Chances are the highest level of magnetic interference you’re exposed to is on a plane. Maybe you’re crunched up in seat 39A, waiting to descend into Phoenix airport. There may have been a slight delay at O’Hare, so you’re now looking at your Milgauss a little impatiently, wondering if you’ll have time to grab lunch before your first client meeting. In that moment, hurtling somewhere over Arizona, you’re probably not thinking about the Faraday cage that protects the movement in your Milgauss. You’re probably thinking more about Chipotle. Yet the watch on your wrist represents a collective feat of engineering that changed both physics and horology. Even if you know the story, it’s definitely one worth revisiting. Here’s why antimagnetic movements matter in watch technology. Here’s how antimagnetic movements changed watchmaking forever.
Rolex’s strong reputation for technical advances is showcased through its work with COMEX, as well as the U.S. Armed Forces. Rolex’s dive watches were used for high-intensity saturation diving. The helium escape valve and next-level waterproofing were innovations that emerged from their work with these organizations. One lesser known area of innovation occurred in the development of the Milgauss. Rolex’s experiments with Faraday cases and antimagnetic movements made Rolex watches invaluable to a subset of scientists working at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research. At CERN, scientists were exposed to magnetic fields of up to 1,000 gauss, ormille gauss in French. The problem is, the watches that scientists were wearing had no protection against electromagnetic interference. The balance spring inside the watch movement would become magnetized and oscillate more quickly, leading to incorrect timekeeping. This led to a lot of wonky seconds hands and unintentionally speedy lunch breaks.
The question of whether CERN scientists came to Rolex with a specific brief for the watch is apocryphal, but what is known for sure is that CERN scientists wore Milgauss watches like they were part of a standard-issue CERN uniform. The Faraday case Rolex designed was made of ferromagnetic alloys to protect the watch movement. It also eliminated a date window, creating a case that was impenetrable by magnetic fields. In the 1950s, watches were just as important as other tools in scientific experiments. The Milgauss kept perfectly accurate time, allowing scientists to use it with confidence to time experiments.
If you’re not a particle physicist, do you need an antimagnetic movement? If you’re exposed to strong electromagnetic fields on a daily basis and you want to wear a watch, a Milgauss or other antimagnetic watch is one of the only ways to prevent a magnetized balance spring. It’s definitely an investment worth considering for airline pilots, particle physicists, MRI technicians, automotive mechanics, or electrical engineers. People in other occupations might notneed an antimagnetic movement, but that shouldn’t sway you from considering one. When it comes to mechanical watches, an appreciation for historical technology comes with the territory. Wearing an antimagnetic watch is a way to honor the history of watchmaking. As everyone knows, honoring past engineering triumphs is always in style.
Making watch bands isn’t as difficult as building a particle accelerator, but it does require an intense attention to detail. We’re not physicists, but we’re just as interested in tiny details and materials. We manufacture high-quality, long lasting watch bands for your Rolex. View all our straps for the Milgauss here. Pick up a green band to highlight the unique sapphire crystal color. Or, choose the popular orange strap to highlight the lightning-bolt seconds hand. (It’s so popular we have trouble keeping it in stock!)
Written by Meghan Clark