The Thing With Quartz And Watches

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An elegant gold wrist watchEver seen your wrist watch struggle to keep time after years of usage? Bringing it in for professional watch repair may yield interesting findings. Technicians from jewelry shops like Hal Davis Jewelers might tell you that it has something to do with the quartz crystal. So what’s a quartz crystal doing in your watch?

Quartz And Timepieces

Quartz crystals are not rare; as a matter of fact, it is one of the most common minerals, almost exclusively used for timekeeping. This is because quartz crystals produce electricity when subjected to mechanical stress. Unlike other crystals, quartz maintains a precise current frequency all the time. This is what helps regulate the movement of a watch or clock, be it digital or mechanical. Accurate timekeeping is the result of this frequency.

All watches and clocks require something that oscillates at a fixed frequency. Before the quartz clock, people used things like springs or pendulums (the latter often paired with a sort of regulator) to keep the frequency constant. Remember the grandfather clock shown in many period movies, with its big pendulum and ding-dong sound? That’s an example of a non-quartz clock. The pendulum’s rate of swinging is artificially maintained for the clock to keep track of time.

Modern Iterations

The stereotypical image of a crystal hidden deep inside your watch is not what things look like. Modern quartz watches use specially shaped quartz components, often formed like tuning forks. Your watch’s electronic components amplify noise to match the crystal’s electrical frequency, causing it to oscillate or start ringing.

Quartz components naturally oscillate greatly at around 32,000 Hz (cycles per second). Each oscillation produces electrical signals that electronic circuits must bring down to a required frequency. This is then translated into pulses sent to power a digital display, or a motor which moves the seconds hand.

Without quartz and its natural properties, there would be no modern, more accurate watches. People would still be using the likes of cumbersome grandfather clocks or purely mechanical ones — the kind hipsters would love to have.

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