Quartz Clocks: from Mass to Class

Quartz Clocks Offer A Variety Of Functions And A High Level Of Accuracy

Quartz clocks are often regarded as a cheap mass product. The first quartz-powered timepieces emerged in the middle of the 20th century in the search for the highest precision. Today they are convincing with clever technology, a variety of functions and a high degree of accuracy.

Chemically, quartz, often referred to as rock crystal, is pure silicon dioxide (SiCh), which is an equally colorless and transparent mineral. Through the melting process it assumes its glass-like shape. The brethren Jacques and Pierre Curie discovered and investigated the piezoelectric properties of the material from 1880 onwards and thus also for the watch industry. Briefly, a piezoelectric crystal begins to vibrate in the frequency of an applied AC voltage. Mechanically excited to oscillate, the quartz on its part generates alternating voltage. The resonant frequency results on the one hand from the size of the crystal itself or from a part cut from it, on the other hand it depends on the cross-sectional orientation through the crystal.

The electric engineers Joseph W. Horton and Warren A. Marrison took advantage of this knowledge from 1927 onwards. Both worked at the New York Bell Lab, a research center of Western Electric. There, they should raise a quartz-stabilized frequency generator on the basis of the findings. By accident, this instrument mutated in 1928/1929 after the departure of Horton for the first quarter of the world. While the best pendulum clocks each year deviated from the astronomical standard by about three seconds, the electronic newcomer produced only 0.3 seconds per year.

Subsequent developments were mainly concentrated on the reduction of the technology, as Marrison’s quartz watch filled an entire room and responded sensitively to temperature fluctuations. England waited in 1931 with its own quartz watch, Germany in 1932, France in 1936, and Japan in 1937. From the mid-1950s onwards, Switzerland, Japan and the USA were more closely involved in bringing the first quartz watch to the market. In 1967 came a quartz wristwatch from the Swiss Electronique Horologer with the caliber Beta-21. But onlySeiko succeeded, with the Astron the first quartz wristwatch to the serial maturity to bring.That was 1969. At that time, the clock was still as expensive as a car, but within a few years the quartz clock became the cheap bulk commodity. To date, the Japanese are leading in the production of quartz watches.

Without Battery Change, But With Highest Accuracy

But also in Switzerland, quartz movements are manufactured: for example from ETA, Ronda and also Cartier. However, the mass-produced quartz clock soon comes into the criticism, especially its energy supply – the battery – is considered a weak point. So Seiko began to work on new energy sources. In 1986, the Japanese finally presented his new technology »Kinetic«. It combines mechanics and quartz: thanks to a rotor, as automatic watches have, the quartz movement gets fresh energy with every arm movement. This is stored in a re-expandable cell and distributed uniformly to the quartz.

Quartz Clocks From Switzerland

Like Seiko, Citizen also worked for many years on an alternative and above all resource-friendly energy source. In 1995, the company finally introduced its Eco Drive technology.Contrary to the Kinetic works by Seiko, one does not rely on the arm movements, but on light. A light cell made of silicon converts natural and artificial light into electricity. This is stored in a rechargeable cell and discharged evenly to the quartz plant. For example, Eco-Drive watches like the Seiko Kinetic models do not need a battery or even a battery change.Recent innovations focus on the particularly precise stopping of time.

For example, the Swiss factory ETA has developed exclusively for Certina, both of which are part of the Swatch Group, the quartz movement ETA 251.294 KP Flyback Precidrive. Besides the normal stop function, it also offers a flyback and trailing pointer function. ETA combines two technologies in this plant. The Powerdrive technology, which provides fast pointer movement, and Precidrive technology. With thermocompensation it allows the quartz movement to run accurately

While the Certina DS-2 Flyback-Chronograph is rarely seen, Bulova’s Curv Chronograph is agood look. Because the case of the titanium stainless steel stopper is bent, just like the quartz movement working in it. The Caliber Curv is the world’s first curved quartz chronograph movement. It is particularly flat and thanks to its high-performance quartz, it achieves a precision of a few seconds per year.

Another peculiarity that strikes a bridge to mechanical works is the creeping second hand.The precise indication and the exact stopping of the time are however not the only thing a quartz clock can. In recent decades, they have developed into real multifunctional watches.There is hardly any function that could not be realized.