Scrativardio

To a serious mechanical watch fan, the idea that any quartz watch might be something you’d call a value proposition – much less a quartz watch costing thousands of dollars – might seem ridiculous, but if you’re of a certain turn of mind there’s a kind of integrity and purity to be found in Seiko’s Grand Seiko quartz watches you won’t get anywhere else. Grand Seiko mechanical watches, of course, are generally considered by serious watch lovers to be one of the best things to happen to watchmaking since Huygens stuck a spiral spring on a balance, and Seiko Spring Drive is a reminder of Arthur C. Clarke’s adage that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic – but quartz?

Well, as with many things, a little understanding of the basic problems the quartz Grand Seiko was designed to address can go a long way towards understanding why it’s worth taking an interest in – and, just maybe, even loving. Quartz watches are pretty simple: inside the watch is a tiny quartz crystal, shaped like a tuning fork. Quartz has an interesting property: it’s piezoelectric. That means that if you deform it physically, it’ll generate a current – conversely, if you run a current through it, you’ll make it deform (change shape).
The nice thing about all this is that it means if you pass a current through a tuning fork shaped quartz crystal, it’ll start to vibrate. As Aaron Berlow pointed out just a short while ago in his review of the early Girard-Perregaux quartz caliber 350, the industry standard frequency for a quartz crystal has been 32,768 hertz (vibrations per second) for many years, and for a good reason: a simple process of dividing by two repeatedly gives you one second pulses (32,768 is two to the fifteenth power). 

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