Mechanical watches can encounter a number of challenges and magnetism is one thing that poses a noteworthy threat. Since watchmaking’s inception, magnetic fields have had an impact on mechanical timepieces. Whilst exposure to magnetic fields may not cause permanent harm, they can demagnetize your watch causing your timepiece to lose accuracy and precision.
This can lead to your timepiece encountering fast timekeeping or ticking too slow. Erratic timekeeping is not ideal but there is an easy solution that comes in the form of demagnetization. By using a watch demagnetizer, you can restore your timepiece back to optimal performance where you can rest assured that the time is accurate.
What is Watch Magnetism?
A mechanical watch features many components that are susceptible to magnetic forces. The most affected is the hairspring which when magnetized directly impacts the accuracy of the timepiece. Magnetization of this part can cause the watch to run excessively fast. Other watch components can also be magnetized which can also potentially affect the accuracy.
Overall, magnetism can affect a watch with slow, fast or erratic timekeeping. Fortunately, unless the magnetic force is exceptionally strong, the impact of magnetism on a watch is usually reversible. Through demagnetization, a magnetized watch can be restored to its normal functioning conditions.
Do I Need to Demagnetize My Watch?
Demagnetization is not a necessary part of your regular watch maintenance routine, however, you should be prepared that your watch may need to be demagnetized. If your watch has suddenly sped up or has become erratic in terms of accuracy, it is likely that your timepiece needs to be demagnetized. To confirm if this is the case, you can perform tests to check if your watch is magnetized.
A timegrapher is a professional way of checking if your watch has been magnetized. A typical reading of a magnetized watch shows that it is out by more than 100 seconds per day. This is a great and accurate method of testing for magnetism, however, there are more convenient and affordable methods that also do a great job.
One method is using a compass and a basic digital compass works well. Turn on the compass and slowly bring your watch near the display. If the direction on the compass shifts significantly as your watch approaches it, then it is pretty clear it’s magnetized.
I personally use a compass to verify magnetism on a watch as I’ve found it to be a very effective method. It is worth noting though that anti-magnetic watches will not affect the compass.
Alternatively, your phone may have a compass feature. Though its reliability varies, there are multiple iPhone apps tailored to detect magnetism using the phone’s compass hardware. However, I prefer the simplicity of a compass, especially as powerful onboard magnets are now incorporated into many phones.
If any of these methods show that your watch is magnetized, then your timepiece needs to be demagnetized in order to return to optimal performance.
How Does a Watch Demagnetizer Work?
A demagnetizer is effective for restoring the accuracy and precision of your timepiece. It helps by neutralizing the magnetic fields that can disrupt a watch’s movement and restoring it back to optimal performance. When a watch becomes magnetized, its delicate movements can be affected causing inaccurate timekeeping.
A demagnetizer uses alternating magnetic fields to neutralize any residual magnetism that has built up within the watch. This process is relatively quick and straightforward. Whilst some anti-magnetic watches exist, owning a demagnetizer can be a practical solution to ensure your watch’s accurate performance.
How to Use a Watch Demagnetizer
Once you’ve established that your watch needs demagnetization, the process itself is straightforward. It does however, require precision and from personal experience, it’s essential to follow a proper technique to prevent the risk of exacerbating the magnetism issue.
Step 1: Using a demagnetizer should be performed only on non-operational watches. You can easily pull the crown out to stop to watch or if your watch does not have hacking, you need to wait for it to completely deplete before using the demagnetizer.
Step 2: Begin by holding your watch slightly above the demagnetizer’s smooth pad near the on/off switch. While some guides suggest placing the watch directly on the pad, I’ve found better results by hovering it just above the plastic.
Step 3: With one hand holding the watch, lift it steadily and directly away from the demagnetizer as your other hand presses and holds the button. The light should illuminate upon pressing. Begin raising the watch away from the device.
While the distance isn’t precisely defined, I usually raise it considerably, roughly to eye level. This distance ensures you’re well clear of the demagnetization tool’s magnetic field.
Step 4: Release the button once the watch is high and away from the device. You can put the watch down but make sure not to return it to the demagnetizer pad.
Step 5: This completes the first demagnetization cycle. Repeat the above steps until you are happy with the watch’s performance. After each cycle, test your watch until it is clear that the effects of magnetism are minimized as much as possible.
How to Make a Watch Demagnetizer
If you are creative and enjoy a spot of DIY, making a watch demagnetizer at home can be an effective and affordable solution for demagnetizing your watches. Although it might not match the precision of commercial demagnetizers, it can effectively aid in reducing unwanted magnetism in your timepiece.
Step 1: Strip the copper wire to expose the core. Wind the wire around the battery, creating a coil. Make around 10-15 loops for a small demagnetizer.
Step 2: Secure the wire loops in place using insulating tape, ensuring the loops remain evenly spaced around the battery.
Step 3: Place the battery with the coil inside the non-metallic container. The container’s purpose is to focus the magnetic field.
Step 4: To demagnetize your watch, turn on the coil by momentarily connecting its ends to the battery terminals. Gently hover your watch above the coil and move it in slow circles for around 5-10 seconds. Gradually increase the distance and repeat the process if needed.
Remember, this homemade demagnetizer might not match the precision of professional tools and results may vary. If your watch holds significant value or if you’re unsure about the process, consulting a professional watchmaker is recommended.
How to Demagnetize a Watch Without a Demagnetizer
The easiest way to demagnetize a watch without a demagnetizer is by rotating a magnet. When rotated, a magnet creates an oscillating magnetic field that works to demagnetize the timepiece. Magnets that work best are those that have a slight curve with one side convex and one side concave. This helps the magnet to spin independently to create the appropriate magnetic field but you can also use something that will spin the magnet for you if your magnet is straight.
A common solution is to stick the magnet to the end of the motor in an electric toothbrush and this will create the rotating motion for you. The method works similarly in that you start with the watch close to the magnet and slowly pull away. Repeat until you are happy with the accuracy.
How to Protect a Watch from Magnetism
Once your watch has been demagnetized, it is important to prevent any further magnetism to preserve the timepiece. It is advised to steer clear of strong magnetic fields and avoid prolonged exposure wherever possible. Strong magnetic forces can be found in the likes of microwaves, speakers and MRI scanners so it is best to take caution around these devices.
Prolonged proximity to magnetic objects should also be avoided. However, it is not possible to completely prevent re-magnetization and if it occurs, you’re now equipped with the knowledge to address the issue effectively.
Watch Demagnetizer FAQ
If you are a watchmaker or a collector who is serious about preserving the accuracy of your timepieces, a watch demagnetizer is a great addition to your watchmaking toolkit. It’s a useful tool to have, especially if you own multiple watches or want to quickly address magnetism-related problems in your collection.
Yes, a watch demagnetizer effectively works to eliminate magnetism from watches. However, it’s important to note that while a demagnetizer can be effective in many cases, severe magnetization or other watch issues might require attention from a professional watchmaker.
The first sign that your watch is magnetized is that you notice it performing erratically or being inaccurate. You can test this by using a compass as the magnetic field will impact the needle or digital display. You can also use a compass app on your smartphone.
Demagnetizers are highly affordable and make a budget-friendly addition to your watchmaking toolkit. Whilst the price tag is dependent on the brand, you can pick up a demagnetizer for less than $20.
If you think I’ve missed anything or have anything to add, please comment below.