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A Collector’s Guide to Quartz Watches: What You Need to Know

A watch’s primary function is to tell the time and you could argue that quartz watches are the gold standard in this regard. While there are many types of watches out there,  quartz watches are favored by many because they are widely accessible, reliable, and in many cases, affordable. In this article, we’ll be shedding light on quartz watches, how they work and what makes them special. Read on to learn more!

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More about quartz watches

What is a quartz watch? A quartz watch is an electronic timepiece that’s driven by an oscillating quartz crystal that works in conjunction with a battery. Quartz technology has come down in price greatly since it was introduced in the 1960’s and today, the vast majority of timepieces in the world today are quartz watches. When quartz watches became popular in the 1970s to early 1980s, it resulted in the “quartz crisis,” which almost caused the entire watch industry to collapse as many watch companies that had been making mechanical watches struggled to compete with the wave of new companies making affordable quartz watches.

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The Accutron by Bulova

Before there were quartz watches, tuning fork watches were the trend. The first of this kind was Bulova’s Accutron, developed in the 1950s by an engineer named Max Hetzel. This type of timepiece works through the use of two tuning forks powered by two electromagnets.

The tuning forks are coupled with a pawl that drives a ratchet wheel. This wheel is equipped with up to 300 teeth and rotates once around its axis within 5/6 of a second. The movement is then driven by two drive coils, both of which are activated by a transistor. The permanent magnets trigger the transistor on the fork prongs.

The process helps achieve high accuracy and precise operation. If the fork oscillates too much, then less energy is given to the tuning fork. Conversely, the power supply is increased if the vibration level is too weak.

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The concept of piezoelectricity

Piezoelectricity, discovered by brothers Jacques and Pierre Curie in March of 1880, is an important part of  quartz watches. The piezoelectric effect refers to the deformation of certain crystals and minerals, including quartz, to generate electrical energy. To make a long story short, piezoelectricity is the phenomenon responsible for quartz watches as the predictable way that quartz crystals oscillate make it a useful component in building the internal components of watches.

Later on, the general structure of the piezoelectric circuit was streamlined and simplified by George W. Pierce and R. L. Miller in 1922. Their model is still used today for the basis of quartz movements.

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How quartz movements work

Unlike other watches which use a spring, quartz watches have a battery that supplies the quartz crystal with power instead of a balance wheel. This has the form of a tuning fork that oscillates at a frequency of 32,768 Hz on average. It’s like a master clock that’s comparable to the balance wheel found in mechanical watches for the coil and translates this frequency into movements that are passed to the hands by the gear train. This creates a high frequency which causes the watch to run very accurately.

Quartz watches also have the advantage of holding this frequency to make up for any deviations. In other words, the crystal continues to oscillate predictably and consistently under almost any condition including extreme hot and cold.

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Feldmar Watch carries over 60 luxury watch brands. Looking to add a quartz watch to your collection? Contact us or stop into our flagship location today.

About The Author: Tom Roth

author

Born in Washington state, Tom developed an interest in photography during college at University of San Diego. There, he got started in music journalism, interviewing artists and taking photos at concerts. A life-long tinkerer and collector, it wasn’t long before Tom became fascinated with fountain pens and watches.

Those interests collided in November 2020 when Tom started at Feldmar Watch Company where he lives out every watch geek’s dream: photographing and writing about timepieces. When he’s not tinkering with his watch collection, Tom can be found traveling, biting his nails while watching PNW sports teams, and taking flying lessons.

Read more from Tom Roth

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