In horological terms, the history of quartz watches is a very short one. It wasn’t until 1928 that scientists at Bell Labs realized that a vibrating quartz crystal could provide a much more precise reference signal for regulating clocks than anything currently in use.
Over the next ten years, quartz oscillators slowly began to replace pendulum regulator clocks as reference standards. It would take over 30 years, however, before this technology could be made small enough and inexpensive enough to make quartz watches practical. Bringing the crystal oscillator to the wristwatch was a herculean effort and many consider quartz watches to be one of the great technological achievements of our time. Physical size, cost, battery life, durability, and crystal life all presented significant hurdles to the development of a practical quartz wristwatch.
By the early 1970’s, watchmakers in both Japan and Switzerland had mastered these challenging problems, and the first commercially available watches that used quartz movements were introduced to the public. It may seem surprising today, but these first quartz watches were considered ultra-luxury items and were far more expensive than comparable mechanical watches of that time.
The invention of the integrated circuit brought down the prices of quartz watches dramatically, and it wasn’t long before the least expensive watches were actually the most accurate. The popularity of quartz watches soared, and the quartz revolution almost destroyed the traditional watch industry during the 1970’s. Between 1970 and 1983, the number of watchmakers working in Switzerland declined from 1,600 to 600.
What saved the watch industry was the realization that wearing a wristwatch was no longer just about telling the time. Watches became fashion accessories and a growing appetite for new and stylish designs allowed brands like Eterna to thrive and grow by making both mechanical watches and quartz watches in a wide variety of price ranges.
Today, wearing a watch is largely a lifestyle choice. Quartz watches essentially democratized timekeeping. These technological wonders are so inexpensive that practically anyone can wear a watch that is accurate to a few seconds a month. This still leaves plenty of room for personalization and variety however. There are quartz watches that sell for fewer than ten dollars and for over a million dollars. Plastic or diamonds, mass production or one-of-a-kind; the choice is entirely up to you.
Quartz watches changed timekeeping forever, and even the purist who prefers a traditional mechanical timepiece will have to acknowledge that the “quartz revolution” has been good for the entire industry.
About Gevril Group
Gevril Group, watchmaker and wholesale watch distributor, is the exclusive U.S. agent for exquisitely designed and crafted European luxury and fashion watch brands, distributing and servicing some of the best affordable luxury watches, Swiss made watches and trendy fashion watches. Gevril Group also operates a full-service watch repair, staffed by master Swiss watchmakers. Contact Gevril Group by email or by calling 845-425-9882.
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