How Quartz Watches Work

Quartz watches are typically designed to vibrate at a frequency of 32768 Hz. The timing circuit keeps track of the number of oscillations and when the count reaches 32768 the timing circuit increments the display (this is the other essential component) of one second. (32768 is the 15th power of 2, so splitting the vibration into a single signal to increment the display is very simple). The oscillator frequency is much higher than is possible for a conventional balance wheel, and this is the key to the superior performance of quartz watches, all other things being equal. Now it’s certainly true that a very high quality mechanical watch has an excellent chance of outperforming an inferior quartz watch, but the laws of physics describing rate stability in oscillators are squarely on the side of quartz . Improving the accuracy of watches and clocks is largely the story of the search for higher frequencies, from high-frequency mechanical movements of 36,000 vph, to tuning fork movements like the Accutron, to quartz watches . The most accurate watch in the world, the Citizen 0100, has a specially cut quartz crystal with a frequency of 8,388,608 Hz – the 23rd power of 2, in this case.

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