Unbeknownst to you, every time you grab a cold beer or do the laundry, you’re putting you precious wristwatch at risk. Many everyday electronics and appliances — your speakers, your refrigerator, your computer, your microwave, etc. — produce magnetic fields. When subjected to these fields, the metal parts inside your watch movement become magnetized, throwing off the accuracy of your timepiece. It’s a big enough problem that several high-end watch manufacturers incorporate a “Faraday cage” of sorts to protect the watch internals from magnetic forces.
When a watch becomes magnetized, what most commonly happens is the watch’s balance spring — the long, flat coil that regulates the movement of the balance wheel — begins to stick to itself. This effectively makes the balance spring shorter, and a shorter balance spring makes the watch run faster than it normally would.
Fortunately, demagnetizing a watch is incredibly quick and easy. You don’t have to open it up; you don’t even need to take it or send it to a repair shop that might charge you something to the tune of $30. You can buy your own watch degausser on eBay for less than $20 and do it yourself at home… but you don’t even need to do that. If you have an old color cathode ray tube (CRT) television or computer monitor laying around, you can demagnetize your watch right at home, by yourself, for free.
Check to make sure your watch is magnetized. The most common sign of a magnetized watch is when it runs several minutes too fast per day. But there might be other reasons your timepiece is off. To make sure magnetism is the culprit, check for its presence in your watch with either the Lepsi iPhone app or a compass. If you go with the latter, set the compass flat on a table, then place your watch right above it. If the presence of your watch moves the needle on the compass, it’s magnetized.
Aquire a color CRT TV or computer monitor. If you did the sensible thing and ditched your old CRT TV or computer a decade ago, fear not. You’ll find plenty of old monitors on Craigslist for $10. (Play your cards right and you can probably talk them down to $5.) Not only will you be paying less than what a repair shop will charge, you’ll have a way to play those old SNES games again. Just make sure to check for a “degauss” feature before you part with your cash.
Find your monitor’s degauss feature. CRT monitors essentially shoot electrons from the tube to the screen to display a picture. But when a strong magnetic field is introduced to the monitor, it deflects the path of the electrons, leading to distorted color on the screen. To combat this, most CRT monitors have a degaussing coil. This introduces a rapidly alternating magnetic current that then decreases in intensity, removing the magnetization. CRT televisions and monitors with this feature will degauss automatically when you start them up; usually, you can find and initiate the degauss feature on the monitor’s settings menu, as well.
Initiate degaussing. Turn on the monitor. Usually, the degaussing on startup is not enough to demagnetize a watch, so it’s ideal to go through the degauss feature on the monitor’s menu screen, which more thoroughly degausses a monitor than the startup procedure. Hold the watch up against the screen. Hit the degauss button. The screen will briefly go blank and you will hear a whomp sound.
Check your watch again. That’s it. Check you watch against the Lepsi app or compass again to see if your timepiece is still magnetized. If it is, try degaussing again. Still not working? We know some people who can fix it.
Additional Illustrations by Silvana Volio