Quartz Clocks

In 1927 the first quartz clock marked the beginning of the end for mechanical clocks as a primary time piece for the average person. Today they are found everywhere and are cheap to produce.


In 1927 The first sound film “The Jazz Singer” was released, also the first trans-Atlantic telephone call was made from New York to London. This was also the year of the first working quartz clock, and just 28 years later the first atomic clock was made functional. Both of these events are mostly forgotten, yet changed the world.

The quartz clock works by using a crystal oscillator. Silicon dioxide crystals are piezoelectric and are also used as microphones and speakers (Unit 4). When you pass electricity through quartz it vibrates (oscillates) at a specific frequency. The vibrations don’t vary so much with the temperature so it solved a big problem with mechanical clocks.

When you place the assembly in an amplifier circuit you can create a steady “sound”. The frequency of oscillation depends on the way the crystal is cut and the placement of electrodes on it. The standard quartz watch is set to a standard of 32,728 Hz (above human hearing range). A binary digital counter is attached to the device and is designed to overflow once each second, this creates a digital pulse at each second, and this is the basis of the quartz clock. Currently we do not have a video explaining how they work but you will find many on YouTube.

Quartz clocks are used in atomic clocks, which is our next section.