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?
Times at Hand
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
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
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>
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