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Consumer response to quartz watches helped to shape the way these new products were designed.

How did the people who bought wristwatches influence the development of the quartz watch? The first commercial watches were sold as luxury products, but the technologies they used were not mature, and the products incorporating them were sometimes unreliable. Many established watch companies hesitated to produce quartz watches, but electronics companies got involved and rushed the new watches to market. In the U.S., buyers returned them in record numbers with loud and valid complaints (in 1976 the return rate for digital watches was 30%). Consumer response helped to shape the way manufacturers redesigned their products.

Better batteries were developed to handle the demands of quartz watches.

Short battery life was a serious problem for quartz watch wearers. Batteries in the early 1970s were relatively large and dictated that the watch case was clumsily large too. As big as they were, these batteries had short lives and needed to be changed frequently. Consumer disapproval prompted the development of smaller batteries, and forced laboratories and manufacturers to find new ways to make extremely low-power circuits and displays. These developments were beneficial in other battery-operated products like hearing aids and portable phones.

The quartz crystal could be easily damaged by rough handling or moisture.

Simply dropping an early quartz watch could cause it to malfunction. Techniques for encapsulating the crystal and protecting it from shocks had to be developed. Moisture could also harm the quartz oscillator, as well as the watches other components, requiring water resistant case designs.

Complaints about the new digital displays forced manufacturers to try many solutions.

The new digital displays had their problems too. LED displays required the wearer to push a button to light up the time display. Once the novelty wore off, those who were used to time-at-a-glance from their old mechanical watches found the push-button a nuisance. By 1977, LEDs had fallen from favor largely because of this feature.

LCD watches had a continuous display, but consumers complained that they could not read them in the dark. Manufacturers tried several solutions, including small incandescent bulbs. But these built-in bulbs drained the battery several thousand times as fast as normal operation. The most recent invention to solve this problem is Indiglo®, an electroluminescence technology developed by Timex.

Before 1960 ~ After 1960

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