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Philipp Zeiske

How do Quartz clocks and watches work? Why are they considered to be less reliant on physical mechanisms?

When you’re talking about watch movements, there are two main types – Quartz and mechanical. We asked watch lovers to explain how Quartz-operated clocks and wristwatches work and why they’re not susceptible to gravity and temperature like mechanical watches.

Niamh Jordan

Niamh Jordan

Niamh Jordan, Founder of Which Watch Next, a blog dedicated to all things to do with watches and the watch industry.

It’s Simpler with Quartz

Quartz watches and clocks have simpler mechanisms because they contain no moving parts. A battery and a quartz crystal power a quartz watch or quartz clock. The battery conducts an electrical current through the quartz crystal, causing it to vibrate. These vibrations are what cause the quartz watch/clock to keep time by moving the hands on the dial.

You can tell a watch is a quartz-powered by the way the hands move around the dial. If the hands move with a ticking motion, then the watch or clock is powered by a quartz movement.

Harriet Chan

Harriet Chan

Harriet, Co-founder of CocoFinder.

Gravity and Temperature Not Factors with Quartz

Quartz clocks and watches work by having a battery contributing electric current to a microchip circuit that oscillates quartz crystals in turn producing electric pulses, and converts them to mechanical power that turns gears to keep time.

Force of gravity and temperature do not affect their accuracy, making them less reliant to physical mechanisms.

Philipp Zeiske

Philipp Zeiske

Philipp Zeiske, CEO of Zeitholz Watches.

Battery-Operated Instead of Winding

As the name suggests, quartz watches are powered by a piezoelectric quartz crystal. Passing electricity through a quartz crystal causes it to vibrate which results in oscillations. Quartz
clocks and watches use a battery that powers these electrical charges which are then passed through the quartz.

While mechanical and quartz watches both run on a similar mechanism that includes gears to turn the hands, quartz watches are more reliable when it comes to keeping time. This is mainly because mechanical watches require frequent winding which both creates friction and consumes energy. Simply put, there is always a chance of some energy loss and even the smallest mistake can result in inaccuracy.

With quartz watches, you won’t have to worry about any of these issues. The quartz crystal itself is the oscillator and minimizes any energy loss, making it far more reliable.

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