Magnets are everywhere. You may not see them, you may not feel them, but they are there: earphones and speakers; car doors; keyless access; medical equipment; elevators; handbags; electric motors in appliances; security systems; toys and computers — a few dozen magnets are used to lock and unlock an iPad's screen when the cover is removed or closed.
Through most of watchmaking's history, magnetism has been a significant problem. If a mechanical watch is expected to keep accurate time, the movement has to be protected from externalforces. With more, and stronger, magnets being introduced into everyday life, a watch's accuracy can be compromised without its owner having any idea what is causing the problem. Arthur Bodin, Hyde Park Jeweler’s director of watch services explains, "Magnetism is something we have to consider on a daily basis. Timepieces are especially vulnerable when worn by people who travel a lot or those who work in the medical profession."
To solve this unseen problem, Omega has announced the creation of a watch that far exceeds the levels of magnetic resistance achieved by any previous timepiece.
On March 13, 2013, the Seamaster Aqua Terra >15,000 gauss was introduced at a press conference in a penthouse in New York's Setai building. Named after the gifted German mathematician, Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855), the term gauss is used to measure the intensity of a magnetic field.
In his opening remarks, Omega president, Stephen Urquhart gave credit to Swatch Group's unique ability to benefit from the knowledge and skills of the best engineers and researchers from its brands and companies. "Omega," Urquhart stated, "has a long history of creating technologies that have allowed the mechanical watch industry to evolve. This watch marks another milestone for Omega and for our industry."
Urquhart then introduced Jean-Claaude Monachon, Omega vice president and head of product development, Michel Willemin, CEO of ASULAB, and Thierry Conus, the director of research & development at ETA.
Conus explained how watchmakers have dealt with the problem of magnetism in the past by using inner cases -- the Faraday Cage. Constructed of materials designed to limit a magnet's effect on the watch's internal components, they provide a path for magnetic fields to pass around the movement rather than through it. This solution has several drawbacks. First, the materials cannot withstand the stronger magnetic forces encountered today. Second, from an aesthetic standpoint, the inner case made it impossible to fit the watch with a date display or sapphire presentation caseback.
G.N. Hayek, CEO of Swatch Group, challenged Omega's engineers, scientists and metallurgists from its sister companies at the Swatch Group to create a totally non-magnetic watch. The technology developed by this exceptional team resulted in the co-axial calibre 8508, a movement that does not rely on a protective shield inside the watchcase to protect it from magnetism. Instead, the calibre 8508 is constructed of carefully selected nonferrous materials including a silicon balance spring and non-magnetic escapement. Omega claims the movement is 15 times more resistant to the effects of magnetism than other well-known brands.
Jean Claude Monachon reminded attendees the calibre 8508 is another example of Omega's long history of technological innovation. Introduced to the collection thirteen years ago, the Co-Axial escapement has allowed Omega to produce some of the most accurate and efficient mechanical watches on the market. Two recent innovations include Liquidmetal® technology, which allows a bond between ceramics and a zirconium-based alloy, and Omega Ceragold®, the first process to allow the decoration of ceramic watch parts with eighteenkarat gold.
The calibre 8505 is expected to be launched in the Seamaster Aqua Terra, but Omega has indicated all models will be fitted with the anti-magnetic movement by 2017. At this year's Baselworld, Omega will present the inside story about the technology and materials used to create this exciting breakthrough.