Deep in your watch is a small piece of quartz. What is it doing there? Well, it is keeping time.
Quartz has a little secret. It wiggles when zapped by electricity. This strange phenomenon is called piezoelectricity and it was found in the 1800s by Pierre and Jacques Curie. What they found is if you squeeze quartz, it will give off a bit of electricity. What was found later is that if you zap quartz, it will move.
A small gem of quartz is being zapped in your watch by a circuit connected to a battery, and those wiggles are used to count time.
In the early 20th century, there was a little known scientist named Warren Marrison who created the first quartz clock. He was actually using quartz as a way to help radio stations know what was the right frequency to send their programs. But he noticed that quartz wiggles the same number of times a second and thought this would be a neat way to mark of time. So one day he got a gem, which came from Brazil, and then sawed off a piece and then polished it. His gem wiggled 100,000 times a second and those wiggles were counted to make accurate clocks. Before quartz, clocks were less accurate, although many people thought they were useful, in fact one woman even sold time.
Many people don’t know who Warren Marrison is and he would have been lost in history. But he was recently profiled in a new book called The Alchemy of Us. You can find out more about him and quirky quartz in that book.
Quartz may seem like an ordinary gem, but it keeps our world ticking.