Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Invisible Force

A couple of hours ago a parcel arrived at our workshop. It contained a rebelde watch from the very first batch, assembled on June 24 this year. The watch was performing fine until recently, when unexpectedly it started to gain 4 minutes per day. Obviously, everything else was put aside and I was extremely curious to find out what went wrong with this rebelde.

The watch was placed on the timing machine which detects the ‘heartbeat’ and measures its 3 vital parameters. It is an irreplaceable diagnostic tool, and yes, the watch was gaining a considerable amount of time and the amplitude was very low. To put it simply, it performed like a runner struggling to race while carrying 2 cement bags on his shoulders.

There are a number of causes which could translate to such a poor performance, but all of them point to the balance wheel assembly, which is the heart of the watch. A possible tangled hairspring, a cracked jewel, bent balance staff: all of them are shock-related issues.

I started disassembling the watch looking for an obvious mechanical problem, and to my surprise, I just couldn’t find any. Mechanically, the rebelde looked perfect.

And then something unexpected happened. After removing the hands, the hour and minute hands appeared to be stuck together held by an invisible force. The watch was possessed. MAGNETISM!

Magnetism is a nightmare for watchmakers because it is the only problem you cannot see. The magnetized hands was not the problem in itself, but rather a symptom that the entire watch had become magnetic. Thankfully, there is an easy remedy – it just needed to be passed through the demagnetizer and once again it was performing perfectly.

The entire repair process took 60 minutes, and half of that time was spent looking for my demagnetizer, a tool for which I rarely have a need. What we can learn from this is that like any mechanical device, watches are sensitive to strong magnetic fields. Sources of that field could be large speakers, power supplies, large TVs or MRI machines. No watch, regardless of brand, is immune to a magnetic field.

Of course while this is not a manufacturer’s problem, I was more than happy to restore the rebelde free of charge. My reward is this opportunity to talk about the problem and educate our customers – which is priceless. Rebelde: robust and reliable, like many. Repairable like no other.

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