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I History and Development of the Quartz Watch

The story of the quartz crystal as a time keeping instrument starts in 1880, when Pierre and Jacques Curie discover the piezo electric effect. When a mechanical pressure or distortion is exercised on two opposite sides of a crystal, the crystal, for instance SiO2, will generate an electrical voltage on the two other sides of its surface. More distortion will induce a higher voltage. One year later the French scientist and Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Lippmann found the inverse effect. When a voltage is applied on the surface of a crystal, the crystal is strained (distorted). From this time, it was possible to make a vibrating crystal by applying an alternating voltage to the crystal with a frequency that corresponds with the resonant frequency of the crystal. This frequency is obtained by amplifying the voltage that is generated by the crystal itself.

During the nineteen sixties, the Observatory of Neuchâtel became more and more the place where the watch industry compared their results of precision watch making in different categories. The contests were set up by the Swiss watch industry. The winners of the Chronometric Contest were ensured of world-wide recognition. It was hard for the Swiss watch industry to recognise the superiority of Seiko and several American producers of electronic wrist watches in the field of precision watches. The incredible accuracy of these quartz watches disgraced the accuracy of conventional mechanical watches: they were uncomparable. The result was that 1967 marked the last year of the chronometer wrist watches competition. In 1968 interest in competition was lost in general and the concept of competition was abandoned all together. After 1968 chronometer certificates for watches were delivered without the competition aspect.

1921W. Cady uses quartz crystals to stabilise the frequency of tube-oscillators.
1928The first reference to a tuning fork shaped quartz crystal. (I. Koga of the Tokyo Institute of Technology, J.I.E.E., Japan vol. 48)
1932Lack, Horton and Marrison build the first quartz controlled clock in the Bell Telephone Laboratories in the USA (USA patent 1,788,533 filed March 1928). The frequency was 50.000 Hz, the electronic circuit divided it to 5000 Hz, a 100 pole synchronous motor and a mechanical gearing lowered the frequency to a level to drive a clock with a daily rate change of only 20 ms. There were two main reasons to build a better time standard: stabilisation of the radio transmission and measurement of the irregularities in the rotation of the earth.
Scheibe and Adelsberger also performed pioneer work at the PTB in Braunschweig, Germany, simultaneously with Essen and Dye in London.
1932Koga invents the R-cut crystal oscillator.
1936The first horological application of the quartz crystal becomes the quartz chronograph of Gibbs. This instrument was invented to control the rate of other clocks.
1937The first quartz clock in Japan.
1939The Greenwich Observatory, Great Britain purchases its first quartz clock.
1940During the next ten years, laboratories start to use the quartz clock as a better time standard than the usual Shortt pendulum clocks.
1948Invention of the transistor by Barbeen and Brattain at the Bell Telephone Laboratories in the USA. An improved version by Shockley reaches the market in 1952. The transistor replaced the triode tubes in the frequency dividers and reduced the size of the quartz clock significantly. Foundation of the Electronic Division of Patek Philippe.
The first Swiss quartz clock is made by F. Bauman, F. Berger and H. Brandenburger.
1949The first Swiss quartz clock of Oscilloquartz, part of ESA is tested at the 'Observatoire' at Neuchâtel.
1953The first quartz clock by Longines, weight 53 kg, is awarded the first prize at the 'Observatoire' of Neuchâtel in the category of quartz clocks in 1954.
1954Professor Dr. A. Carolus of the University of Freiburg, Germany, specialised in electrical driven tuning forks, presents his tuning fork made out of quartz at the International Chronometric Congress in Paris in 1954. Nowadays almost every quartz watch has a tuning fork shaped quartz crystal.
1955The Brush company in Cleveland, USA, produces the first synthetic quartz crystals. Production of large numbers of identical crystals becomes possible now.
1956Patek Philippe produces the first ever all-electronic prototype quartz clock.
1958Patek Philippe receives the Miniaturisation Award in New York, USA, for its quartz clocks together with the Micronics Division of Elgin National Watch Co. which receives the award for its microminiature synchronous motor and gear.
1959The first patent for an integrated circuit invented by J.S. Kilby is filed.
1960Patek-Philippe obtains a rating certificate with its 'Chronotome-A' at the 'Observatoire de Genève'. No commercial production has been recorded.
1961The quartz clock of Ulysse-Nardin and ESA is presented at the Basle Fair.
1962Seiko produces the first domestic quartz clock: the QC-OTV4. The integrated circuits developed by Texas Instruments, USA, used too much energy for use in a wrist watch.
1963The quartz clock of Ulysse-Nardin and ESA receives the first prize in the accuracy tests in Neuchâtel for clocks with a volume of less then one litre. On the occasion of the inauguration of the 'Hot Line' between Berlin, Washington and Moscow, a replica of the first all electronic clock of Patek Philippe (1956) is presented by Chancellor Willy Brandt to President John F. Kennedy.
1964The first small quartz clock in the category Ship-chronometer with a volume below 200 cm3 is presented at the 'Observatoire de Neuchâtel' by Longines of St. Imier and Bernard Golay S.A. of Lausanne, Switzerland. The frequency of the quartz crystal was 12 kHz. An electronic divider decreased the frequency to a two Herz impulse used to drive the micro-motor and the hands. Seiko also deposited quartz clocks in this category.
1965On November 16th, at the contest at the 'Observatoire de Neuchâtel' Longines St. Imier and Bernard Golay, Lausanne, show the first quartz pocket watch in the category below 19.64 cm3. The accuracy was amazing: the watch only showed a deviation of 0.01 seconds a day.
1966On December 21st Seiko, followed by Ebauches S.A. and Longines-Golay on December the 31st, present quartz pocket watches at the Observatory of Neuchâtel. The first quartz pocket watch by Seiko with a square plate quartz is produced.
1967The RCA laboratories in the USA launch a new technology: the MOS integrated circuits, which reduce energy consumption substantially. All the components needed in a quartz watch can now be stored in a watch case. The first quartz wrist watches of Seiko and C.E.H. are tested at the 'Observatoire de Neuchâtel'. The accuracy was about 0,004 seconds a day.
1970Intel Corp. USA. produces the first microprocessor with 2250 transistor functions assembled in one single silicium chip. Five companies present a quartz watch at the Basle Fair: Seiko (Quartz Astron, 35SQ), Longines (Ultraquartz, 6512), CEH (Beta-21), Girard Perregeaux (GP 350) and Hamilton (Pulsar).
1971Microma Universal USA develops a complete and very accurate quartz time device: the QTM 0001. It contained a quartz crystal, a frequency divider and a stepping motor, that could be built into a mechanical watch.
1972The invention by Staudte (Statek Co.) of the photolithographic mass production method of tuning fork shaped quartz crystals.
1973The first prototype quartz watches completely manufactured in France are presented at the French-German Colloquium: The Lip R032 and the Montrelec Q400.

All these watches use the following system:

1The quartz crystal. In the first experiments, block, plate or ring-shaped crystals were used. In the nineteen seventies these were replaced by bar, plate, lens and tuning fork-shaped quartz crystals. Finally, in the last fifteen years, only tuning fork quartz crystals have been used. The bar and lens crystals had to be hung on small wires in a container. It would only take a small deformation of the metal crystal container to cause strain in the wires resulting in a change of frequency. A tuning fork shaped crystal would overcome this problem, since the non-vibrating lower part is attached to the watch case.
2This feed-back system amplifies the frequency generated by the crystal and uses this signal to keep the crystal vibrating.
3The frequency divider contains a number of binary two-dividers, to decrease the frequency to .0 and a half, one or two Hertz which can drive the micromotor. For instance, the signal of a 32,768 Hz quartz crystal needs 15 two-dividers to make a signal of one Hertz (215 = 32,768). All the crystals are made in such a way that they produce a frequency which forms an exponent of the number two. Most of these dividers are built with the 'metal-oxide-semiconductor' technique (MOS).
The production of these integrated circuits, small enough for use in a wrist watch, started in 1967 by the RCA laboratories in the USA. Thus, the most intricate problem of applying quartz crystals in wrist watch production was removed. Other producers were, amongst others, Electro-Data, Intel, Faselec and National Semiconductor.
4The amplifier.
5A stepping motor or a display driver, and the display. The stepping motor makes one step after each electric pulse and drives the gearing and the hands. The most famous stepping motor manufacturer is Portescap S.A., La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. The display driver (IC) composes the digits on the liquid cristal or on the light emitting diode display. The LCD and LED watches will be dealt with in the next chapters.
6Energy source.

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Copyright © by Pieter Doensen

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