Has Omega solved the last true technical challenge for mechanical watches?
Published Thursday, April 04, 2013 by Harry SK Tan |
Magnetism and its effects on mechanical watches has been a technical problem since the first wrist watch was made. Magnetism impacts on the accuracy of the movement due to the attraction of metal parts inside - usually causing the movement to speed up. The key problem are all the metallic moving parts that end up being either attracted or repelled by the materials being magnetised.
Historically the two solutions had been either to have the watch degaussed (removing the magnetic properties using a special tool) or enclose the watch movement in a type of alloy that prevents the movement inside from becoming magnetised. All brands have so far used alloy plates (or some material with similar properties) inside the case to make their watches anti-magnetic. Two renowned brands namely, Rolex (Milgauss - rated at 1000 gauss or 80,000 A/m) and IWC (Ingenuier 6,250 gauss or 500,000 A/m) have famous anti-magnetic watches with rich histories.
On 17th January 2013, Omega announced that they had solved the technical problem of magnetism on movements by developing materials that is resistant to magnetism up to 1.5 Tesla or 15,000 gauss. The announcement was followed by a test demonstration of the new movement to that effect. Details of how the movement is able to be rated at 15,000 gauss is expected to be released at the 2013 Basel later this month. In the meantime, the test was conducted on the New Seamaster Aqua Terra (image courtesy of Omega Singapore). Notice how slim this watch compared to its competitors in the category of anti-magnetic watches.
It is probable that Omega's solution is in the use of non ferrous materials in parts that moves in a watch movement. While all the bridges, screws and plates can continue to be steel or other usual materials, the mainspring, balance spring, balance wheels - the parts that move - of which accuracy is dependent on will be made from some form of silicium or silicon material.
Why would this development be important in the history of watch making? Fundamentally, with the use of new non-ferrous material such as silicium in the escapement, the level of consistent time keeping is far more accurate due to the tensile capabilities of the material. With the added property of being a-magnetic (not possible to be magnetised) watch owners need not be concerned about the magnetic fields found everywhere around us. The mobile phone we all carry, television sets, hifi speakers and laptop computers.
Together with it's evolutionary co-axial escapement technology, Omega is showing the way forward on how to develop reliable mechanical watches. Keep an eye out for Omega's further update on this technology at the coming 2013 Baselshow.