Atomic Watches FAQ

How a Quartz clock works

Closeup of quartz alarm clockface by AcctimAdvertisement

You may not believe in astrology, but there's no question the planets rule our lives. We get up when the Sun rises (or some time after) and go to bed when it sets. We have a calendar based on days, months, and years—periods of time that relate to how the Moon and Earth move around the Sun in the sky. For most of history, people found this kind of "astronomical timekeeping" good enough for their needs. But as the world became ever more frantic and sophisticated, people needed to keep track of hours, minutes, and seconds as well as days, months, and years.The open case of a tall, grandfather clock showing the swinging pendulum inside. That meant we needed accurate ways of keeping time. Pendulum clocks and mechanical watches used to be the best way of doing this. Today, many people use quartz clocks and watches instead—but what are they and how do they work?

Photo: Quartz is really cheap and the clocks that use it need hardly any moving parts. That's why it's now used in even the most inexpensive timepieces.A crystal of quartz Because it's so accurate and reliable, it's very much a selling point—which is why clocks like this proudly have the word "quartz" plastered prominently across their dials. Note that this is an analog clock (one with hands): quartz clocks and watches don't have to be digital (have numeric displays).

How ordinary clocks work

We all know that a clock keeps time, but have you ever stopped to think about how it does so? Probably the simplest clock you could make is a speaking clock. If you count seconds by repeating a phrase that takes exactly one second to say (Like "elephant one", "elephant two", "elephant three"...), you'll find you can keep time pretty accurately. Try it out. Say your elephants from one to sixty and see how well you keep time over a minute, compared to your watch.

Tiny quartz oscillator from inside a quartz watch Artwork showing how a quartz watch works
Source: www.explainthatstuff.com
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