Quartz watches – Timekeepers of the World

Quartz watches are my choice for the letter Q, for today’s #AtoZChallenge, for the theme ‘Brands that people identify with’. Not exactly a brand, but a technology that brought a shift in the watchmaking industry, Quartz watches are the timekeepers of the world. Needless to say, I am going a little off track with my choice of the topic. 

The world’s first prototype analog quartz wristwatch, named Beta1, was developed in 1967 by a group of researchers at the Centre Electronique Horloger in Neuchâtel, Switzerland.


The Historical Watch race 


The ‘Quartz Revolution‘, however, began in Tokyo, with the launch of Quartz Astron, the world’s first commercial quartz wrist watch, by Seiko in 1969.


Accurate than the best mechanical timepieces, the, battery powered Quartz timepieces with “no need to wind”, became a practical choice for most watch wearers. Quartz started dominating the wristwatch and clock market since the 1980s.

The rising popularity of quartz brought about a decline in traditional Swiss watchmaking industry that was burdened by a legacy of mechanical watches, and hesitated to adopt the quartz technology. Watch production shifted to Asian companies that quickly took to the new technology. Not to be left behind, the US took a technological lead and started the mass production of digital quartz watches. 

Japanese and American brands were about technology, whereas traditional Swiss watchmaking was about history, craft and strong links to luxury. The scenario changed somewhat by 1978, when Hong Kong started exporting the largest number of electronic watches worldwide, throwing some American watch companies out of business.

In wake of the crisis brought about by the shift in preferences, the legendary Swiss watch industry was on the brink of being erased.

The way out of the Quartz crisis for the Swiss watch industry came with the creation of  Swatch watches that besides embracing the disruptive quartz technology,  packaging it with contemporary design and fashion. 



Swatch – the Stylish Quartz watch



The Swatch brand, with its new styling and design was distinctly unique. The idea was to make a watch so affordable and stylish that it would encourage people to make ‘spontaneous purchases’. Soon customers started buying multiple watches for different occasions.

Taking over a global mass-market audience, Swatch restored Swiss position across the watch market. Mechanical watches such as such as Rolex, Patek Philippe, Bulova, used its success to reinvent themselves as luxury status symbol for higher end of the market celebrating

The luxury wristwatch is the opposite of Swatch frivolity, and prides itself on craft and tradition. Omega, a major player in that category, is still owned by Swatch.


Quartz watches today


 All digital watches are quartz watches, and so are nearly all women’s watches.

About 95% of the watches produced today have quartz movements. Most quartz movements are made by one of three companies: the Japanese firms Seiko and Citizen- Citizen is the worlds biggest producer of quartz watches and movements- or the Swiss movements-maker ETA. 

 Till date, Quartz is clearly the king in the realm of timekeeping technology.


Which quartz watch do you wear?



1. 1969: Seiko’s Breakout Year, Watchtime

2. First-Hand:The First Quartz Wrist Watch, Engineering and Technology History  Wiki

3. How Swatch embraced disruptive technology to change the face of watches forever.



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  • author's avatar

    By: Somali K Chakrabarti

    Hi there ! I am a management and leadership coach and a ‘çlinical blogger’. Well, that’s what my family & friends call me now ! Here, I tell stories of different brands, how people relate to the brands and the values, beliefs and emotions that they associate with the brands. Hope you enjoy reading my posts.

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8 thoughts on “Quartz watches – Timekeepers of the World

  • April 20, 2015 at 11:07 am

    A wonderful piece on the watch brands with quartz movements .

  • April 20, 2015 at 2:23 pm

    Demystify if possible the tech behind quartz. Tks:)

    • April 20, 2015 at 3:44 pm

      Quartz crystals and semiconductors are beyond the scope of this post Rajat 🙂

    • April 21, 2015 at 1:22 am

      Thanks to quartz, we don’t have to wind our watches any more. Thanks Maniparna.

    • April 21, 2015 at 1:21 am

      It didn’t become a brand but led to the creation of many brands 🙂


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