Aging...Are you worried?
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  1. #1
    Member lysanderxiii's Avatar
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    Aging...Are you worried?

    No, I am not talking about having a mid-life crises and blowing the kid’s college fund on fast watches, loose cars and expensive women (or men for the few ladies present).

    I am talking about the affects of age on watches and how it will alter the performance, specifically in quartz movements.

    Aging of a quartz oscillator is defined as “the systematic change in frequency with time due to internal changes in the oscillator.” Aging is caused primarily by mass transfer to or from the resonator’s surface due to absorption or de-absorption of contamination, stress relief in the mounting structure of the crystal, changes in the oscillators circuitry and, possibly, changes in the quartz material.

    Aging can result is a positive or negative rate change, depending on the cause of the aging, sometimes if there are two aging factors at work a combination of the two will result in the rate change first rising then falling, or vice versa.Because the typical quartz crystal used in a watch is thin, about 1 million atomic layers, the absorption/de-absorption of contaminants equivalent to the mass of one atomic layer of quartz will change the frequency about 1 part per million (PPM). In order to achieve low aging, you can see that crystal units must be fabricated in ultra-clean ultra-high vacuum environments, and then hermetically sealed.

    Aging rates of typical commercially available crystal oscillators ranged from 5 - 10 PPM for inexpensive crystal oscillators to 0.5 to 2 PPM for higher grade thermally compensated crystal oscillators.

    A 5 to 10 PPM/year change in rate means a movement’s rate will change 0.5 to 1 second per year.

    All quartz are not equal......
    Last edited by lysanderxiii; December 2nd, 2011 at 21:58.
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  2. #2
    Member Chris Hughes's Avatar
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    Re: Aging...Are you worried?

    I'd be more concerned about the effects of time on a quartz movement than on a mechanical one, actually. I have pocket watches that still keep time to within 5 seconds a week and that are over 100 years old.

  3. #3
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    Re: Aging...Are you worried?

    I see my Quartz watch as semi disposable.
    So I do not worry.

    But my personal aging, that is another story. Being happily married, I am allowed to indulge in expensive cars but that is al.....

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    Member Ray MacDonald's Avatar
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    Re: Aging...Are you worried?

    In a word..no.

    There are fathers who do not love their children; there is no grandfather who does not adore his grandson. ~ Victor Hugo

  6. #5
    Member CitizenM's Avatar
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    Re: Aging...Are you worried?

    Any time piece will break down over a sufficient period of time. Everything in the universe will.

    It seems like 20 or so years before I would even notice a change if these numbers are true.

    So, no. Not worried at all.

  7. #6
    Vintage & NAWCC Forum moderator Ben_hutcherson's Avatar
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    Re: Aging...Are you worried?

    For what it's worth, my 30-year old timing machine uses a quartz crystal oscillator as the reference. Fortunately, it also has a regulation mechanism for minor tweaks due to crystal aging(something which the instruction manual says will happen).

    When I first bought the machine, I took a high-grade, very precise pocket watch(a Hamilton 992B) and spent two weeks carefully regulating it in the dial-up position to +/- 0 s/day by time.gov. Once I was satisfied with this, I checked it on the timing machine and found that it was reading -.5s/day. I tweaked the crystal a little bit, and it's now dead on. I check it about once a year, and it hasn't drifted any noticeable amount in the past two years.

    I would assume that this is probably a fairly high grade crystal, considering the intended use and the original cost of the machine.
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  8. #7
    Member niles316's Avatar
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    Re: Aging...Are you worried?

    At an aging rate of 1sec/year,i'm not worried. I'm more worried about batt leaks 'cos i understand it can happen even if the batt isn't flat.

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    Re: Aging...Are you worried?

    It's useful information to have but it doesn't worry me as such. I'll try to keep it in mind if/when I see a variance, so thanks for sharing. Am I right in thinking that the mvts which are expensive enough for us to worry about 20 years down the line are adjustable, at least by the manufacture? Of course, replacing most quartz mvts is relatively inexpensive. I wonder how much better they will be in 20 years. It'd be good to know I can replace the mvts in the pieces I plan to keep very long-term (Dreyfuss, Mondaine etc) and get even better accuracy and longevity.

  10. #9
    Member lysanderxiii's Avatar
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    Re: Aging...Are you worried?

    Quote Originally Posted by Scottish Steve View Post
    It's useful information to have but it doesn't worry me as such. I'll try to keep it in mind if/when I see a variance, so thanks for sharing. Am I right in thinking that the mvts which are expensive enough for us to worry about 20 years down the line are adjustable, at least by the manufacture? Of course, replacing most quartz mvts is relatively inexpensive. I wonder how much better they will be in 20 years. It'd be good to know I can replace the mvts in the pieces I plan to keep very long-term (Dreyfuss, Mondaine etc) and get even better accuracy and longevity.
    Quartz modules used to have trimmers that would allow for the minor rate adjustment. Probably, more a throw back to "the old way of doing things" than conscience design as a way to correct age related rate change. None of them seem to have this any more, as the rate is set by software during assembly and is not alterable except at the factory (or with factory equipment).
    familiaritas parit contemptum; raritate admiratione wins.- Lucius Apuleius
    est necessry, accurate ad secundo? - Lysander magna
    iustum est horologium - Obscurus Genius

  11. #10
    Member Aphid's Avatar
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    Re: Aging...Are you worried?

    My 35yo quartz Bulova is still going strong.

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