technical areas.

1989 – IWC Ingenieur 500,000 a/m

IWC used non-ferrous materials to create a watch that could resist far higher magnetic forces than anything attempted before. Its timekeeping was unreliable, however, and it was only produced in small numbers.

1956 – Rolex Milgauss

Rolex also used the inner shielding method for its Milgauss, which could resist fields up to 1,000 Gauss (a fridge magnet is about 50 Gauss). It was marketed for scientists at the newly-opened CERN laboratory. The following year, Omega made produced the Railmaster antimagnetic watch as electronic rail travel proliferated.

1996 – Bell & Ross Bomb Disposal Type

The young French company making military-style pilots watches created an antimagnetic watch for use by bomb disposal experts.

2007 – Milgauss revived

Rolex brought back the Milgauss, still with 1,000 Gauss resistance. It’s been a niche favourite with buyers ever since, particularly in its green-dial incarnation.

2013 – Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra 15,000

Omega has rewritten the rule book this year with a watch capable of withstanding 15,000 Gauss – enough to see off the magnetism generated by an MRI scanner. It uses futuristic nonmagnetic materials, including silicon – with no shielding, the movement can be fully on display.