In the early days of watchmaking, there were many factors that could influence the accuracy of a watch. One of them was not, however, magnetic forces – powerful magnetic forces simply weren’t around. In fact, it wasn’t until the twentieth century – 1915 to be exact – that Vacheron Constantin made the first antimagnetic pocket watch. Fast forward to the development of electricity and modes of transportation like trains, cars, and planes. Soon, magnetic fields started popping up all around us. By WWII, there was a need for antimagnetic watches for pilots. IWC was one of the first brands to answer the call. At this stage, they simply took one of their existing pilot watches. Then, they placed it inside a protective case called a Faraday cage. Since then, antimagnetic watches have come a long way.
With all the advancements in technology, understanding magnetism and its potential impact on watches is more important than ever before. Watches are comprised of many metal parts, and these can become magnetized when introduced to these fields. One of the most common parts impacted is the balance wheel. This mechanism plays a role in regulating the ticking of a watch. As a result, one of the most common signs a watch has had magnetic exposure is if it’s running unusually fast or slow. Some watchmakers have perfected IWC’s technology and created an internal shield that protects the entire movement. Others have continued to experiment with alternative materials for the balance spring, like silicon.
We’re surrounded by magnetic fields in our modern world, from computers to smartphones. However, these devices don’t produce magnetic fields powerful enough to be a big concern. For instance, a microwave oven only produces a magnetic field of about two gauss. On the other hand, if you’re an engineer or someone whose work exposes you to larger volumes of more advanced machinery, antimagnetic watches were literally made for you. Here, we’ve compiled some of the best models on the market.
Shortly after IWC’s first attempt at an antimagnetic watch, Rolex developed the Milgauss. To create the Milgauss, the brand partnered with the European Organization for Nuclear Research, CERN. They helped Rolex perform rigorous tests on the model. The result was a watch that could withstand electromagnetic fields of up to 1000 gauss. This gave the watch its name, combing the Latin world for 1000, mille, and the unit of magnetic fields, gauss. In typical Rolex fashion, the Milgauss isn’t all substance, no style. Today, it’s the only model in the brand’s catalog to feature a unique colorway created by a tinted sapphire crystal.
Bremont first teamed up with the famed British manufacturer of ejection seats, Martin Baker, for the MBI. This model was only available to pilots using Martin Baker seats. Later, they developed a similar model for the civilian market: the MBII. Although not explicitly optimized for professional aviators, the MBII certainly doesn’t lack technical prowess. It boasts impressive anti-shock and antimagnetic capabilities. Using the modern internal Faraday cage concept, the MBII can resist magnetic fields up to 1000 gauss.
IWC Big Pilot
IWC’s work in antimagnetic watches has spanned far beyond the initial modified variation of the Mark XI. Today, they continue to focus on the antimagnetic capabilities of their pilot watches to meet the evolving needs of modern aviators. One such example is their Big Pilot line. The Big Pilot has been a part of the brand’s catalog for eight decades. However, it’s always been ahead of its time. As the name suggests, its modern oversized proportions give it a timeless aesthetic with functionality to boot. Inside, the model employs a soft iron case for protection against magnetic fields.
Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 Anti-magnetic
Panerai initially launched their first and only antimagnetic watch back in 2013. It comes as no surprise that the bold, oversized proportions of the Luminor Submersible made the perfect vessel to house the brand’s internal Faraday cage technology. One of the most modern variations of the model features a contemporary titanium and ceramic construction and rubber strap. All in all, it can withstand electromagnetic fields of up to 500 gauss. This limit is more than eight times higher than that required by International Standards.
OMEGA 1957 Trilogy Railmaster Limited Edition
In 1957, OMEGA launched three of their most iconic models: the Speedmaster, the Seamaster, and the Railmaster. To celebrate the 60th anniversary of these three classics, the brand issued a special edition trilogy in 2017. Using advanced digital scanning technology, OMEGA made every effort to recreate the original charm of each model. The 2017 Railmaster is a near replica of its 1957 counterpart, antimagnetic properties and all. Of course, there have been some modern improvements to the technology used. Thanks to the chronometer certified Caliber 8806 movement, the limited edition Railmaster can withstand magnetic fields up to 15,000 gauss. This is exactly fifteen times the original.