Why Do Watches Stop On Some People?

Wristwatches, for centuries, have been symbols of elegance, precision, and functionality. They have witnessed revolutions in technology, design, and craftsmanship. Yet, an enigmatic phenomenon that often sparks curiosity is when these timepieces unexpectedly stop working for some individuals.

Despite the advancements in watch technology, there are still instances where watches come to an abrupt halt on certain wrists. Various factors, from personal physiology to external influences, can play a role. It’s a conundrum that interlaces science, art, and individual quirks, leading to a multitude of possible explanations.

Such occurrences aren’t merely coincidences or tales spun from urban legends. Scientific reasons, combined with anecdotal instances, lend credibility to the claims. However, each case might have a different underlying cause, rooted in the intricate dance between the wearer and their timepiece.

Basics of Watch Mechanics

Wristwatches, while seemingly simple, hide a labyrinth of intricate mechanics beneath their surface. Over the centuries, timepieces have evolved, bringing a medley of technologies into play. Their primary function remains accurate timekeeping.

Analog vs. Digital: Brief Overview

  • Analog Watches: These timepieces utilize hands to depict hours, minutes, and sometimes seconds. Driven by intricate gears and wheels, they’re often appreciated for their aesthetic charm and mechanical artistry.
  • Digital Watches: Replacing the traditional hands, digital watches display time numerically, typically via LCD or LED. They often provide additional features, such as alarms or stopwatches, making them versatile tools.

Power Sources: Manual, Automatic, and Quartz

  • Manual: These watches derive energy from a wound mainspring. The wearer winds the watch, compressing the mainspring. As this spring unwinds, it releases energy, moving the hands and keeping time. Regular winding is essential.
  • Automatic: Similar to manual watches, automatic ones also use a mainspring. However, they harness the energy from the wearer’s wrist movement. A rotor inside the watch moves with wrist motion, winding the mainspring.
  • Quartz: Quartz watches utilize the vibration of a quartz crystal under an electric current to maintain accuracy. A battery typically powers them, which sends an electric current to the quartz, causing it to oscillate.

Human Interactions with Watches

How we interact with watches goes beyond merely strapping them on our wrists. Our physiology can, surprisingly, affect the operation of these timepieces.

The Role of Body Temperature

Human body temperature, which averages around 98.6°F (37°C), can impact the mechanics of a watch. Especially in manual or automatic watches, where lubricants aid the movement of gears, extreme body temperatures might cause these lubricants to thin out or even congeal. This could lead to inaccuracies or the watch stopping.

Electric Currents in the Human Body

Humans produce tiny electric currents, primarily due to the chemical reactions of our nervous system. In rare cases, individuals might emit higher currents. Watches, especially quartz ones, which operate using electrical impulses, might get disrupted when worn by such individuals.

Magnetism and Watches

Magnetism has long been a nemesis of watch mechanisms. In today’s world, where magnetic fields are ubiquitous, the relationship between magnetism and watches is even more vital.

Natural Body Magnetism

Though it sounds like a superhero trait, some individuals possess higher natural body magnetism than others. Such magnetism can interfere with the balance wheel of a watch, especially analog ones, leading to inaccurate timekeeping or even a complete halt.

Impact of Modern Devices on Wristwatch Function

Modern electronic gadgets emit magnetic fields. While advancements have led to many watches being resistant to such fields, continuous exposure can still be detrimental. Devices like smartphones, laptops, or even MRI machines produce strong enough fields to disrupt a watch’s operation.

Skin Conditions and Material Reactions

The watch’s backplate often rests snugly against our skin. Thus, the interaction between our skin and the watch material becomes crucial.

Common Metals in Watch Construction

Stainless steel, titanium, gold, and silver are typical metals used in watch construction. While they’re chosen for their durability and aesthetic appeal, reactions with certain skin types or conditions can’t be ruled out.

How Skin Conditions Affect These Materials

Individuals with allergies, especially metal allergies, might react to watches. Symptoms could range from mild irritations to severe rashes. Additionally, conditions like hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) can lead to corrosion in certain metals, affecting the watch’s longevity.

Maintenance & Care

A timepiece, whether a family heirloom or a recent acquisition, demands attention and care. This commitment not only ensures its longevity but also its precise timekeeping capabilities.

Importance of Regular Watch Check-Ups

Like any intricate machinery, watches need periodic check-ups. These sessions help in:

  • Identifying wear and tear early.
  • Cleaning internal components.
  • Replacing worn-out parts.
  • Maintaining optimal lubrication levels.

Periodic inspections reduce long-term costs, ensuring that minor issues don’t transform into significant complications.

Watch Handling Tips

A few proactive measures can significantly enhance a watch’s life:

  • Winding Wisely: For manual watches, always wind them at the same time daily. This consistency prevents over-winding.
  • Avoid Magnets: Keep your watch away from magnetic sources, as they can disrupt functionality.
  • Water Resistance Isn’t Permanent: Over time, seals weaken. Even if your watch claims water resistance, periodic checks are essential.
  • Clean Gently: Use a soft cloth to wipe away dirt or sweat. Avoid chemicals that might erode the watch’s material.

External Factors

Our environment, often taken for granted, can considerably influence a watch’s operation.

Environmental Impacts: Temperature and Humidity

Both high temperatures and humid conditions are detrimental to watches. They can:

  • Result in lubricants becoming too viscous or too thin.
  • Cause metal components to expand or contract.
  • Lead to condensation inside the watch.

To prevent such issues, storing watches in a controlled environment becomes essential.

Impact of Physical Shocks

Drops, bumps, or any physical jolt can adversely affect a watch. The delicate internal components can get dislodged, leading to:

  • Disruption in timekeeping.
  • Permanent damage to the mechanism.
  • Cosmetic damage to the watch’s exterior.

Hence, handling with care is not just a suggestion; it’s a necessity.

Mind Over Matter?

It’s intriguing to explore the thin line between reality and perception when discussing watches that stop unexpectedly.

Psychological Aspects: Do Watches Really Stop or Is It Perception?

Sometimes, it’s not the watch; it’s our mind playing tricks. Cognitive biases, especially confirmation bias, might lead us to believe that a watch stops more frequently than it does. We remember the instances when it stopped but forget the myriad times it functioned perfectly.

Role of Coincidence

Coincidences play a significant role in fueling beliefs. If a watch stops multiple times under specific circumstances, we might start believing there’s a pattern, even when none exists. These random occurrences, though perplexing, don’t always indicate an underlying problem.

Possible Solutions

Addressing the “stopping watch” conundrum requires a blend of knowledge and innovation.

Selecting the Right Watch Type

Choice matters. Based on individual traits, like body temperature or electric currents, one might be better suited for a quartz watch over an automatic one, or vice versa. Personal habits, daily environments, and even professions should guide the selection process.

Adjustments and Innovations in Watch Technology

Watch manufacturers are continuously innovating to overcome the challenges posed by external and human factors. Some solutions include:

  • Anti-Magnetic Watches: These watches resist magnetic fields, ensuring consistent performance.
  • Improved Sealing: Enhancing the sealing of watches to prevent moisture ingress.
  • Shock Absorption Mechanisms: Modern watches incorporate mechanisms to handle minor jolts without disruption.


Why do watches stop working?

Watches can stop for numerous reasons, such as battery exhaustion, exposure to magnetism, physical shocks, and even rare physiological factors of the wearer.

Can a human body affect a watch’s function?

Yes, certain conditions, like elevated body temperatures or naturally higher electric currents in some individuals, can interfere with a watch’s operation.

Are modern devices responsible for watch malfunctions?

Modern electronic devices, especially those emitting electromagnetic fields, can influence a watch’s performance. Direct exposure or proximity might lead to temporary or permanent disruptions in a watch’s mechanism.


The fascinating realm of wristwatches goes beyond mere time-telling. It’s a world that intertwines precision mechanics with human idiosyncrasies. The peculiar instances where watches stop on certain individuals serve as a testament to this intricate relationship.

For every individual who’s experienced this phenomenon, understanding its potential causes is both enlightening and essential. While the journey of discovering the exact reason may vary, the intertwining of human physiology with mechanical artistry remains a constant marvel.

In the grand tapestry of timekeeping, these mysterious stops add depth and intrigue. They’re a testament to the ever-evolving relationship between man, machine, and time—a reminder that in the dance of existence, there’s always room for a few unexpected pauses.

Sherry's editorial journey seamlessly merges with her passion for horology at WatchReflect. As a seasoned editor and watch enthusiast, she curates insightful guides that cater to novices and connoisseurs alike. With a penchant for research and a flair for storytelling, Sherry transforms horological complexities into engaging narratives. Her mission is to illuminate the path for those navigating the multifaceted realm of timekeeping.

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