Quartz Movement Explained

Quartz clocks (and watches) use quartz crystals to keep track of time. Quartz movement became popular in the 70’s and was known as the latest technology in horology. Quartz movement is incredibly accurate and is one of the reasons why they are so popular. This article will explain the definition of quartz movement and how it works.


The Simple Explanation of Quartz Movement

Quartz crystals are cut into the shape of a tuning fork. When current from the battery hits the quartz, it vibrates at a constant rate. Since quartz is a piezoelectric material, the quartz oscillator plate generates its own electric impulse that triggers movement in the clock hands.

Quartz clocks are powered by a tiny battery that electronically powers movement whereas a mechanical clock uses a balance wheel and hairspring.

The Takeaway: The battery sends electricity to the quartz with naturally creates its own energy at a constant rate that causes the clock to tick.  That is quartz movement explained.

What is Quartz?

Quartz, or silicon dioxide, is a combination of the elements silicon and dioxide. Quartz is all around you; it’s the main ingredient found in beach sand! Quartz crystals are not affected by most solvents and remain crystalline at extremely high temperatures.

Fun Fact: A $10 Casio watch is more accurate than a $10,000 Rolex watch. Find out why.

Quartz Movement Definition

A quartz clock movement describes a clock that uses an electronic oscillator that is regulated by a quartz crystal. The crystal oscillator creates a frequency that is very consistent. The first quartz clock was built in 1927 by Warren Marrison and J.W. Horton at Bell Telephone Laboratories.

Quartz watches are so accurate because they create a charge (voltage) when compressed or bent, a phenomenon called the Piezoelectric Effect. When energy passes through quartz, a dismal amount of energy is lost in the quartz and allows the quartz to continue resonating at a constant rate.

This is the main reason why quartz clocks are so accurate. Quartz has a unique ability to maintain a constant frequency. This frequency creates an electronic pulse (through the Piezoelectric Effect) that causes your clock to tick.

Qualities that Create Quartz Accuracy:

  • When bent or compressed, quartz crystals create an electrical impulse.
  • Conversely, when an electrical impulse hits a quartz crystal plate, the quartz will generate a tiny electrical impulse (the piezoelectric effect) that continues at a precise frequency.

Quartz Movement – How Does it Work?

  1. A tiny battery powers the clocks mechanics and activates the quartz crystal oscillator circuit that sends electric impulses to a motor.
  2. The motor moves the hands on the clock around the dial.

Basic quartz wristwatch movement.

Watch this YouTube video by Deconstructed from the Science Channel.

As you see, the battery causes the quarts to resonate. Piezoelectric quartz causes the plate to generate its own electrical signal. The oscillator is designed to vibrate at exactly 32,768, or every 215 cycles per second. This produces a steady tick that remains consistent for years.

What Determines Accuracy of a Quartz Clock

The precision of a quartz clock is determined by the size, shape, and cut of the quartz plate. The quartz sheet must be coordinated with the crystalline axis. When this is done correctly, quartz movement clocks will continue ticking at the exact right movement.

How Accurate are Quartz Clocks

Quartz mantel clocks only lose 1 second every 30 years. This is significantly more accurate than mechanical mantel clocks.  Quartz clocks remain in tune for decades at a time.

Quartz Mantel Clocks

Quartz mantel clocks are a mainstay in traditional homes. Their accuracy allows you to place them and leave them alone for years at a time. Portable Fireplace.com carries a collection of Hermle Mantel Clocks. Hop on over and have a look!

11'' Tellurium II Black Mechanical Hermle Mantel Clock

11” Tellurium II Black Mechanical Hermle Mantel Clock. 

More Information about Mantel Clocks:

  1. Mantel Clock Buyers Guide
  2. Add Beauty to Your Hearth with a Mantel Shelf and Mantel Clock