Invention of Quartz Watch

Innovation Info
Inventor (s): 
W.A. Marrison and J.W. Horton
Year Invented: 
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Ever since man began living in groups and civilizations started settling, he has been constantly trying to find ways of determining time and the cycle of day and night. Sand clock or Sun dial were developed with the motive to understand the shift of time and season. Today, we come across different types of watches but it would be interesting to know as to when be the first quartz watch invented and how we reached to this invention finally.



What is the history behind the invention of quartz watch?

Most of the times a big invention happen after a string of co related experiments and inventions are made but to a smaller effect. All this together helps to embark upon one big and highly worthwhile invention. The history of quartz watch too suggests the same thing related to its invention. Before the 1960s many scientists in America, Switzerland and Japan were working on the quartz watches and co related work. Their contribution together made the invention of quartz watch possible.



Who were the main contributors towards this invention?

Some of the earlier contributors to this invention were:

  • Pierre and Jacques Curie for the first time introduced us to the phenomenon of piezoelectricity in 1880. It is the property of specific materials such as quartz to create electric field. This was later used for developing precision in standard time.
  • Friedrich Reinitzer first discovered Liquid crystal in 1888 when he was heating cholesteryl benzoate and discovered that two different melting points existed, of which one was cloudy and the other was clear.
  • This discovery was further carried by Otto Lehmann and around 1960s the research on liquid crystal was used as display for the quartz watches.


Who is credited with the invention of quartz watch?

The property of piezoelectricity was first applied in the year 1927 when W.A. Marrison and J.W. Horton invented first quartz clock. This quartz clock was very large compared to today’s quartz wristwatches. The functions of quartz watch are controlled or carried out by an integrated circuit. Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce of Texas Instruments and Fairchild Semiconductors respectively applied for the patent of integrated circuit and in 1959, each of them got it for different part of the invention. All these inventions together led to the invention of quartz watch in 1960s.


Who invented digital quartz watch?

The first digital quartz watch was invented by John Bergey of Hamilton Watch Company in 1966 along with a group of researchers. The displays of quartz watch were improved with the invention of twisted nematic field effect in liquid crystals by James Fergason in 1969. This field used low operating voltages like the ones used in batteries which helped to improve the display in quartz watch. In 1970, first digital quartz watch was released. HMW first manufactured a digital quartz watch-Pulsar which was sold for $2,100 in the beginning. But when Texas instruments in 1976 introduced it at cost below $20, the prices slowly started dipping.


How quartz watches work?

Any time keeping machine generally consists of three main parts:

  • A drive mechanism,
  • An escapement device (method of measuring time),
  • A method of display

The Quartz watches make used of the property of quartz crystal which provides a very precise resonator that gives electronic signal constantly which are important for timekeeping. Quartz crystals are known to be piezoelectric in nature due to which it generates an electrical charge the moment mechanical pressure is applied on them. They are also known to vibrate whenever they come in contact with an electrical charge. The shape and cut of the crystal controls the frequency of vibration and if the crystal is cut at regular size, it can vibrate thousand of times/per second. This helps to create highly stable resonators due to which we get accurate time. Today’s quartz watches use microchip apart from liquid crystal display technology.

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