How accurate is my watch
How much does watch accuracy vary, and why?
At least in theory, we all should be Johnnyonthespot synchronized. Starting in the early 1970s, the advent of batterypowered quartz wristwatches gave ordinary folks access to a timekeeping technology that once was available only to scientists and technicians [source: NMAH]. Basically, if you apply electricity to a tiny piece of quartz and then bend it, the crystal will give off a relatively constant electrical signal that can be used to operate an electronic clock face [source: NIST]. By the early 2000s, quartz watches had become so popular that mechanical watches had been reduced to just 13 percent of the global watch market [source: IEEE].
But consumergrade quartz watches aren’t totally precise. Remember, we’re talking about relatively cheap miniature devices that are churned out rapidly in vast quantities in factories not some multimilliondollar gadget custom built for a lab. Even the most expensive quartzcrystal watch in the jewelry store still relies on a mechanical vibration whose frequency can be affected by a variety of factors, including a crystal’s size and shape. No two quartz crystals are exactly alike, which can lead to at least a slight discrepancy between two watches from the same assembly line [source: NIST]. Additionally, watches’ precision can be affected by external factors, such as temperature and humidity, and by wear and tear that affects the stability of the tiny motors inside them, which generate the electric field to which the crystals are exposed [source: Lombardi]. A study published in Horological Journal in 2008, however, suggests that at least a few cheap watches are vastly more accurate. Researchers, who looked at humble timepieces that included a counterfeit Rolex purchased from a street vendor for $15 and a $30 discount store Timex, found they were all accurate to within a few thousandths of a second per day. It would take years for such a shift to become noticeable to their owners [source: Lombardi].