Quartz movement is a high-precision method of watch engineering, considered to be the best technology available for making accurate timepieces. It’s synonymous with luxury Swiss watches and the horology workshops of Geneva.
A quartz clock uses an electronic oscillator and is powered by a quartz crystal. Quartz crystal is a mineral that’s in plentiful supply. There are many varieties of Quartz, with some varieties being classified as gemstones and used in jewellery. Quartz is one of the most heavily used materials in jewellery making.
Usually found in Granite and other felsic igneous rocks, Quartz is ideally found in a six-crystal form, with each crystal double-ended with a six-sided pyramid. It can also be found in Sandstone and Shale, and other rocks which can be classified as ‘metamorphic’.
Essentially, Quartz is able to conduct electrical charge due to its crystal structure. Quartz is piezoelectric, meaning that it bends naturally when subjected to an electric charge,. The ‘flex’ produced by this structure means that Quartz is able to amplify sound (you can buy Quartz speakers, although they’re not especially common). Quartz is also relatively resistance to expansion and contraction other materials might experience when the temperature changes – making them ideal for use in the precise machinery of a watch. Clock crystal is designed to work at its best at 25 degrees Celsius, and a well engineered watch is designed to work with the warmth of the human body to keep the crystal inside heated at exactly this temperature.
The clock crystal inside contemporary watches has been laser trimmed to the shape of a tuning fork to vibrate at a precise frequency of 32,768 Hz.
The potential of Quartz as a material was discovered in 1880 by Jack and Pierre Curie. Another scientist named Cady built the first clock crystal system in 1921. Thereafter followed a period of development where the clock crystal became the standard for achieving time-based precision in a scientific laboratory setting. The 1960s and the availability of cheap semiconductor technology made mass quartz-crystal distribution possible.
In the 1970s and 80s, Asian watchmakers began to gain ground on the old European houses as they were keen to embrace quartz technology whilst some European watchmakers stuck to the older and less cutting-edge mechanicals systems. Nowadays quartz watches are still sold through retailers such as watches-of-switzerland.co.uk.
The major advantages of quartz watches are that they are a) more accurate b) require far less in terms of serving and repair over their lifetime. It is now possibly to get solar-powered quartz watches that use sunlight and not battery to power the quartz crystal.
Spruce Pin Gem Mine, Northern California is a contemporary source of high-purity quartz crystal which is sold on to silicon industries. The quartz which comes from this region of the Blue Mountains is considered the highest grade quartz in the world and can sell for up to £30,000 per ton.