The trouble with pendulum clocks and ordinary watches is that you have to keep remembering to wind them. If you forget, they stop—and you have no idea what time it is. Another difficulty with pendulum clocks is that they depend on the force of gravity, which varies very slightly from place to place; that means a pendulum clock tells time differently at high altitudes from at sea level! Pendulums also change length as the temperature changes, expanding slightly on warm days and contracting on cold days, which makes them less accurate again.

Quartz watches solve all these problems. They are battery powered and, because they use so little electricity, the battery can often last several years before you need to replace it. They are also much more accurate than pendulum clocks. Quartz watches work in a very different way to pendulum clocks and ordinary watches. They still have gears inside them to count the seconds, minutes, and hours and sweep the hands around the clockface. But the gears are regulated by a tiny crystal of quartz instead of a swinging pendulum or a moving balance wheel. Gravity doesn’t figure in the workings at all so a quartz clock tells the time just as well when you’re climbing Mount Everest as it does when you’re at sea.

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