How does a Quartz Watch work?

Watches add a beautiful finishing touch to an outfit, adding a touch of elegance to clothing. Yet they can also act as striking stand-alone pieces, that garner attention due to their exquisite design and exquisite craftsmanship. The diverse aesthetic timepieces available on the market means that choice is abundant for consumers, which, although fantastic for dedicated watch enthusiasts, can make choosing a watch confusing for those who aren’t as knowledgeable about these pieces.

Most of us will judge a watch based on its appearance, but equally as captivating as the exterior of watches is their inner workings. The mechanical watch is lauded as a thing of excellence with regard to the technical engineering and craft required to make it. But no watch is considered to be more precise with regards to movement than the quartz watch.

The quartz watch first appeared in 1969 when it was created by Japanese manufacturer, Seiko.  It was a revolutionary piece at the time, due to its use of quartz crystal and a battery which created electrically powered vibrations. The quartz model was originally an expensive accessory but through the years it has become more affordable. It’s highly popular amongst consumers due to its unique movement which offers accurate timekeeping and requires little maintenance on the part of the owner. Although the quartz watch may not be considered as highly crafted as a mechanical watch, it has always been an appealing model in the eyes of customers.

The intricate functions of the quartz watch plus its use of a crystal make it an intriguing accessory piece, yet one that many people don’t fully understand the workings of. However, the reliability and effectiveness of this watch have ensured its status as a high-quality timepiece has remained unchanged since its arrival fifty years ago.

What does a quartz watch mean?

When the quartz watch first burst onto the scene at the end of the 1960s, there was divided opinion from both the public and the watch industry itself. Some saw it for the fantastic invention it was, a new piece of engineering that offered a lower-maintenance yet effective timekeeping product. Others saw it as a big step away from the traditional watches that were favored by prominent Swiss watchmakers.

A quartz watch is different from traditional watches as it contains a small but important piece of crystal. Unlike mechanical watches which are essentially ‘self-winding’ using a tightly wound spring or digital watches that contain a battery to power them, quartz watches contain both a small piece of quartz crystal as well as a battery. Although the sound of quartz gives the watch a mystical feel, quartz crystal is a common mineral that is easy to find, and relatively cheap to use. However, despite its commonness, when pressure is applied to the crystal, something quite impressive happens; it produces a small amount of electricity, which can be used to create a movement. For this reason, it is a superb material to use in watches.

Although quartz watches are usually slimmer than mechanical watches due to consisting of less moving pieces, watchmakers still create different designs of quartz men's watches. Unlike the mechanical watch, with all its big moving parts, which naturally makes it larger, there are no limitations to design when using the quartz movement type. This means that consumers can purchase larger or slimmer styles depending on what they want.

How much does a quartz watch usually cost?

The first quartz watch released in 1969 cost around $1,250, which was similar to the cost of a car at the time. The watch was considered to be a luxurious product when it first appeared, and this was reflected in the beautiful gold-plated design. Nowadays some quartz watches still have high price tags, with a few costings upwards of $50,000. However, the price depends on the brand, design, and exclusivity of the timepiece in question.

Assuming you are not looking to spend a small fortune on a watch, then fortunately you can still purchase a quartz watch at an affordable price. There is a variety of quartz models, and it’s generally considerably easier to find cheaper quartz watches than mechanical ones. This is because quartz watches are controlled by a battery and a quartz crystal, which means there is less human involvement needed in their creation and subsequent maintenance. For this reason, you can purchase quartz watches for as little as $15.

However, since a watch is an investment, it’s important to make sure that you buy a quality timepiece. Although quartz watches are high-functioning and can last for several years due to their efficient mechanism, often a cheaper price reflects lower-quality craftmanship. This means a higher probability of future malfunctions. It’s better to buy a high-quality piece and spend a little extra. Worry not though; since there is room to play with regarding the prices of quartz watch products that are available, it’s possible to find something that is both affordable and of good quality.

What is a Japanese quartz movement?

All watches employ different movements to help us tell the time and make sure that we don’t miss important appointments. Movements or calibers as they are also known, are the mechanisms within watches that control the movements of the clock’s hands and ensure it works well. Without these movements, our watches would not function as seamlessly as they do and be an integral part of daily life. There are many different types of watch movements that all work in different ways. The two most well-known are the quartz and the mechanical. The mechanical is an older movement, which requires high-level technique and knowledge when creating it. In this movement, a wound-up spring creates energy that allows the second hand to move in a classic sweeping motion.

The Japanese quartz movement is different from the traditional mechanical movement. Although quartz crystal is not Japanese, it was first used by the Japanese brand Seiko, so the movement takes its name from this. It’s a simple procedure that involves three basic components; a quartz crystal, an electronic circuit board, and a battery. The Japanese quartz movement is generally considered to be the most precise and is more easily manufactured as it requires fewer parts in order to function.

What is the quartz movement in a watch?

The quartz movement is undoubtedly simpler and is less technically confusing to create. This is a point of contention for many watch aficionados, with some arguing that the quartz watch lacks the intricate engineering employed in mechanical watch movements. However, the undeniable precision of the quartz movement is a firm favorite amongst many watch wearers.

In a basic quartz movement, the watch’s battery transmits an electrical current to the synthetic quartz, causing it to vibrate and move the second hand on the watch. This vibration allows for precision in the movement of the second hand, which travels at a rate of around 32,500 oscillations per second. Quartz movements are noticeable and if you look at the second hand on a quartz watch, you’ll notice that instead of moving in a sweeping fashion, it moves on each second, offering high accuracy. This is due to the vibrations that are being created by the reaction between the battery and the crystal component.

There is a belief that all quartz movements are the same and their essential components function and transmit energy in a similar fashion. However, watchmakers will define the quartz movement of their watches differently, depending on where they are made and if there are any slight variations. For example, Swiss quartz watches are created in different countries that employ different standards and procedures when creating their watches; a Swiss movement may use crystals that reduce friction, varying slightly from Japanese quartz movements. This could result in the smallest of differences between watch calibers, even if both employ the quartz movement.

Is it possible to replace a quartz movement?

Quartz watches are lauded as the most reliable timekeepers due to their precision in telling time. However, like any other watch, they can break and need to be repaired.

Due to the technical knowledge and human skill needed for mechanical watches, many people believe that these are harder to replace than quartz movements. As quartz movements are created quickly, often by factory machines, and at a low cost, there is an idea that they are easier to repair as they are not created by human skill. However, this is entirely untrue. Quartz movements are far simpler to replace than mechanical movements.

There are many reasons why a quartz watch can stop working, but the most common cause is a drained battery, which is easy enough to replace. However, this doesn’t exclude other issues, and many causes can make a quartz movement malfunction.

Oxidization of the battery is a common occurrence. This issue doesn’t require replacement of the battery but rather it just means that the battery needs a good clean, as do the metal components surrounding it to ensure it can return to working properly. Dirt and dust can gather around the movement, and make its accuracy go off. If this happens, your watch will need to be taken apart and given a good clean. Another problem that can occur is the electronic circuit board could stop working and need to be replaced.

Due to the intricacies of the components within a quartz movement, it is important to take your watch to an experienced watchmaker to have it repaired. If further damage occurs during the reparation process, it’s unlikely that your timepiece will return to normal functionality.

Remember also that quartz watches can often be worth less than the amount of money it costs to repair them. When buying a watch, it’s better to invest in something that is of high-quality, as it is less likely to malfunction, and you’ll be more inclined to replace the quartz movement in a first-class watch, then that of a cheaper alternative.

How long do quartz watches last for?

When looking for longevity in a watch, it’s important to do a little bit of research. Mechanical watches, whilst they need owners to wind them up every so often and occasionally need small repairs, are long-lasting and can stand the test of time. Quartz watches don’t require daily upkeep, so can be used without the need to wind them up every 10 days or so. Also, depending on the design, they can stay in a good condition for decades. Some people still possess quartz watches from the 1970s and 1980s.

However, since the batteries don’t last forever, they will need to be changed every few years. This could add up to be costly. The costs of battery replacement could eventually be worth more than the watch itself, depending on how long you keep the timepiece for and continue to replace parts of it.

Another issue with owning a quartz watch is that some batteries can get discontinued, which can become an issue if you own a watch and cannot find a suitable replacement battery. This is more likely to happen to owners of second-hand quartz watches that were made several decades ago. However, it is important to keep this in mind if you are buying a quartz watch now. Perhaps the integral battery component will no longer be in production in decades to come.

New advancements are constantly being made in the world of watches, and many quartz pieces are now powered by solar batteries which can extend the life of your timepiece. Although this doesn’t guarantee eternal functionality, it lengthens the battery life and means that you don’t need to replace the battery as often.

Despite this, buying a quartz watch is a good investment. They are highly functional timekeepers that provide accuracy and guaranteed satisfaction. They work well, require little maintenance, and can be bought in a variety of designs and models, with varying prices. If you invest in a high-quality quartz watch, you may need to replace movement parts every few years, but if you find an impeccably designed statement piece, then it will be completely worth it.

August 17, 2020 by Christopher Day

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