15 per cent off all quartz watches until October 3

To celebrate Quartz Week at Christopher Ward, we speak to our Technical Director about this most misunderstood of movements…

Hi JJ. What is a quartz movement, and how does it work?

OK, so we’re talking about analogue movements here rather than digital.

In a sense, an analogue quartz movement isn’t so different from a mechanical one. There are still quite a lot of mechanical parts inside, but instead of a mainspring in a barrel, you have a battery; in place of the balance, you have quartz.

The idea of the regulation system is to provide a constant swing – or frequency – that you can count. Whether using a pendulum, balance, tuning fork or quartz swing, each takes a certain amount of time. The target is to make this time as constant as possible.

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How did quartz begin?

The evolution of watches was characterised by the increase of the frequency of the swing system. Early pendulum watches had a frequency of 0.5Hz, whereby each full swing would take two seconds. Watchmakers would therefore count in half-swings of one second, with the second hand on precise pendulum clocks making one step per second.

Pocket watches had a frequency of 2.5Hz. With five steps per second, the hand would ‘sweep’ (Christopher Ward mechanical watches mostly have a frequency of 4Hz, or eight steps per second). To make watches more precise and to have the ability to measure smaller parts of a second, watchmakers increased the frequency up to 50Hz. While this high frequency provides stability and precision, the aging due to friction and materials is enormous.

Why does the seconds hand on a quartz watch travel at one step per second?

Developments in the sizing and technology of microelectronics led to a higher production of wristwatches with quartz in the 1970s. At 32.768Hz, there’s no connection between the hand moving and the frequency anymore. Instead, the integrated circuit counts the number of steps: when it reaches 32.768 swings, a signal is sent to the motor to move the hand one step. So the second hand makes one step per second.

Watches without a seconds hand make mostly one step every 20 seconds to save battery energy (you can see this by checking the move of the minute hand every 20 seconds).

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What are the advantages of quartz?

Advantages include precision, stability against positioning and shocks, and lower pricing due to the high quantities manufactured. The main disadvantage would have to be a finite battery lifetime.

As a traditional watchmaker, what do you like about quartz?

Quartz watches are part of tradition as they’re a logical step up in the pursuit of precision. It’s the last time-measurement system still in the hand of watchmakers: more precise systems, like atomic clocks, live in laboratories with physicians. Of course, I love mechanical watches the most, but you have to place the manufacture of quartz in context. Craftsmanship is still an integral part, but as there isn’t such a great variety in its construction, the whole process is highly industrialised. It’s a child of the 1970s, after all!

Do you own quartz watches?

Yeah, I’ve got some from the early days. They’re all made by hand and even the wires are welded by hand. Patek Philippe and some other highly reputable watch brands have made – and still make – really nice finished quartz movements. As a traditional watchmaker, I like well finished movements that are repairable. Sadly, there are some highly industrialised modern mechanical movements that aren’t.

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Are there any new developments in quartz?

Until now, quartz watches have used technology devised in the 1970s. But with the latest boom in luxury watches, there have been changes in attitudes: not every luxury watch owner wants to have to wind their watch. Nowadays, developments include longer battery lifespan, end-of-battery-life indicators, better temperature compensation, as well as precision in general: COSC standards for quartz watches are relatively high. The next step is the smartwatch, although that’s more computer than watch!

Some watches have a ‘meca quartz’ movement. What is this?

Meca-quartz is the combination of a quartz oscillator (base movement) and mechanical complications like a chronograph or a rattrapante [double chronograph]. Theoretically, you could add nearly every module (our Jumping Hour module, perhaps) to a quartz watch, but it wouldn’t make any sense: you can take the time information directly from the integrated circuit, which can also directly programme other step motors to undertake certain jobs. Another method, whereby electrical power is generated by a mechanical rotor, makes complete sense. I’d love to see more of these hybrids.

Are there complications that could be solely developed for quartz models?

Yes, a lot. The mechanical world is incredible: for nearly every problem, you can find a mechanical solution. But the more complex the problem – a perpetual calendar, for example, or a moonphase – the more complex the solution. And on top, if there are non-regular or individual settings (birthdays, special calendars, time zones) you have no chance of programming a mechanical watch to do this. It makes more sense to go for quartz.

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Do you think quartz can be further developed so it’s seen as equal to mechanical movements?

This isn’t a question of technology. If I had the money to make a proper quartz movement, it could look like SH21; the question lies with the market and collectors. The Auto-Quartz from ETA was a step into this direction, but it fails on the Swiss side. However, Japanese watches are quite good on this and I would rate a Seiko Spring Drive as similar (or better) than pure mechanical movements.

Will you ever design a quartz movement?

Nobody knows. But I’d be interested to do it…

Explore Christopher Ward’s Quartz Collection here

 

For many customers, the Bader buckle is an invaluable upgrade for Christopher Ward watches like the C5 Malvern Quartz and C60 Trident Pro 600, whilst included on the likes of the C9 5 Day Automatic and C7 Rapide Chronometer.

Introduced in 2014, the Bader buckle – named after its creator, Jörg Bader – was Christopher Ward’s entry into the deployment clasp arena. With its intuitive hinge system, it makes swapping watches easy, bypassing the fiddly struggle of a standard dress clasp.

Recently, we received a customer query asking us how to set up the Bader properly. So, here’s a guide to help you get the best out of yours:

The Bader deployment is comprised of two separate hinged parts. To begin, push in the buttons on each side of the top half. This releases the bottom half of the clasp, most notable for the mushroom-shaped pin that keeps everything locked when on the wrist.

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For the next stage, find the appropriate hole on the tail-end suited for your wrist size. With the clasp now open, feed the tail-end of the strap past the mushroom pin, and then underneath the two adjacent pieces of cornered steel until you have the appropriate hole needed for a correct fit.

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Push the strap down onto the pin. Each side of the leather will need to be tucked underneath the overhanging metal lip – without doing this, the clasp will not be able to lock shut.

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The tail end of the strap will now be sitting against the concave curve of the Bader’s hinged bottom half. When wearing the watch, this ensures that it’s mostly leather touching your skin, making it more comfortable.

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Once you’ve got the watch on your wrist, push the concave bottom half of the clasp against your skin – at this point, the hinge of the clasp is open. Simply close it by pushing the upper half of the clasp towards the mushroom pin, which will audibly click once in place.

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If the strap is too tight or too loose: simply take it off, select the appropriate hole at the tail end, and work through the remaining steps.