Magnetism is a real watch killer and can be expensive to repair at the watch repairer. It’s not uncommon to be charged somewhere between $50-$150 for the demagnetization of your watch. In reality, the watch repairer is likely opening the watch to troubleshoot for any other faulty parts. However, if you know the watch is magnetized and otherwise fine, this can feel like a waste of money.
The demagnetization of a watch only takes a few seconds with a demagnetizer. Placing the watch on the demagnetizer, holding it in place for a few seconds, followed by removing the watch, will result in a demagnetized watch.
Magnetism is just one way to ruin your watch. However, with a little caution and some extra knowledge, you can easily avoid an expensive trip to the watch “mechanic.” I’m here to help – even showing you how to identify whether your watch is magnetized or not.
How Long Does It Take to Demagnetize a Mechanical Watch?
It sucks to have a mechanical watch that all of a sudden doesn’t keep time right. Although there can be various reasons for the malfunction of a watch, magnetism is, fortunately, one of the easy ones to fix.
A very common reason is that the mechanical watch hasn’t been maintained correctly. It’s, therefore, essential to maintain and take good care of the watch. You can read an in-depth walkthrough of maintaining watches HERE.
Demagnetizing a mechanical watch takes less than 10 seconds with the right equipment, including identifying whether the watch is magnetized will take an additional 5 to 10 minutes.
You might have stored it for a period and decided that now was the time to put it back on the wrist. However, after a day, you notice the watch is not keeping time.
After searching the web on how to store a watch correctly (like this post I have on storing watches), you wonder if the watch’s lubrication has dried up, water has entered the watch, or the watch might have become magnetized.
You later find out you stored the watch right against your big subwoofer (high amounts of magnetism). You now know with almost 100% certainty that the watch is magnetized.
But we can combat the magnetism!
How to Demagnetize a Mechanical Watch
To be quite frank, the demagnetization of a watch is very simple and straight forward. However, you can’t do it unless you have the right equipment. You will need a demagnetizer (See the latest price on Amazon), which is typically a blue squared box with a single button.
When a metal (here I mean your watch) gets magnetized, the poles of the magnetic fields from each component all get redirected to one direction.
This means that the metal will have a north and south pole. This is a problem for moving parts, as rotating parts will meet resistance when trying to push through the opposite pole.
To remove these one way pointing north and south poles from the components, the watch needs to be demagnetized. The demagnetization will make the north and south poles of the components point in all sorts of random directions.
Here is how to do:
If we at first assume that we are 100% sure the watch is magnetized, we only focus on the demagnetization.
The first few things you need to do is the practical part of the demagnetization.
- Get a demagnetizer (can be found on Amazon, here)
- Setup station near an electrical socket
Take the watch in question and make sure the watch face/case back can touch the demagnetizer’s surface.
If you have a bracelet on the watch, it can be worth removing. The same goes if you have a watch with a deployment clasp. Both types of straps can stand in the way of getting the watch to lay still on the demagnetizer’s surface.
Now that the strap is removed from the watch or the strap has been secured away from the watch case, you can lay the watch on top of the demagnetizer.
Once the watch lays on the demagnetizer, press the red button, which will start the demagnetization. When the button is pressed down, the red light will turn on to indicate the demagnetizer is on.
Have the watch touch the demagnetizer’s surface for about 5 seconds, before slowly but steady moving the watch in a straight line up.
This is all there is to demagnetizing a watch, easy, right? If you are still in doubt, I have included a video from the highly reputable secondary market, Chrono24’s YouTube channel.
How Long Does It Take to Demagnetize a Quartz Watch?
The inside of a quartz watch is actually made really smart. The device which is powering the movement is called a stepping motor. If you want to understand a quartz watch’s inner works in full detail, you can read a complete walkthrough right here.
A quartz watch can’t get magnetized from most magnets found in ordinary daily life. However, powerful magnets such as MIR scanners, knife racks, and electric motors are examples of magnets that can be strong enough to cause permanent damage.
In essence, the stepping motor is controlled by a magnetic axle. In short, the magnetic pulses generated reverses the magnetic pole for every pulse sent. The pole’s changing is what pushes the watch to go tick, tick, tick (insert wallclock ticking sound) every second.
In theory, quartz watch’s movements can’t be magnetized due to the stepping motor which powers the watch. However, in practice, some magnets are strong enough to inflict damage to the watch. However, it’s possible to demagnetize a quartz watch.
If you hold your quartz watch near a handbag clasp, small desk speakers, phones, etc., you might experience watching it stops or not keeping time correctly. However, when the watch is removed from the magnets, it should be working just fine shortly after.
How to Demagnetize a Mechanical Watch
Demagnetizing a quartz watch can seem a little scary because of the behavior you will see from the watch when placed on a demagnetizer. However, I will calm you down by explaining what is happening and how to do it correctly:
- Get a demagnetizer (can be found on Amazon, here)
- Setup station near an electrical socket (to power the demagnetizer)
- Remove the strap if it interferes with space between the watch and the demagnetizer
If you have read through the entire post, you know the process from the mechanical watches. However, if you have not, here are the steps:
- Take the magnetized quartz watch and try to fit in on the demagnetizer.
- If the bracelet or strap is blocking clear access to touch the surface of the demagnetizer, you will need to remove the bracelet or strap.
- Now that the strap is removed or the strap has been secured away from the watch case, you can lay the watch on top of the demagnetizer.
- Place the watch in the correct position on the demagnetizer and press the button to activate the demagnetizer.
This is the simple 4 step process. What you need to be aware of is that the hands will start turning in a non-ticking motion.
What makes the hands go around in a steady motion is because the coil which sends the magnetic pulses to the stepping motor will be “overruled” by the stronger magnetic field created by the demagnetizer.
Demagnetizing a quartz watch is not dangerous. Watchmakers use a demagnetizer to jump-start quartz watches if they are having trouble starting after, e.g., a battery change.
I have a full post on how quartz watches work, which you are more than welcome to read HERE.
How Can You Tell If a Watch Is Magnetized?
Identifying whether a watch is magnetized or not is very easy. If your watch is starting to keep poor time, it’s an indication that something is wrong. Although it could be a number of things, magnetism is quick to troubleshoot.
It’s possible to test a watch for magnetism by holding the watch above a compass. The compass will start to swing as the watch is dragged over the compass. Alternatively, downloading a magnetic detection app can give accurate readings of magnetism.
Using either the app or the compass is a perfectly fine indication of whether the watch is magnetized or not. However, you have to remember that watches have metal components and might have picked up slight magnetization.
If the watch is only slightly magnetized, it doesn’t necessarily mean the poor timekeeping comes from the magnetization indicated by the app or compass.
I own a watch that I have tested with several apps and a single compass. The watch only slightly moves the needle in the compass. However, the app will either state a red warning with “magnetism detected,” or if the app has a measurement, it will increase significantly (in a number of units I don’t understand anyway).
However, what I do understand is the accuracy of my watch’s timekeeping. Although both the compass and apps showed clear signs of magnetism, magnetism in small amounts has no impact on the mechanical watch’s timekeeping.
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