Saturday, January 10, 2009

Electronic movements

Electronic movements have few or no moving parts, as they use the piezoelectric effect in a tiny quartz crystal to provide a stable time base for a mostly electronic movement. The crystal forms a quartz oscillator which resonates at a specific and highly stable frequency, and which can be used to accurately pace a timekeeping mechanism. For this reason, electronic watches are often called quartz watches. Most quartz movements are primarily electronic but are geared to drive mechanical hands on the face of the watch in order to provide a traditional analog display of the time, which is still preferred by most consumers.

The first prototypes of electronic quartz watches were made by the CEH research laboratory in Switzerland in 1962. The first quartz watch to enter production was the Seiko 35 SQ Astron, which appeared in 1969. Modern quartz movements are produced in very large quantities, and even the cheapest wristwatches typically have quartz movements. Whereas mechanical movements can typically be off by several seconds a day, an inexpensive quartz movement in a child's wristwatch may still be accurate to within 500 milliseconds per day—ten times better than a mechanical movement.Some watchmakers combine the quartz and mechanical movements, such as the Seiko Spring Drive, introduced in 2005.

Radio time signal watches are a type of electronic quartz watches which synchronizes (time transfer) its time with an external time source such as an atomic clocks, time signals from GPS navigation satellites, the German DCF77 signal in Europe, WWVB in the US, and others. Movements of this type synchronize not only the time of day but also the date, the leap-year status of the current year, and the current state of daylight saving time (on or off).

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