About Quartz Watches
Accuracy, reliability, almost time keeping perfection.
Quartz watches operate by counting the oscillations of a tiny quartz crystal vibrating thousands or even millions of times per second. The quartz crystal vibrates due to the piezoelectric principle, which causes the quartz to vibrate when an electric current is passed through it. As the quartz vibrates, it causes a fluctation in the electric current that can be measured by a tiny computer which counts the oscillations.
Most quartz crystals vibrate at 32,768 Hz although a few watches used crystals vibrating at 768,000 Hz or even 2.7 MHz - almost three million vibrations per second!
Although the principle of quartz based time keeping was known as early as the 1930s, it had to wait until the advent of microprocessor technology in the 1960s before it was practical for use. Numerous companies competed to build quartz watches throughout the 1960s. In Europe, a group of 20 watch making companies banded together to form a research consortium called CEH or "Centre Electronique Horlogerie". In Japan, the Seiko corporation diligently worked on the problem.
The race to bring the first quartz watch to market was won by Seiko, which released the Astron SQ in 1968. The Astron has a solid gold case and only 100 were manufactured. It is rumored that many of these encountered technical difficulties, so the Astron was a mixed success and more of a prototype than an actual consumer product.
The next quartz movement to make it to market was the CEH's Beta21 in 1972. The Beta21 was very expensive to manufacture but found its way into a number of very high end watches from Omega, Audemars Piguet, Bucherer, Bulova and Patek Philippe. Since tiny stepper motors weren't yet ready for prime time, the Beta21 used a micromotor vibrating at 256 Hz similar to the mechanism found in an Accutron. All later quartz movements switched to a stepper motor design similar to that found in most modern watches.
The technology of the quartz watch has turned out to be remarkably accurate, reliable, efficient and inexpensive. Using a small watch battery, a quartz watch can run for many years without requiring maintenance or attention of any kind. Some say that quartz watches are "soulless", but if you rely upon your wristwatch, then you might consider quartz to be a thing of beauty.
Quartz watches can be accurate to between 10 and 30 seconds per year (about one second per month). More commonly, they are accurate to a few seconds per month.
Quartz watches are made by almost all modern watch manufacturers across the spectrum.
Claims to Fame
About 95% of all watches made today have quartz watches.
It has been so successful that 40 years later, it remains virtually unchanged from its debut in the 1970s. Quartz represents the culmination and the end of the road of almost 400 years of clock and watchmaking technology.