A guide to the material that ushered in a new era for the watchmaking industry.
Reading about watches can often feel like cracking open a textbook. Browsing—and even buying—means being barraged with inscrutable words and phrases like ”tourbillons,” “perpetual calendars,” “minute repeaters,” and so on. So here, we'll be breaking down the meaning, history, and importance of different watch terms.
Quartz is one of the most abundant materials on earth. It’s found in sand and stones, among other places—and it’s also tucked inside a large majority of watches worn today.
That’s relatively new: Up until the 1970s, the watch industry was dominated by Swiss masters, companies that produced watches powered by intricate movements that required skilled craftsman to put together. Of course, these came with a price commensurate with the manpower and skill put into them. Quartz simplified the equation—it replaced all the complicated machinery with a straightforward mechanism that not only made watches much more affordable to the average person but also made them more accurate.
In the watch world, quartz is often talked about in melodramatic terms: the Quartz Crisis, as it’s popularly called, sprung up following the material’s introduction. The effects of the mineral on the industry were catastrophic. There were 89,450 people employed in the watch industry in 1970, but that figure fell to 28,000 just 18 years later, according to Hodinkee.
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