How does a quartz clock work?

What is a quartz clock?
At its core, a quartz clock is a device that uses energy from a quartz crystal to display time, regulated by a timekeeping mechanism.

What is the mechanism allowing quartz clocks to measure time accurately, or even, measure it at all? Looking closely at a clock, what the average viewer gets to see is the clock’s main display. It usually consists of the clock’s convex glass, cap nut, hands, followed by complementary shafts, hex nut, clock face, and finally, the case.

Firstly, the convex glass, it is a circular piece of glass that protects the inside elements of the clock.

Secondly, we have the cap nut. It is a dome-like cap that covers the exposed ends of the clock’s parts and seals them together.

Thirdly, the hand’s purpose is to indicate time with their direction. The hour hand non-ironically tells the hour. It will always be the widest. The minute hand points to the minutes and it medium in size. And the second hand indicates the seconds, it will always be the narrowest. The sound you hear the clock make is an indication of the second hand moving progressively. The ticking is produced by the sound of the escapement, a device we will discuss soon that permits controlled motion, stopping a wheel tooth.

The hand is followed by its own nut, which attaches it to the following hands and upcoming movement. All these hands will direct towards digits or lines, all of which indicate numbers. To tell the time one should look at the hour hand first and then the minute hand.

Next up are the shafts. These compliment the time hands by sealing them and are responsible for directing the hands to their corresponding time.

Then, we have the brass washer. Which converts the mechanical movement of the hands to suit the quartz standard shafts.

The clock face, also called a dial, is the periphery of the clock that displays fixed numbers on a 12- or 24-hour cycle. This can be indicated with numerical marks, non-numerical marks, Roman numerals, or Arabic numerals.

Finally, the case, which is the body that stores the above components.
Below surface, clock anatomy may seem much more complex, though all is cleared when we dive into the source of its operation, the quartz… hence the name. But before jumping in, here’s a small introduction to its components. Included in this process are the clock’s main and escape wheels, battery, quartz oscillator, microprocessor, circuit board, and coil magnet.

How does a quartz work?
Now at the base of it all is the quartz, which outside of its operative implementation is a common mineral on earth. Quartz is what is called piezoelectric, meaning when it is subjected to stress such as bending, it generates a small electrical current. So, how does this relate to a quartz clock? Well, each quartz clock contains a small piece of quartz, which tends to be shaped like a tuning fork. The battery inside a quartz clock sends electricity to the quartz via electrical circuit. This causes the forks end to vibrate 32,768 times per second. The number of vibrations is measured. Generating one electronic pulse every 32, 768 vibrations- or, one per second. These pulses power the gear wheels forward, resulting in the movement of the clocks second hand, and minute and hour hands, clockwise around the clock face. The accuracy of the quartz clock tends to depend on the size, shape, and cut of the quartz plate. The quartz sheet must be coordinated with the crystalline axis, the axis in crystallography that regards the arrangements of atoms in a crystal, in order to be maximized with accuracy. The battery sends electricity to quartz crystal through an electronic circuit. The quartz crystal oscillates at a precise number of times each second. The circuit then counts the number of vibrations and uses them to generate regular electric pulses, one per second. These pulses then permit the powering of the microchip to order the gear, such as the main and escape wheels, to perform.

Bibliography:

Featured image retrieved from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/241194383_The_evolution_of_time_measurement_Part_2_quartz_clocks_Recalibration

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quartz_clock

2. https://www.explainthatstuff.com/quartzclockwatch.html

3. https://timeandnavigation.si.edu/multimedia-asset/quartz-clock

4. https://www.collinsdictionary.com/es/diccionario/ingles/quartz-clock

5. https://www.hamiltonjewelers.com/blog/2018/07/17/heres-how-a-quartz-watch-works/

Estefania Olaiz

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Carolina González
Carolina González
1 month ago

Interesting, now I know how a clock squartz works, thanks! 🙂

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