Mechanical vs. Quartz Watches: Introduction

Mechanical and Quartz Watch Movement

Mechanical vs. Quartz Movements: What is the Difference?

There are countless watch styles on the market. Knowing the differences between the two primary types of watch movements is important in making an educated choice about which is best for you. The two types of watch movements are quartz (electronic) and mechanical.

Quartz movements are essentially small computers powered by a battery. The name “quartz” refers to an actual piece of quartz crystal within the electronic motor. The quartz crystal acts as a resonator (essentially a conductor), which regulates the current between the battery power and the circuitry. A quartz watch can display the time digitally or in analog – analog display uses hands to tell time; with digital, the time is expressed numerically on an LCD screen.

Mechanical Watch Movement Close-upMechanical movements, on the other hand, function without a battery. A mechanical watch movement is made up of hundreds of parts and powered by a mainspring, which releases energy through a system of gears regulated by an escapement. The escapement mechanism checks and releases the flow of energy in fixed amounts using an oscillating balance-spring and wheel. Every function of a mechanical watch is engineered without electronic influence.

Some mechanical watches are referred to as “automatic.” Automatic watches are a subset of mechanical; they feature self-winding mechanisms that work by harnessing the motion generated by the watch’s wearer.

Mechanical vs. Quartz Watches: Which are Better?

The answer is neither, since they are inherently quite different. The reasons for choosing one over the other are personal and based on both palpable and impalpable differences. What follows is a side-by-side comparison of their more tangible advantages and disadvantages.

Durability: With few moving parts, quartz watches typically sustain shocks better than mechanicals. That said, the modern mechanical watch stands up quite well to life’s day-to-day thumps and bangs.

Price: Most quartz watches are affordable due to the fact that quartz movements are easier to build and can be mass manufactured. Mechanical movements require labor-intensive assembly and have more parts.

Accuracy: Quartz watches are regulated electronically and usually retain their accuracy within a few seconds per month or year. By comparison, a mechanical watch, with a daily rate variation between -4 and +6 seconds per day, is considered acceptable – and this can increase or decrease wildly depending on external factors such as temperature, resting position and day-to-day wear.

Maintenance: Quartz watches do not stop until the battery dies (unless the watch is otherwise damaged)*. Batteries typically last between two and four years, depending on the watch and battery. By contrast, most mechanical watches must be wound every 40 hours or so, or they will stop; self-winding automatics will also stop if they are not worn or kept on a watch winder.

Mechanical Watch MaintenanceMechanical watches do not require batteries but do need servicing approximately every five years, usually at a cost in the hundreds of dollars. If maintained properly, a mechanical watch can last a lifetime or more, whereas a quartz watch is more disposable.

(*There are alternatives to standard batteries. For example, some modern quartz watches use solar power to charge a rechargeable battery, eliminating the need for replacements.)

Functions: In addition to telling time, quartz watches often incorporate multi-functions such as chronographs, alarms, date displays, and even things like altimeters and backlighting. In mechanical watches these sorts of functions are called “complications.” Implementing them mechanically is far more difficult and some cannot be achieved, but those that can, such as alarms and chronographs, are fascinating in their construction.

Both mechanical and quartz watch movements have their strengths, and reasons for choosing one over the other range from price to purpose. The bottom line is: consider what you need and want out of a watch and decide accordingly. Read, research and ask around. Some people are pushovers for outstanding design and color, while others look for more calculable advantages. In the end, there is no wrong choice. Enjoy what you wear.

About Gevril Group

Gevril GroupGevril Group is the exclusive US representative for select European watch brands, distributing and servicing luxury, fashion and sports timepieces at a wide range of price points. Gevril Group also operates a full-service watch repair department staffed by master Swiss watchmakers. Contact Gevril Group by email or by calling 845-425-9882.

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