The piezoelectric properties of crystalline quartz were discovered by Jacques and Pierre Curie in 1880.[49][50] The first crystal oscillator was invented in 1917 by Alexander M. Nicholson after which, the first quartz crystal oscillator was built by Walter G. Cady in 1921.[2] In 1927 the first quartz clock was built by Warren Marrison and J. W. Horton at Bell Telephone Laboratories in Canada.[51][2] The following decades saw the development of quartz clocks as precision time measurement devices in laboratory settings—the bulky and delicate counting electronics, built with vacuum tubes, limited their practical use elsewhere. The National Bureau of Standards (now NIST) based the time standard of the United States on quartz clocks from late 1929 until the 1960s, when it changed to atomic clocks.[52] In 1969, Seiko produced the world's first quartz wristwatch, the Astron.[53] Their inherent accuracy and low cost of production resulted in the subsequent proliferation of quartz clocks and watches.[49]

Electric currents can be used to replace the weight or spring as a source of power and as a means of signaling time indications from a central master clock to a wide range of distant indicating dials. Invented in 1840, the first battery electric clock was driven by a spring and pendulum and employed an electrical impulse to operate a number of dials. Considerable experimental work followed, and it was not until 1906 that the first self-contained battery-driven clock was invented.

Some clocks, usually digital ones, include an optical projector that shines a magnified image of the time display onto a screen or onto a surface such as an indoor ceiling or wall. The digits are large enough to be easily read, without using glasses, by persons with moderately imperfect vision, so the clocks are convenient for use in their bedrooms. Usually, the timekeeping circuitry has a battery as a backup source for an uninterrupted power supply to keep the clock on time, while the projection light only works when the unit is connected to an A.C. supply. Completely battery-powered portable versions resembling flashlights are also available.
The word horologia (from the Greek ὥρα, hour, and λέγειν, to tell) was used to describe early mechanical clocks,[15] but the use of this word (still used in several Romance languages) [16] for all timekeepers conceals the true nature of the mechanisms. For example, there is a record that in 1176 Sens Cathedral installed a ‘horologe’[17] but the mechanism used is unknown. According to Jocelin of Brakelond, in 1198 during a fire at the abbey of St Edmundsbury (now Bury St Edmunds), the monks 'ran to the clock' to fetch water, indicating that their water clock had a reservoir large enough to help extinguish the occasional fire.[18] The word clock (from the Celtic words clocca and clogan, both meaning "bell"), which gradually supersedes "horologe", suggests that it was the sound of bells which also characterized the prototype mechanical clocks that appeared during the 13th century in Europe.

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