Have you ever found yourself thinking about what makes a watch tick? Perhaps you’ve heard terms like automatic watch and quartz watch, but you just don’t know what they mean. These are two different types of watch movements. A watch movement, also known as a caliber, is the mechanism of a watch. Essentially, it is the powerhouse of the watch- what makes it tick!
Now, you might be wondering:
“What’s the difference?” or “Which one is better?” There are key aspects that differentiate automatic watches from quartz watches, but as to which one is better, that depends on your specific preferences. We’re here to help explain the differences so you can decide which one suits you best.
Quartz Vs Automatic Reliability
On the outside, it’s difficult to tell the difference between a quartz and automatic watch. An easy way to distinguish a quartz watch from an automatic watch is to pay close attention to the way the second hand moves. On a quartz watch, the second hand has the tick-tock motion typically associated with clocks. The second hand on an automatic watch moves in a smooth, sweeping motion. But while their appearance may be similar, it’s what is on the inside that makes these two types of watches so different. Their brains, so to speak, are what make these watches function differently- and we’ll get into that in just a moment. Both quartz and automatic watches are reliable and have the ability to tell fairly accurate time. However, quartz watches are considered superior when it comes to accuracy. A quartz watch can measure exact time to within half a second per day. An automatic watch may be off by a few seconds per day. Since automatic watches consist of more moving parts, there is a higher probability of a malfunction, causing time to be less accurate. In the long run, the reliability of your watch partly depends on how well you take care of it.
Quartz Vs Automatic Weight
Another difference between quartz and automatic watches is their weight. Generally, automatic watches are heavier and bulkier than quartz watches. This is due to all of the steel parts that comprise an automatic watch movement. It all comes down to the complexity of the movement. The more complications such as alarms, chronographs, perpetual calendars, etc., the heavier it will weigh. It’s important to keep in mind that the difference in weight is partly determined by the watch components. If you’re looking for a lightweight watch, you should probably go with a quartz watch. But if you like watches with more functions and don’t mind a little bit of extra weight on your wrist, an automatic watch is the one for you.
A Closer Look at Quartz Movement Watches
A quartz movement is an electronic movement. As its name suggests, a quartz watch contains a small piece of quartz crystal integrated into the watch’s mechanics. This is where science becomes more involved. Every timekeeping device needs something constant to measure time against, right? That’s exactly what the quartz is for. To create power in quartz watch movements, a battery sends an electrical current through the quartz crystal, which electrifies the crystal and creates vibrations. These vibrations keep the movement oscillating and drive the motor to move the watch hands to tell time. The vibrations occur at an almost perfectly constant frequency, which is why quartz watches are incredibly accurate.
Do Quartz Watches Need Batteries?
While most quartz watches are battery powered, there are a few exceptions. In 1976, Citizen invented the world’s first light-powered quartz watch. This technology, now referred to as “Eco-Drive,” generates power from any light source to the watch running without ever having to replace batteries. These solar powered watches charge themselves using natural, artificial, and even dim light. Eco-Drive quartz watches can run for up to several months without additional exposure to light when fully charged. Generally, regular quartz watches batteries will last two to five years before needing to be replaced. Watches with fancy features such as illumination, compasses or stopwatches have the potential to go through batteries quicker.
How do I care for a quartz watch?
Of course, you should always be careful when wearing any type of watch so as not to damage it. Other than that, quartz watches are fairly low maintenance. Since most quartz watches are battery operated, you simply need to replace the battery once it dies. It’s best to bring your quartz watch to a professional to have the battery replaced. Any good professional jeweler, like Leo Hamel’s, will offer to clean your watch as well.
Dive Deep into Mechanical Movement Watches
Quartz watches are a class of their own. But automatic watches can be referred to by a few different names. We’re going to break it down really quickly to eliminate any confusion. Automatic watches are also called mechanical watches. Mechanical watches are made of two sub-groups: automatic and manual wind. Manual wind watches aren’t as common nowadays as automatic watches, which is why the automatic sub-group is also used as the main term. Now, let’s take a closer look into these kinds of watches.
Unlike quartz watches, mechanical watches are not battery operated; they run on kinetic energy. Mechanical movements use energy from a wound spring to power the watch. The spring stores energy, transfers it through a series of gears and other springs, and regulates the release of energy in order to move the watch hands to tell time. A mechanical watch will have anywhere from 50 to 300 working parts, depending on the movement. All of the intricate details and tiny components of mechanical watches is what makes them so fascinating. In fact, many mechanical watches have a window on the case back to allow you to observe the movement.
Mechanical watches are either self-winding automatic watches or manual-wind watches. Automatic movements create energy from the natural motion of the wearers’ wrist. With each movement of the wrist, a metal weight, called the rotor, spins and transfers energy that will automatically wind the mainspring. As long as an automatic watch is worn regularly, it will maintain timekeeping functions without requiring winding. However, if an automatic watch hasn’t been worn for an extended period of time it will require a quick manual wind to accumulate power. If you don’t feel like hand winding your automatic watch whenever it hasn’t been worn for a while, a great alternative is to use a watch winder. The winder spins the watch around, moving the rotor and winding the mainspring. It’s really beneficial for an automatic watch to be stored on a winder and we heartily recommend it.
The other kind of mechanical watches, manual movement watches are considered to be the most traditional. Oftentimes, these kinds of watches are referred to as “hand-wound movements” because they have to be manually wound by hand in order to create energy to move the watch’s mainspring. The functions are essentially the same as an automatic watch except the wearer must turn the crown multiple times to wind the mainspring and store potential energy. Manual-wind watches have the potential to reserve enough power to run for anywhere from 24 hours to 5 or more days, depending on the movement. It may seem tedious or bothersome to have to physically wind your watch, but it is part of the traditional appeal. Most manual-wind watch enthusiast have simply created the habit of winding their watch before wearing it.
Mechanical Watch Brands
The invention of quartz movements in the 1960s could have rendered mechanical watches obsolete because of their ease and precision. But even now, many watch enthusiasts desire the history and aesthetic of mechanical watches. Even though mechanical watches aren’t as plentiful as quartz watches, there are some renowned brand name options out there. Whether you’re looking for a self-winding automatic watch or a manual-wind watch, here are a few excellent choices:
- Tag Heuer
- Patek Philippe
How do I care for an automatic watch?
Taking care of an automatic watch requires a bit more maintenance than does a quartz watch. To ensure the level of accuracy is maintained, it is recommended to have automatic watches serviced every three to seven years, depending on the age and brand of the watch.
Now, you might be thinking about a specific watch brand that you’re interested in. But what if they only make quartz watches and you desire an automatic, or vice versa?
Here’s the best part:
Many watch brands make both quartz and automatic watches! If you find a watch you like, but it’s the wrong type of movement for you, you might be able to find that brand of watch in your desired type of movement. It’s very common for watch manufacturers to make models of both types of movements. Let’s take a closer look at two companies that do this: Cartier and Tag Heuer.
Cartier Quartz Vs Automatic
If you’re shopping for a luxury timepiece, Cartier is a great choice. Whether you’re looking for a classic wristwatch or a more intricate, artsy piece you’re bound to find a truly stunning watch. Luckily, Cartier makes quartz and automatic watches for both men and women. In fact, almost every Cartier watch collection is available in both quartz and automatic movements. If your focus is on style alone, then your most economical option is a quartz watch. They are less expensive and don’t require a lot of maintenance. But if you are a true watch fanatic and care about what makes your watch tick on top of how it looks, you will probably appreciate an automatic more. It will cost more, but it will last you a lifetime. Either kind of fine watch can become a remarkable family heirloom to be passed down from generation to generation.
Aquaracer Quartz Vs Automatic
The Tag Heuer Aquaracer is one of the most popular dive watches. This esteemed wristwatch is offered in both quartz and automatic movements. From the outside, they appear very similar. They both feature faceted indexes with luminescent hands and markers, a unidirectional turning bezel, a scratch resistant sapphire crystal with anti-reflective treatment, and an angled date window at 3 o’clock. They are also water resistant up to 300 meters. The difference is the way they work. Of course, the quartz movement Aquaracer is powered by a battery. It is considered one of the most reliable and accurate movements made in Switzerland with textbook precision. While only slightly less precise than the quartz movement, the automatic movement Aquaracer is an awesome example of Swiss watchmaking expertise and tradition. With a power reserve of 38 hours, the automatic Aquaracer is more popular among watch aficionados. Both models are reliable and durable on land and in the water. Choosing between a quartz and automatic Aquaracer may depend on how much you’re willing to spend- the automatic movement costs about a grand more.
Quartz Watch Problems
No matter which kind of watch you wear, quartz or automatic, there is always the potential for problems to occur. The most common reason that quartz watches stop working is because the battery is dead. This is a simple fix. All you need to do is take it to a professional watch repair business and have it replaced for a small fee. It is not recommended to try to replace the battery on your own. If the battery isn’t the problem and you attempt to remove it, you could actually cause more damage to other functions of your watch.
Is Your Watch Not Working After Battery Change?
Sometimes a quartz watch still won’t work properly even after the battery has been replaced. It’s a rare circumstance, but it is possible. This is another reason we recommend you always have a professional look at your watch before you try to make any adjustments yourself. If you’ve changed the battery yourself, there are a few things you need to think about. Is the replacement battery new or has it been sitting around for a while? Are you using the proper tools or did you simply use your bare hands? Natural skin oils can damage batteries, so tweezers or gloves should be used. You also need to be sure you’ve placed the new battery in the correct position. If all else is in order, your quartz watch might just need to be shorted to be restarted. This is like jump starting a car- the battery and metal bridge need to make contact, creating a short, which should start the movement. It’s also possible the movement itself is dead, but there’s no way to tell without having it examined by a professional.
Interested in Automatic or Quartz Watches?
By this point, you have a better understanding of the differences between automatic and quartz watches. It’s tough to say which one is better than the other- this is entirely up to you to decide. Are you looking for a practical, low-maintenance watch that is uber accurate? If so, then you should go with a quartz watch. But if you’re looking for something more traditional with impressive mechanical technology that will last a lifetime, you should go with an automatic watch. Whether you’ve made up your mind or not, visit our store on San Diego Avenue to take a closer look at some of our finest automatic and quartz watches. See them in person, try them on, and decide which one is best for your style. At Leo Hamel’s, we’re happy to help make all your watch dreams come true.