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Our world is in a constant state of change. Who would have expected 30 years ago that smart technology would evolve so rapidly and have such an impact on our everyday lives? Much of what our parents and grandparents had grown accustomed to and believed to be impossible to change has now disappeared from collective memory. Some things that we considered analog and obsolete, however, are havinga new, exciting moment. In this case, we’re referring specifically to antimagnetic watches. The wide range of new everyday items with electromagnetic fields has made it attractive again for watch manufacturers to produce watches whose accuracy is not affected by magnetic influences.

Magnetism in our everyday environment

We all know the magnetic toy trains that attract each other with their differently polarized magnets. This effect also occurs with electronic devices. Current flows and a magnetic field are created with every movement of an electric charge. Today, we are surrounded by smartphones, laptops, induction fields and many other devices whose magnetic fields are stronger than we can imagine. For example, an iPhone has an output of 14,400 amperes per meter, and an induction field of 1.2 million amperes per meter. This corresponds to 15,000 Gauss. To understand these values better: a watch is considered antimagnetic if it does not deviate more than 30 seconds per day under the influence of a magnetic field of 4,800 amperes per meter.

Silver Rolex Milgaus 116400GV Z-Blue with blue dial and grey backgroundROLEX MILGAUSS 116400GV

The origins of antimagnetic watches

The fact that we are surrounded almost everywhere by magnetic fields is by no means a phenomenon of the 21st century. In the 20th century, the use of electricity in everyday life expanded due to the development of the railway networks, the advent of professional aviation and other new developments in technology. Watch manufacturers responded to the effects of this innovation by researching ways of protecting sensitive movements against the effects of magnetic fields. At the end of the 19th century, Vacheron Constantin began research and in 1915 introduced one of the first antimagnetic pocket watches. However, in the history of the watch industry, the days of the pocket watch had long been numbered. In 1930, Tissot introduced the first series-produced wristwatch resistant to magnetic fields. Its name, Antimagnetique, was as simple as it was fitting. This development continued and in the 1940s IWC developed a watch model for the Royal Air Force that was protected against magnetic fields using a Faraday cage. A Faraday cage is a shell made of an electrical conductor that is closed on all sides and shields the inside of the cage from electrical fields – cars and their conductive shells are a clear example of how a Faraday cage works.

What makes a watch antimagnetic?

What these models have in common is that the movements are protected from ferromagnetic influences by one of two different designs. One possibility is to protect the movement with a mu-metal cage. Mu-Metal is an alloy of nickel and iron and is characterized by its high magnetic conductivity. This cage directs the electromagnetic field around the movement. To be effective against electromagnetic fields, the "cage" must be as completely closed as possible. This fact also explains why many antimagnetic watches do not have a date window. The other way of protecting the movement from the harmful effects of electromagnetic charges is to avoid using ferromagnetic components in the construction of the watch. At the end of the 1980s and after the quartz crisis, the development teams of watch manufacturers were in a position to deal with the further development of materials for antimagnetic watches again. In 2013, Omega launched the new Seamaster Aqua Terra with the 8508 caliber. This silicon movement and NivaGauss, specially developed by Omega, was advertised as one of the first completely anti-magnetic movements to offer resistance against magnetic influences without the use of a Faraday cage.

Renowned antimagnetic watch models

The 1950s were a time of outstanding engineering achievements. This was also expressed in the watches of the time, which in their own way reflect the technical zeitgeist of the decade. Three models in particular stood out for their robustness and anti-magnetic design.

IWC Ingenieur

IWC opened with the Ingenieur collection, which was launched in 1955. The IWC Ingenieur features a state-of-the-art Pellaton winding mechanism named after the company's technical director, an improved Breguet hairspring and a higher vibration frequency. A soft iron inner case prevents magnetic fields from adversely affecting the Ingenieur's operation. This was particularly well received within medical and engineering professional communities. The mixture of straightforward elegance and high durability made the Ingenieur one of IWC's best-selling watch models for a number of years.

Rolex Milgauss

In 1956, Rolex launched the Milgauss, a watch model that could withstand magnetic fields of up to 1,000 Gauss. This made the watch especially suitable for researchers, engineers and doctors. In particular, it was designed to equip the employees of CERN, located near Geneva, with a resistant watch. This was also where the Rolex Milgauss' resistance was ultimately tested. The timepiece kept what its name promised: Milgauss is derived from the French word "mille" for thousand and "gauss" as a unit for magnetic flux density.

Silver Rolex Milgaus 116400GV watch with black dial and grey backgroundROLEX MILGAUSS 116400GV

Omega Railmaster

The Omega Railmaster was first launched after the Rolex Milgauss and the IWC Engineer, but Omega had already researched anti-magnetic watches in the early 1950s and, like IWC, supplied the British Air Force with magnetically resistant watches. Once a predecessor to the Railmaster, the Reference 2777-2, was successfully tested on the Canadian market, the path was clear for the establishment of the Railmaster. In 1957, the company launched the Railmaster and promoted it as a watch model designed specifically for railway employees and other professionals exposed to strong electrical currents. Like the Rolex Milgauss from its competitor, the Railmaster had a magnetic resistance of up to 1,000 Gauss. The series also demonstrated a high level of resistance by being revived twice by Omega management. The latest Railmaster models are now able to withstand up to 15,000 Gauss.

Silver Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra 150M 2504.30.00 watch with a white dialOMEGA SEAMASTER AQUA TERRA 150M 2504.30.00