Quartz MovementsThe arrival of the electrically powered watch and in particular the quartz based movement in the twentieth century ushered in an era of accurate timekeeping for the masses. It also precipitated a huge crisis in the watch and clock making industry and arguably marked the end of the golden age of horology.
What Is A Quartz Based Timepiece?All timepieces work on the same basis: they obtain some regular (isochronous) signal and convert it into a display. In a traditional mechanical timepiece this signal is provided by an energy mechanism (eg a spring, pendulum, or weight) and an escapement to translate this into a regular "beat".
Quartz based electrical timepieces work differently - the regular time signal is no longer produced mechanically.
How Does Quartz Work?A quartz crystal consists of crystallised sillica - silicon dioxide (SiO2). It is an abundant mineral.
The important thing about quartz from a horological viewpoint is that is piezoelectric. This means that when put under pressure - or subject to an electrical charge - it vibrates and these oscillations produce tiny electrical signals. The rate of oscillation can be determined very accurately according to the shape of the crystal. Quartz is also relatively unaffected by changes in temperature.
By measuring these oscillations - usually thousands per second - and dividing them down, a cheap and accurate timekeeping mechanism can be produced.