I never leave the house without my watch, but I also carry a cell phone, laptop, digital camera, tablet and wifi hotspot. All these electronics create magnetic fields of varying orders, and when a mechanical watch comes into contact with magnetism, its accuracy decreases. In a severe case, the watch might stop altogether. “OMG, my new watch has stopped working!” Omega realized that an increasing number of watches sent back for repair were simply magnetized, most likely by consumer electronics, and instead of needing an elaborate repair, required only a quick de-magnification. Given the world’s appetite for electronic gadgets, not to mention industrial magnetic fields, Omega sought a solution. The result, the Seamaster Aqua Terra > 15’000, is a new chapter in watchmaking and likely a paradigm change for all of Omega.
Today’s finer watches are mechanical watches. In the 50s and 60s, all watches were mechanical and their presence was commonplace, nothing special. Mechanical watches require power from a wound mainspring, which unwinds over time and must be rewound. Many are labeled “automatic,” meaning they employ a rotating weight to automatically wind the watch with the movement of the wrist.
In the 70s, the Quartz Revolution sparked – even blazed – to life, whereby quartz watches, with their greater accuracy and cheaper production costs, almost killed the mechanical watch industry. Quartz watches use a batter for their power source and have a distinctive jump of the seconds hand.
Starting in the 90s, mechanical watches made a comeback, and their renaissance continues today. People began to appreciate the craftsmanship and tradition of these watches. Though lacking the accuracy of a quartz watch, a mechanical watch has a beating heart, a soul if you will, and a “Swiss Made” watch stands in a long line of innovation. The Co-Axial escapement, invented by George Daniels, is a novel concept to reduce friction in the watch, and Omega is the only company to employ this technology. Over the last three decades, a larger and larger audience has come to appreciate the luxury of a mechanical watch.
Parallel to the resurgence of mechanical watches, the technology boom brought technology into our homes, then into our hands. The wireless revolution has spawned a number of must-have portable gadgets that accompany our every move. Any cell phone will tell the time, and when asked for the time, many people will reach into their pocket for it – the same way they reached for their pocket watches over a hundred years ago. In fact, the reason the wristwatch was invented was to avoid the cumbersome hunt for the time, and make time immediate and accessible – just a nod to the wrist.
For those who wear a watch and carry a cell phone, there is a redundancy of time keeping, but the watch makes time instantaneous. Beyond its function, the mechanical watch is a work of art, which often makes a personal statement of its owner. People are proud to own an Omega watch, and many will mark a special occasion with one. Unfortunately, all these electronic devices pose a hazard for a mechanical watch. Their magnetic fields can compromise the watch’s performance.
The problem is not new, and neither has the watch industry lacked a solution. Pilots first had to confront magnetism from the instrument array in their cockpits. Pilot watches were the first to employ an iron cage, which surrounded the movement and protected it. Problem solved. Except you could no longer view the intricacies of the movement from a see-through case back, or admire the movement’s decoration – a particular treat for the owner of an Omega Aqua Terra watch. Also, there was no possibility of a date window. Finally, protection from magnetic fields was limited to about 1’000 gauss. What alternative might exist?
The Quartz crisis forced consolidation within the watch industry, and the largest of the watch conglomerates is the Swatch Group, owner of Omega. The Swatch group benefits from vertical integration by owning companies that supply parts throughout the stages of a watch’s production. Across this broad array of companies, some might say empire, is also a wealth of intellectual expertise. Omega is the beneficiary of this vast domain.
Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra > 15’000 gauss – Electronics Compatible
To rethink a solution to magnetism, Omega collected engineers, scientists and metallurgists from across the Swatch Group. Employing the expertise of ETA, Asulab, Nivarox, and FAR, Omega collaborated with this team to create an anti-magnetic movement, the Co-Axial caliber 8508. Instead of using a cage, they developed a movement made of non-ferrous materials.
The possibility of such a movement has its roots in Omega’s 2008 development of its Si14 silicon balance spring. Impervious to environmental influence, magnetic fields included, this silicon balance spring catalyzed further investigation. Behold Nivagauss. Nivagauss is Omega’s non-magnetic alchemical creation, which they use for the staff and pivot points of the balance wheel, pallet and Co-Axial balance wheel. In addition, Omega strategically used non-magnetic metals to replace stainless steel in the escapement. The result is a watch that maintains COSC chronometer time keeping standards when exposed to magnetism greater than 15’000.
Omega chose to place Co-Axial caliber 8508 in a 41.5mm special issue of its Seamaster Aqua Terra watch. The Aqua Terra line is so named for its dexterity in navigating land and sea, and the dials have vertical lines reminiscent of a ship’s deck. The > 15,000 model enjoys an industrial color scheme of black and yellow against a slightly yellowed lacquered black dial. The new movement allows a date complication on the dial and a sapphire see-through caseback to view the movement’s decoration without compromising its anti-magnetic properties. Its four year warranty also speaks to the company’s confidence in their creation.
There is more for Omega than this one watch. Omega calls the caliber 8508, “the world’s first truly anti-magnetic movement,” but this only the beginning. Omega plans to use the anti-magnetic technology in all of its Co-Axial watch collections by 2017. The rapid growth of technology in our everyday lives has simultaneously meant the growth of magnetic fields. They are everywhere. The magnetism challenge for traditional mechanical watches is only going to increase, but Omega is ready. The Seamaster Aqua Terra > 10’000 is up to the challenge now, and Omega is positioned to coexist with an ever increasing electronic world in the future as well.
More resources about the Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra available on the Official Omega Website.