Watch Question Is No Shock

July 1999

Timepieces:Education & Repair

Watch Question Is No Shock

How to handle this customer claim without static

Dear David Christianson:

The No. 1 unanswerable statement I run into is "I cannot wear a watch. I've killed every one I've ever owned with the magnetism/electricity created in my body."

Is there any research that shows this phenomenon to be true? If so, is there anything that can help? Is any type of quartz watch less problematic? Are some people just unlucky?

Jeff Cody
Times at Hand
Wilmington, NC


David Christianson replies:
This phenomenon has plagued the watch industry for many years. Research done years ago showed the human body doesn't emit magnetism or electricity of any discernible significance. Static electricity can affect a watch movement (mechanical and quartz) if the movement is exposed to such a charge. But if the movement is contained within a case, static electricity is shunted around the movement if the case is metal. A plastic case insulates the movement from static.

Most better watches today are protected from the moderate exposure to magnetism most of us encounter. Only in jobs that bring a worker into contact with strong electrical or magnetic field could the person's watch be affected. These people, such as power line workers or television repairers, often wear no watch for this reason.

In the last half of the 19th century, antimagnetic pocket watch cases were developed before the advent of non-magnetic hairsprings and balance wheels.

So what's wrong when a watch doesn't run when worn? The problem is the watch, not the person. More often than not, the watch is worn in an environment for which it wasn't designed. For instance, a dress style watch is often not protected sufficiently against dust or moisture. Some watches designed to withstand brief contact with water are subjected to prolonged submersion in a hot tub or pool. In addition, many watches encounter problems because their seals and gaskets aren't replaced periodically.

Also, though inexpensive watches often don't perform up to expectation, this is a quality and design problem, not one caused by a person's body.

A third problem found with watches not running while on the wrist – but still operating off the wrist – is the workmanship and ability of the repair person. It's not unusual for a repair person, even today, to site "mysterious body magnetism/electricity" as an excuse for his or her inability to service a timepiece. This excuse has been recorded in horological literature since the 18th century.

(Jeff Cody responds: "I have always been hesitant to tell customers it's unlikely they are to blame for unexplained stoppages, especially when they insist they've caused other electronic equipment to fail. We always stress that we stand behind 'unidentified' watch failures. We also are careful to explain to each customer what he or she can expect from the watch.")<?i>


Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


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