Bulova Precisionist Champlain 96B132 Watch Review

Bulova Precisionist Champlain 96B132 Watch Review

Bulova Precisionist Champlain 96B132 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

For all that it is, I don't think that the newer Bulova Precisionist watch collection gets enough attention. I don't blame people because it takes a bit of education to understand what makes these watches so special - especially at their price. What you essentially have here is a high-end quartz watch at relatively inexpensive price.

The Precisionist is a sort of sub-line under Bulova right now as each of them have the same movements. Right now there is really only one Precision movement (or movement style), but I have a feeling in time there will be more. Thus, all Precisionist watches will have both "Bulova" and "Precisionist" on the dial - but also fall into their own collections. This piece for example is in the Precisionist Champlain collection and is the model reference # 96B132. I'd like to thank WatchCo.com - who have a nice collection of Bulova Precision watches (among others) available - for supplying this review piece.

Bulova Precisionist Champlain 96B132 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Let's talk about the movement and why it is cool first. Inside all the current Precisionist watches are the Japanese made Bulova caliber P102.12 or P112.10 quartz movements. As far as I know those are the only two Precisionist movements available right now. Bulova is owned by Citizen (Japanese) at this time, but used to be US owned. The movement offers three major desirable features. First and most importantly is the accuracy. The watch is accurate to about plus/minus 10 seconds a year. That is in comparison to about 15 seconds a month for standard quartz movements. It is also comparable to much higher-end Japanese and Swiss thermocompensated quartz movements. Second, the watch has a smooth sweeping seconds hand. It is smooth like the seconds hand on a Seiko Spring Drive, and more smooth that the seconds hand on most mechanical watches. Third, it has an acceptable battery life rated at between 2-3 years per power cell.

The reason most quartz watches have a ticking seconds hand is to save on battery power. Pushing a seconds hand along all the time requires a lot of power, and quartz movements must slowly sip power from their batteries. This is the one element of the Bulova Precisionist I really don't understand - how Bulova was able to give the watch a sweeping seconds hands and retain a battery life of 2-3 years. It might be because they use a high-energy lithium ion battery. I am not sure and it is hard to find this information online. Whatever the technology, this is a major feat, and many people will enjoy the piece's high precision and the sophisticated look of a mechanical watch dial in a quartz piece.

Bulova Precisionist Champlain 96B132 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

How is the watch so accurate without thermocompensation? Well, according to Bulova, Precisionist movements use a three-versus-two prong quartz crystal as the regulator. Apparently the addition of this third prong not only allows for a higher frequency movement, but also creates some type of stabilizing effect. The P102.12 movement operates at 262,144 Hertz. That is really fast and accounts for the accuracy. In comparison, a standard quartz movement operates at 32,768 Hertz, and a mechanical movement operating at 28,800 bph is only running at 4 Hertz.

Operation of the Bulova Precisionist seems to be exactly the same as any other quartz watches - save for the sweeping seconds hand and enhanced accuracy. Overall, this is an amazing and very modern quartz movement that anyone interested in watches or accuracy should know about. I further think it is interesting that Bulova aimed straight for analog watches, when it might have made sense for Citizen to place it into digital watches first. Yes, these might compete with their atomic-controlled models, but I think it represents a distinct technology. Precisionist movements hopefully will blossom into a much larger collection.

Bulova Precisionist Champlain 96B132 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Bulova Precisionist Champlain 96B132 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

The growing range of Precisionist watches from Bulova contains both formal and sporty watches. Each have a very unique character to them. This Champlain model comes in a rather comfy but large 46.5mm wide case, here done in titanium. There are steel models available as well, and ones in black colored cases. This model is marked by a multi-layered carbon fiber dial with nice blue seconds hand. I like the logo at the end of the seconds hand which is both a "double P" for "Precisionist," as well as an infinity loop symbol.  The case is rather well engineered but mass produced. The round dial is matched with an angular look for the case and I like the large hexagonal screws on the corners. the bezel looks like a rotating bezel but sadly is not. The crown design and texture is a nice detail.

Bulova Precisionist Champlain 96B132 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Bulova opted for a curved crystal that I believe is coated mineral glass, for these watches.  The curvature is nice but offers some visual distortion making it look a bit like you are seeing the dial inside of a bubble. The modern dial design combines relatively good legibility with all sort of little details, textures, and things to look at. The hands are lume covered and big enough to see without too much distraction. There is an open date window that uses a black disc. The color is good, but I am never a fan of open "extended" date windows. There are four screws on the dial to match the look of those on the case, and the carbon fiber is deep feeling. For me the prominent hour markers and hands make it enough to appreciate. While it lacks a European sense of design refinement (as is the case with most Japanese analog watches - but not all), it is enough given the theme and technology.

The case is actually pretty sporty with 300 meters of water resistance and a relatively light weight given the size. The straps on Precisionist watches seem to be a source of contention. While the quality is fine, many people seem to think they have a better idea of what matches the design of the watch. On this model Bulova opted for a Cordura fabric strap that sort of visually matches the carbon fiber on the dial. The black textile strap is actually OK in my opinion, but you could easily swap it out with another 24mm wide strap to give it a more personalized look. Other Champlain models come on steel metal bracelets.

Bulova Precisionist Champlain 96B132 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

While the designs of Bulova Precisionist models range from funky to novel, the technology used in them is outstanding in my opinion. Bulova Precisionist watches retail prices go up to over $850, but the street prices of most are from about $250 - $500. This model 96B132 retails for $599, but is just under $450 at WatchCo.com. Even if Bulova Precisionist models aren't right for you right now, you should know about the technology and keep an eye on the range as I think they are a great addition to any collection. See this and other Bulova Precisionist models at WatchCo.com here.

Thanks to WatchCo.com for the review unit. Opinions are 100% independent.

What do you think?
  • I want it! (2)
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  • I love it! (0)
  • JohnnyJohnnyJohnny

    Looks a bit like the Hamilton Sub Zero.

    • AtSeaWatch

      @JohnnyJohnnyJohnny Good catch. It’s like they saw the SubZero screws and decided to toss them into this design, no matter how out of place they are.

  • AtSeaWatch

    The design of the case is really disjointed. It’s a grab bag of elements from other watches. That’s true of most designs these days, but this one really feels like Bulova couldn’t decide on a concept for the watch and just kept adding angles until it looked “modern”. That said, it actually comes together into an attractive whole. The dial and strap are a nice combination, and despite the silly date aperture, the dial isn’t cluttered.

    I really like the dressier men’s and women’s watches from the Precisionist line and more than that, I appreciate that Bulova is still trying to bring technical innovation to the table.

    Now if you want to talk about the Harley Davidson by Bulova collection, all of that good will goes out the window.

    • CG

      @AtSeaWatch i took a look at them… Sheesh! Well they jumped on the HD gravy train… With more dentists and bankers buying HD bikes there is a huge $$$ market for their branded items. There are maybe 2 or 3 that I would consider but I don’t ride an HD so I don’t have a need and I’m not a wannabe either… The guy that fixes my bikes says on his business card; if you want tampons and key chains go to Harley; if you want your bike FIXED right see me. Sure HD definitely “cheapens” my view of Bulova…

  • Kris C

    I am wearing this exact model right now, I quite like it. The case design is a little strange, but nothing too worrysome. My biggest complaint was with that horrible ballistic strap. I have long since replaced mine with a custom design that is far better suited. The grommets in the stock strap are ridiculous, and even though I have 8″ wrists, it was still too long: they made that strap more for an ankle.

    These are not new, I’ve had mine for well over a year now, and I left it unadjusted from day 1 to check the accuracy claims, and did not reset for daylight savings when it came up; after a full year, it was running just over 3 seconds fast, so certainly impressive.

    This champlain line has actually been updated, but not for the better. The new models have a better handset, and an actual dive bezel that turns and everything, but the watch is covered in carbon fiber inlay panels: the bracelet links, the lugs, etc, and it comes out very gaudy. You could swap the logo for that on Invicta and no one would blink. Shame, because this is great technology for a reasonable price.

    I’d love to see a precisionist chronograph.

  • CG

    When in Macy’s I would always take a quick look in the Bulova case, there was nothing there for years but badly made CZ encrusted ghetto bling. So consequently I never took a closer look at Bulova. The brand even holds a nostalgia factor for me being the first “good” US made watch I received on my 16th birthday many years ago; a solid rose gold tank mechanical dress watch. It is great to see Bulova getting away from the pop culture crap and back into innovation to a small way. Hopefully this line will grow and from this review I will definitely search them out and look in person because the price point seems completely reasonable.
    Overall, I do like this watch; even though the second hand does remind me of my wife’s sewing scissors! The face is a nice subdued architecture contrasting between a metal framework and carbon. I like the protected crown and the off angle knurled grip cuts. The screws? They do and they don’t add anything… Superfluous and ignorable. It would’ve been nice if the bezel could have been lifted and turned quarter turns and the screws used as slot guides. Funny, the color blue reminds me of the old French blue of Bugatti and Renault Alpines also the color of my IPad cursor I’m using right now! A slight push in a minor direction and this Precisionist brand could easily serve motorsport very well. They would sell like crazy at races with this price point, accuracy and some very minor design additions and/or sponsor logos. Gonna ck out WatchCo.

  • MichaelG

    I thought this brand was dead. The dial is quite tasty and I really like the blue detailing. The case is overkill and could have done with a bit of ‘less=more’. Not bad at all if this is what you’re after.

  • It is a really attractive watch.The watches authentic strap adds class to extremely stylish watch

  • MathieuRobert

    It’s a nice watch at a nice price. I like sweeping seconds hand. (I have a Bulova mechanical automatic) I like the open “extended” date window.

    About “Champlain” : The only one I know about is Samuel de Champlain, who was a French navigator, cartographer, draughtsman, soldier, explorer, geographer, ethnologist, diplomat, chronicler, founder of Quebec City and New France.
    Since I don’t see a link between the watch and him, I think it might not be about him.
    1 question, rhetorical : Why choose a name that English-native speakers can’t pronounce ?

    • MathieuRobert

      About the question : I was primarily thinking about company/watchmakers not based in France / Switzerland.

  • Ulysses31

    Can’t beat the value; a HEQ at that price is amazing.  The designs seem a bit too funky for me though.  Hopefully Citizen will broaden the range using this movement.

  • Clueless2

    1. It’s really not comparable to TC quartz because it does not live up to Bulova’s claim. Many quartz enthusiasts have done tests with the Precisionist watches and they do not live up to expectations. I don’t know if these studies were done when you posted this review, just letting you know.
    2. Your guess about the battery was spot on. The Precisionist uses a lithium coin battery, the CR2016. It’s huge, the same size as the movement. In other watches they last 10 years.  It’s really not impressive or a major feat to use a better battery though.

    • Kris C

      What claims is it not living up to? And I’d love to see links to those user tests you mention. As in my original comment below, I synced it to the atomic clock the day it arrived and left it alone for a full year, having placed a reminder in my mobile. I did not adjust it for daytlight savings, and while the date was off (it does not track a calendar to completion: february, etc require adjustments), it had deviated by approx 3 seconds in 365 days. The claim is 10 seconds a year, so I would suggest it had done admirably, and I seen several WIS reports that are similar. I’m now on year 3 and its still running strong: I now adjust it for calendar adjustments and daylight savings, but a battery change does not appear to be on the immediate horizion. Were I need to change it tomorrow, I’d be fine with that: for the superb accuracy, a battery/gasket change once every 3 or 4 years is a worthy compromise.

      • Clueless2

        Kris C yes, the claim of 10 spy is what I am referring to. While yours and others may have performed within specifications, there are many others that did not. Unfortunately, I do not copy down thread links as I read them, so I do not have these user tests on hand. These reports were primarily in the HAQ forum of WUS, and can be found with a quick search. For example, here are two threads:

        There are also threads on the Precisionists performance at varying temperature which show its sensitivity to temperature, as expected from a non-TC quartz. The main problem with Bulova’s claim, is they do not define any wear requirements. If they said it must be worn 12 hours a day to meet specs, like Seiko did for its non-TC 8F series movements, then more Precisionists would probably it live up to their claim.

  • Bulova is actually one of the oldest watchmakers. I think they are owned by Citizen now though. There is a cool article about how much their gold content is worth here…https://www.facebook.com/howmuchisgoldworth

  • Fraser Petrick

    I own two Precisionists – and they have cured me of lust.
    Why would I pay thousands for an up-scale, inaccurate, mechanical watch when I can have beauty and accuracy in the  hundreds?

  • Clueless2

    Fraser Petrick Congratulations Not everyone has the same tastes as you though.
    Beauty? I think all Precisionists look hideous with the exception of one model, and that one model is much too large.
    Up-scale? Some people buy watches just because they’re luxury items. I’m not one of them though, but there are many out there, and they keep the market alive.
    Inaccurate? I don’t mind that and many others don’t either. We appreciate the inner workings of a mechanical movement and enjoy having it on our wrist. You also don’t have to pay thousands for one. There are plenty of cheaper mechanical watches on the market for us.

  • Fraser Petrick

    Clueless2 Fraser Petrick Precisionists “hideous”? Them’s fightin’ words. Precisionist owners of the world, unite! There’s at least one barbarian at the gate! Seriously, it’s the inverse snob in me that poo-poos “upscale” watches in the multi-thousands. Twist my arm and I’ll take the Patek-Philippe (that someone else paid for). In the meantime $3-400 for a Precisionist is money well spent. (This is a shameless suck-up to the Bulova Watch Company who will want to reward me for this endorsement.) FP

  • Clueless2

    Fraser Petrick Clueless2
    It seems you missed the entire point of my post, which I thought I summarized pretty well in the first sentence: “Not everyone has the same tastes as you though.”

  • Pingback: Manchester United Gets Bulova As Official Timekeeper And Global Watch Partner | aBlogtoWatch()

  • NivesSekulic

    Did you know if you get Bulova watches at
    macys.com you can receive a free $10 gift card. I believe you can still get the
    gift card here: http://www.ebates.com/rf.do?referrerid=6u8GgEN4Bi7ZGZE6ZMgc4A%3D%3D

  • Pingback: Pregunta Seiko Sportura coleccion 2014 Vs Bulova Precisionist Champlain - Foro General()

  • Phillydog1958

    Fraser Petrick  Why buy a true automatic? Because of resale value and longevity in every way that a watch collector would want.I own a Precisionist and I own a Rolex. The Precisionist is a nice watch, but a Rolex is a classic time piece.

  • Phillydog1958

    Rolex is an investment.

  • slyfx

    I purchased this watch for my husband and he really likes it, but after a year the band is starting to fray along the edges.  Do you have any suggestions of where I can find a replacement band?

  • donfl11

    I have been a watch collector and a big fan of BULOVA for many yrs.!  I was always impressed by it being a USA made watch with swiss mvmt’s. in them,  Now all BULOVA is, is another run of the mill Japanese mvmt. watch company!  That’s too bad!!!

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  • rosskale2

    donfl11 Hi Don,I thought Bulova was Swiss mvmt.When did it become japanese mvmt? I do like a few of the Bulova’s. I just a few weeks ago was looking at Bulova but past and went for the Citizen BY0100-51h A-T.I know it is Japanese but I liked the fact of the sapphire crystal rather than mineral.Also,which would you prefer? The new Tissot Solar or an Bulova auto?

  • rosskale2

    NivesSekulic Hi Nives,do you still get full Bulova warranty? Is macys a certified dealer? Guess I will have to look at locations on site.

  • Clueless2

    rosskale2 donfl11 Citizen bought them several years ago.

  • rosskale2

    Clueless2 Fraser Petrick I agree,when you get to mid-luxury to high end,say something over $1000 it is really just for jewelry. There are many mechanical watches that last for years and are accurate. Not mechanical but I have a G-Shock that was $100 bucks that I have beaten up etc… and it still runs accurate. I have a watch I bought for about $40 bucks and I forgot about it in my drawer for a long time and it’s still ticking accurate. I just bought a new watch a Citizen By0100-51h chrono for $695 that is the most expensive watch I have.

  • rosskale2

    Clueless2 rosskale2 donfl11 Yeah,I have always liked watches.Since I haven’t been working because of back issues I have had a lot of time on my hands and watches really interest me now.My wife hates it, I am like a deer in the headlights when I go next to a watch counter.I just bought this Citizen and so far I am happy with it.I have been checking out the new Tissot Solar and will wait for future reviews and start saving my nickels and dimes.I have mostly always been the $20 watch guy then throw it away but let me tell you some of those $20 watches go forever and you can beat them up.Guess I have embraced the art of a fine watch(watches) …

  • dahcd

    Not bad, like the sweeping second hand technology, but they need to tone it down a bit,
    42-44mm would be nice and get rid of those hex screws.

  • Neville Pawson

    Hi I like my bulova precisionist , however the one beef I have is the hex nuts. Shortly after I bought it I noticeced that that two nuts had broken off. I don, teven know how it happened. I had them replaced. Just recently I caught my watch a glancing knock against a wooden chair and sure enough one of the nuts broke off. Has anybody had the same problem and do these nuts do anything or are they just decorations? Nev

    • Stephen Disdale

      Hi Neville, love my precisionist but like you i lost one of the hex nuts, luckily i found it under the cooker a week later and glued it back inas the thread had broken. they do seem to be decorative as they just screw into the crown. Steve.

  • mosfet500 .

    I’m not sure why they call it a ” three prong”? Crystals don’t have prongs, they are grown and cut, the cut determines the output frequency. when a small voltage is applied across the crystal it resonates relatively accurately and I have 32,768 watches that are accurate to a few seconds a year. My Seiko SNA141P1 for example which, by the way, is a superb watch that you can no longer get.

    Higher frequencies do not translate to greater accuracy. Accuracy is a product of the cut and its type, the temperature and the age basically. I can build a 32,768 that rivals the Accutron, any decent electronics engineer can. It requires larger space because you have to ovenize it above ambient temperature and that heating takes power – too much for a small watch. Now some crystal manufacturers are controlling the crystal with a microcontroller and a variable capacitor which omits the need for heat and higher currents but I don’t know if any watches have that configuration, Bulova may be using that technology but I don’t know.

    You can also make a 32.768 crystal run a sweep second hand sixteen times a second. (32,768 /2048 = 16.).Like Ariel said at the cost of power, that’s why the Lithium battery. The problem is that you can get very accurate watches if you take the time and expense to cut the crystal accurately, you can probably find a fluke Wally World watch that’s very accurate, doing it every time is another story but that doesn’t mean all 32,768 watches are inherently inaccurate, they are not – just to set the record straight- and I have several that are superb right out of the box, in fact Seiko crystals are so good that I use them in other applications. And yes, I prefer Seiko to Bulova although I have a never used 1960’s era 23 jewel Bulova that is really special!

    • Tom

      There is so much wrong with this post that it begs a response. They call it ‘three pronged’ because they have cut the crystal to have three prongs. Most 32 kHz quartz resonators are cut into the shape of two-pronged ‘tuning forks’. Bulova added a third prong.

      32 kHz watches may be able to hold accuracy to within a few seconds per year (without thermocompensation), so long as they are kept at a relatively stable temperature (such as being worn pretty much 24/7 or being kept in places that don’t see big temperature variations), but no manufacturer (these days) will specify a non-TC 32 kHz watch to better than 5 seconds per month, and most rate their watches at 15, 20 or 30 seconds per month. Quite simply, the average 32 kHz movement has no way of adjusting its rate to compensate for changing climatic conditions and manufacturers need to account for a range of possible users in a range of possible situations when they declare the maximum expected rate of a watch.

      The difference between a 5 second per month and a 30 second per month movement comes down to the quality of the crystal and the level of care taken in setting its count correction at the point of manufacture. Back in the ’70s, Seiko were offering 32 kHz, non-thermocompensated, ‘Very Fine Adjusted’ watches spec’d to 1 second per month, but since it became easier to achieve this (or better) accuracy with high frequency oscillators or thermocompensation, the VFA approach is no longer seen.

      On that note, high frequency oscillators are inherently more accurate because they are less susceptible to changes in temperature. They also provide the added benefit of potentially finer count correction. It is simply wrong to say that “the cut determines the output frequency” and indeed one common approach to thermocompensation is to vary the crystal’s output frequency by varying the current fed into it. The cut determines how a crystal’s frequency will vary across a range of temperatures for a given electrical input. ‘AT’ cut crystals were, historically, about the most stable you could get (in a wristwatch), and were used in the MHz-range watches from the mid-70s, but they were difficult to produce and consumed large amounts of power.

      Besides the ‘high frequency’ approach, Bulova’s crystal oscillator actually uses two other technologies that were developed in the late ’70s and early ’80s. The first is the three-pronged resonator and the second is the torsional resonator. Most crystal oscillators use a flexural approach and I believe this is still probably the case with Bulova’s oscillator, even though it is described as a ‘torsional resonator’. What is most likely is that the cut they have chosen combines both torsional and flexural modes, much like Seiko’s ‘twin mode’ cal. 9063 from the early 1980s. While Bulova’s marketing department seem to suggest that the third prong in their crystal oscillator provide the 262 kHz frequency, it is more likely that it adds the torsional resonance mode.

      • mosfet500 .

        Change in temperature is a not the hurdle it once was. uC control of crystals accomplishes that and it’s one of the best solutions. And while it’s too large for a watch the DS32KHZ# for example is a very accurate 32K compensated xtal oscillator.
        Higher frequencies do create higher currents so the advantage is to compensate crystals at lower frequencies with capacitance. It’s cheaper and just as effective application. Also the uC application has less to do dividing a 32,768 Hz xtal than a 10 Meg xtal, for example.

        So frankly we don’t care if higher frequencies are more accurate, the baggage they bring are a poor watch application. And a watch with a sweep hand that requires a 300 tooth wheel like the original Accutron is no more inherently accurate than one that divides a second into 3 or 5 parts. The source is the point of accuracy.

        Shaving a crystal changes the frequency. Period. Prongs, there aren’t any, you can take a commercial crystal out of its holder and shave it down. Guess what happens? The frequency changes! Don’t care if it’s SC or AT both change the frequency.

        Yes, I said “cut” when I should have said shave – mea culpa.

        Your theory fails to meet modern RTC applications. You can probably make a great watch, you just need a wire to a battery in your pocket!


        • Tom

          I love it when people with electrical engineering backgrounds start talking about RTCs like they have some relevance to modern quartz wristwatches. Let’s go step-by-step:

          1. The active compensation of the effects of thermal variation on the rate of a quartz watch is something that has been around since 1977 and although ETA’s new ‘Precidrive’ range has brought prices down, thermocompensated movements are still significantly more expensive than ‘ordinary’ quartz movements. Bulova’s HF approach aims to give similar accuracy to an expensive Swiss or Japanese TC movement but in a far cheaper package. And just to illustrate how far removed the electrical engineer’s world is from high accuracy quartz wristwatches, the DS32KHZ that you mention (described in sales literature as “industry’s most accurate TCXO”) is spec’d to 1 minute per year. We have had ‘5 second per year’ quartz watches since 1978. A minute per year would not meet (post-2001) COSC chronometer standards.

          2. The TCXO that you cited is fairly cheap, but if you try to shrink that down to fit into a wristwatch and also improve its accuracy to 10 seconds per year, then you will quickly find it’s cheaper to just use a higher frequency XO. You say that uC control is “just as effective” as an HF approach, but I would actually argue that it is more effective. TC approaches are more expensive (in the world of wristwatches) but the number of TC movements available eclipses the number of HF movements. Some of my most accurate watches may be from my collection of 4 MHz watches (from Omega, Casio and Citizen), but they chew through batteries at quite a rate.

          3. Count division is essential for all quartz watches, regardless of the crystal’s frequency, but dividing 262 k honestly does not impose any greater strain on an IC than dividing 32 k. It does, however, allow for finer adjustments in the correction. This is something of a moot point in Bulova’s case, however, as the rate of their movements cannot be adjusted.

          4. No-one ever said that a watch with a sweep second hand was more accurate than one without. It’s a marketing gimmick.

          5. You can change a crystal’s frequency by shaving it. That’s a statement of the flippin’ obvious. You can then adjust the current to restore the frequency. A crystal’s physical properties determine its frequency at a given current (and temperature). XOs in wristwatches are made to pretty tight tolerances (even more so at the higher end) so that they can be depended upon to oscillate pretty close to 32 kHz at a given temperature and for a given current. Most modern XOs in quartz watches, however, ARE cut into the shape of a tuning fork – two parallel prongs joined at one end.

          6. Not sure what ‘theory’ of mine you’re referring to. I have simply been correcting your misinformation with a few facts from the world of watches.

          • mosfet500 .

            “5 seconds a year since 1978” The most accurate quartz watch that I know of is PLUS or MINUS 5 seconds a year, it’s the Citizen A660. What watch are you talking about?

            “dividing 262 k honestly does not impose any greater strain on an IC than dividing 32 k.”

            That’s wrong. First, 262 is not easily divided by 2 to the nth power that means it requires more circuitry to divide it to one second. Secondly, the higher the frequency the more current drawn from a chip. What do you think is going on inside that integrated circuit? The more math it has to do the more current it draws just like a computer. A 32,768 divides down to one second by a simple logical shift, 2 to the power of 15 = 32,768. That’s not just by chance, those xtals were designed specifically for that frequency and to use the least amount of math and circuitry possible.

            Watches have no corner on size to accuracy. IC’s have thousands of semiconductors in them, let’s look at the DS32768#. I love non engineers who never applied theory to actual empirical testing and never learned how to read a data sheet. First, that chip had a tolerance from 0 to +40C for 1 minute a year. What’s a watch crystal’s accuracy over that temperature? And what happens empirically when you actually test that IC which is good enough for GPS receivers? Well, I did test several of those chips with a rubidium standard accurate to 1 second in 300+ years and I did plot the histogram of that chip over time on a precision instrument. A uC calibrated to it would have a deviation in frequency of couple of seconds a year with a 5C deviation in temp, way more than the human body deviates and better than any watch made. Yes, it’s large, want it smaller? Look at chips like the SiT1552.

            OK, you theorize, did you actually ever machine a balance staff for a watch? Did ever design a clock or watch? Did you ever build a precision oscillator? I did all three.

            It’s “flippin’ obvious”? Sure it is, that’s the real world way to set the frequency, current can only change frequency within a limited range and again, you don’t want increase current in a watch, it’s a poor application in or out of a watch. In an oven controlled oscillator frequency is maintained by accurate temperature because temperature is has the greatest effect on xtal frequency. You don’t maintain frequency with current, it’s just not done. A chip like the DS32KHZ# is exceptional because of the range it covers – that a watch xtal doesn’t cover.


          • Tom

            Ok, off the top of my head I can think of Seiko calibres 9980 and 9983 which were both made in 1978 and both spec’d to 5 SPY. By the way, while manufacturers might feel the need to add ‘+/-‘ in their spec sheets, this is probably to hedge against the bonehead buyer who’d otherwise complain if his watch runs slow when he’d expected it to run fast. In the real world, the ‘+/-‘ is a completely unnecessary addition.

            Seiko were the first to have a 5 SPY thermocompensated quartz watch, but it would be remiss of me not to mention Citizen’s 4 MHz (thermo-insensitive) watches in cal.s 8650, 7370 and 1730, which were spec’d to between 3 and 5 SPY (with the 3 SPY cal. 8650 first appearing in 1975).

            Other movements spec’d to 5 SPY include Seiko cal.s 9481, 9483, 9681, 9682 as well as various special edition 9Fs, and, of course, Citizen’s A660, A010 and A060. There are two rather niche manufacturers, by the way, who produce 32 kHz quartz watches spec’d to 1 SPY: Hoptroff and Morgenwerk.

            In terms of the strain put on the IC by the extraordinary mathematical demands of dividing 262,144 by 2, down to 1 (which, by the way, divides easily and exactly), the difference compared to dividing 32,768 is so minuscule as to be completely irrelevant. Take Seiko’s dual oscillator cal. 9983 from 1978, for example. Regardless of the power demands of running two oscillators (one at 32 kHz and the other at 40 kHz) continuously, the IC itself drew only 0.9 microamps despite having to do continuous mathematical acrobatics to set a rate based on the variation between the two oscillators. A year later, Seiko’s cal. 7223, running just one 32 kHz oscillator in a non-thermocompensated movement, nevertheless put a strain of 1 microamp on the IC. The point is, there are a host of things that affect an IC’s power consumption and the mathematics of count division is one of the least significant.

            This isn’t theory. These watches were actually made and you can read the spec sheets.

            Now on to operating temperatures. I love it when a guy says ‘read the spec sheet’ and then fails to do so himself. Citizen’s A010 (5 SPY) has an operating range of +5 to +40 Celcius. Most Seikos have a range of +5 to +35 Celcius. Then there are more unusual watches such as Morgenwerk’s MSC1 which has an operating range of -10 to +60 Celcius and Omega’s 1666 which has a range from -20 to +70 Celcius (although, while both of these calibres are thermocompensated and promise very high levels of accuracy, neither manufacturer specifies exactly what SPY may be expected at the extreme ends of those scales). I read the DS32KHZ’s spec sheet and its poor (1 minute per year) spec is applicable to a slightly wider range of temperatures than the 5 to 10 SPY offerings from Seiko and Citizen, but I can’t imagine there are many people who would leave their watches in a sub-5 degrees Celcius environment for protracted periods.

            You talk about theory without testing. I am not an engineer, but I am a collector with a strong focus on high accuracy quartz watches. I have a MicroSet precision timer which can time watches either against a GPS PPS or a GPS-calibrated 16 MHz TCXO (depending on the type of measurement you’re going for) and which has a custom software build designed specifically to provide rates for high accuracy quartz watches. I also have an old Witschi machine for timing LCD watches and for my 4 MHz watches. On top of that I have a Torrey Pines Echotherm heater/chiller that I use to cycle my watches from 0 to 50 Celcius as I time them. All this, however, is to develop and explore ‘theories’. For real world testing I time all of my watches at least once a month against a reliable stratum 2 time server. Two of my watches have even been worn (one on each wrist) and timed every day for over a year. The results you get from a few minutes (or even a few hours) on timing machine can only be extrapolated to an annual performance in *theory*. In practical application, the only SPY that matters is that attained after a full year of real world testing.

            The SiT1552, by the way, may be smaller than the DS32KHZ that you proposed in your last post, but its stability of +/- 10 PPM is frankly woeful. That’s about 26 seconds per month!

            You talk about theory vs building a watch. I’m not sure where you’re going with that. I have not mentioned one single ‘theory’ that is not based on actual production watches. And while I have enormous respect for the skill of a watchmaker, I don’t believe that the only way to understand something is to build it. I am sure that making watch parts has given you some genuine and valuable insights into watches, but it clearly hasn’t taught you anything about how quartz watches actually work.

            All the testing and experimentation that I have done, to date, is, I admit, fairly amateurish, but in the world of high accuracy quartz watch enthusiasts there are others with watchmaking backgrounds and engineering backgrounds who have conducted far more extensive tests than I and there are one or two who are so knowledgeable that they have (quite literally) written the book on quartz watches. My results chime largely with those of the established experts in the field but, again, I should reiterate that I have left all the ‘theories’ at home, in this series of posts. Every single fact listed here is based on production watches and manufacturers’ spec sheets.

            The approach of varying the current to change the frequency of a crystal and thereby alter the rate of a watch is not simply theory. It is commonly known as VCTCXO and was used in Rolex’s cals 5053 and 5055 from 1977 to 2001 and although Citizen are famously guarded about their methods, seeing how an A660 performs on a Witschi QT-6000 suggests that this method is still in use today.

            I shall not delve into the realms of gear cuts.

          • mosfet500 .

            What? +/-5 is not significant? It’s a good thing you don’t make parts for industry. +/- means exactly that. It means exactly that the xtal has a 10 ppm tolerance. Period! Now show me a quartz watch made since “1978 that is 5 SPY”. Science doesn’t change because we’re talking about watches. Don’t ever work in a machine shop, none of your parts will fit together.

            The Citizen specs say, ” +/- 5 when WORN at normal operating temperatures (between +5C and +40C)”. Now, what does that mean? It means that the watch is worn in ambient temperatures between +5C and +40C. NOT THAT THE WATCH IS GUARANTEED TO KEEP ITS ACCURACY BETWEEN THOSE TEMPERATURES! Why not? Because the human body maintains a relatively constant temperature! Learn how to read specs.

            And let’s talk about microcontrollers. The spec sheet on an Atmel 2313A, for example, gives very detailed specs on the current chips use at different frequencies, the higher the frequency the more current the chip uses.Period. And math functions and comparative functions are two different things. Math functions take more power. All other variables equal, a uC running at 262Khz still draws more current than one running at 32Khz. That’s a scientific fact.

            The bottom line here is that you’re spinning your wheels just like everyone else who buys a super accurate watch. What are you going to do with it? Impress your friends? You agree that a sweep second hand is hype. Well you just bought and paid a lot for the hype! Railroad watches timed trains and they spec out at about +/- 5 seconds a DAY.
            John Harrison won the prize for longitude that kept ships from crashing into the cost of England, are you doing that? Because I don’t think his watch was +/- 5 SPY.

            So in a realistic world what’s more worthwhile? A watch that uses more current and a shorter battery life or a watch that has a much longer battery life but relatively good accuracy and costs a lot less. That’s a rhetorical question.


          • Tom

            The ‘+/-‘ part is irrelevant because an XO cannot possibly be both 5 seconds fast AND 5 seconds slow at the same time. Saying that it will be accurate to ‘5 seconds per year’ is exactly the same as saying it will be accurate to ‘+/- 5 seconds per year’.

            I tire of this. Good day.

          • mosfet500 .

            No. No! The watch works at a specific frequency, as I’m sure you know, but the xtal can vary below or above the working frequency depending on temperature and other factors during the day or monthy, that’s how the watch can be slow or fast. It’s not at the same time.

            be well

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