Last month, we explained how mechanical clocks work. While mechanical clock technology came nearly a thousand years before quartz clock technology, both have a place in modern timekeeping.

Like mechanical clocks, quartz clocks have gears inside them to push the hands around the clock face, measuring seconds, minutes, and hours with precision. However, these gears are regulated by a tiny quartz crystal rather than a balance wheel or swinging pendulum.

Quartz is one of the most common minerals on Earth. It’s made from silicon dioxide, a chemical compound found in sand and many types of rock. Quartz is what we call piezoelectric, meaning when compressed, it generates a small but measurable electrical current. To the contrary, when electricity passes through quartz, it vibrates at a precise frequency — an exact number of times per second.

So how do quartz clocks work? Each quartz clock or watch contains a small piece of quartz, usually shaped like a musician’s tuning fork. The battery inside a quartz clock or watch sends electricity to the quartz crystal via an electronic circuit, causing the fork’s prongs to vibrate 32,768 times per second.

The circuit measures the number of vibrations, and generates one electronic pulse per every 32,768 vibrations — or, one per second. These pulses power the gear wheels forward, in turn moving the clock’s second hand (and minute and hour hands) clockwise around the clock face. Quartz movements are both accurate and durable, making them appealing to those looking for a quality timepiece that won’t break the bank.

If you’re looking for an elegant and affordable desk or mantel clock, we invite you to shop our finely crafted quartz collections.