Quartz clock

Quartz clock

A quartz clock is a clock that uses an electronic oscillator that is regulated by a quartz crystal to keep time. This crystal oscillator creates a signal with very precise frequency, so that quartz clocks are at least an order of magnitude more accurate than good mechanical clocks. Generally, some form of digital logic counts the cycles of this signal and provides a numeric time display, usually in units of hours, minutes, and seconds. Since the 1970s, they have become the most widely used timekeeping technology.



Chemically, quartz is a compound called silicon dioxide. When a crystal of quartz is properly cut and mounted, it can be made to bend in an electric field. When the field is removed, the quartz will generate an electric field as it returns to its previous shape. This property is known as piezoelectricity. Such crystals were once used in low-end phonograph cartridges: the movement of the stylus (needle) would flex a quartz crystal, which would produce a small voltage, which was amplified and played through speakers.

Many materials can be formed into plates that will resonate. However, since quartz can be directly driven by an electric signal, no additional speaker or microphone is required.

Quartz has the further advantage that its size does not change much as temperature fluctuates. Fused quartz is often used for laboratory equipment that must not change shape along with the temperature, because a quartz plate's resonance frequency, based on its size, will not significantly rise or fall. Similarly, a quartz clock will remain relatively accurate as the temperature changes.


In modern quartz clocks the quartz crystal resonator is in the shape of a small tuning fork, laser-trimmed or precision lapped to vibrate at 32,768 Hz. This frequency is equal to 215 Hz. A power of 2 is chosen so a simple chain of digital divide-by-2 stages can derive the 1 Hz signal needed to drive the watch's second hand. In most clocks, the resonator is in a small can or flat package, about 4 mm long. The reason the 32,768 Hz resonator has become so common is due to a compromise between the large physical size of low frequency crystals for watches and the large current drain of high frequency crystals, which reduces the life of the watch battery. During the 1970s, the introduction of Metal Oxide Semiconductor (MOS) integrated circuits allowed a 12-month battery life from a single coin cell when driving either a mechanical stepper motor, indexing the second hand (Quartz Analog), or a liquid crystal display (LCD Digital). Light-emitting diode (LED) displays for watches have become rare due to their very high battery consumption.

The basic formula for calculating the frequency of a quartz tuning fork as a function of its dimensions (quadratic cross-section) are as follows:cite journal |author=Itoh H, Aoshima Y, Sakaguchi Y |title= [http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpls/abs_all.jsp?arnumber=1075871 Model for a quartz-crystal tuning fork using plate spring approximated to torsion spring adopted at the joint of the arm and the base] |journal=Frequency Control Symposium and PDA Exhibition, 2002. IEEE International |pages=145–151 |year=2002 |doi=10.1109/FREQ.2002.1075871] :l = length = 3 mm (or 4 mm):a = thickness = 0.3 mm:E = Young's modulus of quartz = 1x1011 N·m−2 = 100 GPa: ho = density of quartz = 2500 kg·m-3 (actually, 2650 kg·m-3):f_o = fundamental frequency = 3.52:f = frequency (Hz)If we use the above numbers in the formula for a vibrating cantilever::f = frac{f_o}{2pi} frac{a}{l^2} sqrt frac{E}{12 ho}The above returns "f" ~ 34 kHz, which is approximately 215, or 32,768 Hz.


The relative stability of the resonator and its driving circuit is much better than its absolute accuracy. Standard-quality resonators of this type are warranted to have a long-term accuracy of about 6 parts per million at 31 °C: that is, a typical quartz wristwatch will gain or lose less than a half second per day at body temperature.

If a quartz wristwatch is "rated" by measuring it against an atomic clock's time broadcast, and the wristwatch is worn on one's body to keep its temperature constant, then the corrected time will easily be accurate within 10 seconds per yearFact|date=March 2008. This is more than adequate to perform celestial navigation.

Some premium clock designs self-rate. That is, rather than just counting vibrations, their computer program takes the simple count, and scales it using a ratio calculated between an epoch set at the factory, and the most recent time the clock was set. These clocks usually have special instructions for changing the battery (the counter must not be permitted to stop), and become more accurate as they grow older. It is possible for a computerized clock to measure its temperature, and adjust for that as well. Both analog and digital temperature compensation have been used in high-end quartz watches.


Quartz chronometers designed as time standards often include a crystal oven, to keep the crystal at a constant temperature. Some self-rate and include "crystal farms," so that the clock can take the average of a set of time measurements.


The piezoelectric properties of quartz were discovered by Jacques and Pierre Curie in 1880. The first quartz crystal oscillator was built by Walter G. Cady in 1921. In 1923, D. W. Dye at the National Physical Laboratory in the UK and Warren Marrison at Bell Telephone Laboratories produced sequences of precision time signals with quartz oscillators. In 1927 the first quartz clock was built by Warren Marrison and J.W. Horton at Bell Telephone Laboratories. [cite journal|last=Marrison|first=W.A.|coauthors=J.W. Horton|title=Precision determination of frequency|journal=I.R.E. Proc.|volume=16|pages=137–154|date=February, 1928] [cite journal|last=Marrison|first=Warren|title=The Evolution of the Quartz Crystal Clock|date=1948|journal=Bell System Technical Journal|publisher=AT&T|volume=27|pages=510–588|url=http://www.ieee-uffc.org/freqcontrol/marrison/Marrison.html] The next 3 decades saw the development of quartz clocks as precision time standards in laboratory settings; the bulky delicate counting electronics, built with vacuum tubes, limited their use elsewhere. In 1932 a quartz clock was able to measure tiny weekly variations in the rotation rate of the Earth. [ [http://www.ieee-uffc.org/freqcontrol/marrison/Marrison.html Marrison, 1948] )] The National Bureau of Standards (now NIST) based the time standard of the US on quartz clocks between the 1930s and the 1960s, when it went to atomic clocks. [cite web|last=Sullivan|first=D.B.|date=2001|title=Time and frequency measurement at NIST: The first 100 years|publisher=Time and Frequency Division, [http://tf.nist.gov/ National Institute of Standards and Technology] |url=http://tf.nist.gov/timefreq/general/pdf/1485.pdf, p.5] The wider use of quartz clock technology had to await the development of cheap semiconductor digital logic in the 60s.

The world's first analog quartz wristwatches were developed in 1967: the Beta 21 revealed by the Centre Electronique Horloger (CEH) in Neuchâtel Switzerland, [cite web | publisher = Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry | title = From the roots until today's achievements... | url=http://www.fhs.ch/en/history.php | accessdate = 2007-12-06 ] and the prototype of the Astron revealed by Seiko in Japan.

In 1969, Seiko produced the world's first quartz wristwatch, the Astron.cite web | publisher = IEEE History Center | title = Electronic Quartz Wristwatch, 1969 | url=http://www.ieee.org/web/aboutus/history_center/seiko.html | accessdate = 2007-08-31 ] The inherent accuracy and low cost of production has resulted in the proliferation of quartz clocks and watches since that time. By the 1980s quartz technology had taken over applications such as kitchen timers, alarm clocks, bank vault time locks, and time fuzes on munitions, from earlier mechanical balance wheel movements.

Quartz timepiece production has emerged from Asia, notably Hong Kong and Japan. Many traditional European clockmakers, particularly in Switzerland, Germany, France and Russia have continued to produce the less-accurate but still-popular geared timepieces. Fact|date=August 2007

Quartz wristwatches are in high demand today as they are more accurate than their mechanical brothers; they need neither winding nor much maintenance. Light-powered and motion-powered quartz watches represent two innovative types of timepieces. Light-powered quartz watches incorporate a solar cell that transforms the light into electricity. As for the motion-powered wristwatches, they have a tiny rotor spinning in response to motion and generating electricity. [ [http://watches.infoniac.com/index.php?page=post&id=48 Quartz wristwatches] ]


ee also

* Automatic quartz
* Electric watch


* cite journal | author=Cook, A. | title=Time and the Royal Society | journal=Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London | volume=55(1) | pages=9–27 | year=2001
* cite journal | journal=Bell System Technical Journal | volume=27 | pages=510–588 | year=1948 | title=The Evolution of the quartz crystal clock | author=Marrison, W. A | url=http://www.ieee-uffc.org/freqcontrol/marrison/Marrison.html

External links

* [http://people.timezone.com/msandler/Articles/CarlosFinalParadigm/FinalParadigm.html TimeZone.com article on the development of quartz watches]
* [http://www.86watches.com/article.php?id=63 The American Time Guide to Quartz Watches]

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  • quartz clock — clock which uses a quartz crystal in order to keep proper time …   English contemporary dictionary

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  • quartz watch — quartz clock or quartz watch noun One in which a quartz crystal, energized by a microcircuit, does the work of the pendulum or hairspring of the traditional clock or watch • • • Main Entry: ↑quartz …   Useful english dictionary

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