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Quartz vs Mechanical Watches: What’s The Difference?

/ June 24, 2020
quartz movement vs mechanical movement

When shopping for a watch, you will regularly see different terms such as ‘mechanical’, and ‘quartz’. Knowing which to choose can be a bit of a doozy for the uninitiated. So, let’s discuss the difference between quartz vs mechanical watches; and which one is best for you. 

Basic Definitions

Quartz watches are powered by a battery. Mechanical watches utilize a ‘mainspring’ which is carefully wound up in order to release energy slowly over time; this is what drives the components which ultimately operate your timepiece. 

1. Mechanical Watches. 

Mechanical watches are considered by purists to be the most traditional version of a watch. The inner workings of a mechanical watch can be dizzying to try and comprehend, but here is the basic gist: 

Within a mechanical watch, you will find dozens of small components and gears that are carefully placed and engineered. These pieces are powered by the tightening of the mainspring, which is then released over a set span of time (typically between 40 hours – 10 days depending on your model and quality).

Mechanical watches can be found in either ‘manual’ or ‘automatic’, with both variations being slightly different. You can check out our post on Manual vs. Automatic watches here.

A good example of a mechanical watch is the ‘Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch, Apollo 11 50th Anniversary.’ 

Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch, Apollo 11 50th Anniversary.
Courtesy: @leonlimyz

2. Quartz Watches. 

Quartz Watches are relatively new inventions, however, they still take up about 90% of the watch market today. They are battery-operated and work by sending small electrical currents through a pure polished quartz crystal. These currents make the crystal vibrate at a rate of roughly 33 times per minute. This generates movement in the components and allows the timepiece to do its job with extreme accuracy. 

Quartz watches do not need to be wound as mechanical watches do. So, they are considered to be quite a bit more convenient than mechanical watches. This accounts for their extreme popularity. In many cases, the battery of a quartz watch can last several years. 

Quartz watches are incredibly diverse in the amount of options available on the market for them. They can be found in high-end luxury models from brands such as Rolex, and Omega; or they can be found for as little as $15 from your local supermarket. You have to be a bit more careful when searching for quality with quartz watches. 

A great example of a quartz watch is the ‘Longines Conquest VHP.’ 

Stunning Longines Conquest VHP from @realartman

A Comparison: Quartz vs Mechanical Watches

1. Mechanical Watch Pros & Cons: 

Pros: 

  • Marveling work of engineering that watch purists will love.
  • Never need battery replacement.
  • It can come in manual or automatic-wind options. 
  • Much more expensive than quartz

Cons: 

  • Typically far more expensive than quartz.
  • Must be wound regularly, unless the watch is self-wind.
  • Maintenance service cost you’ll have to pay to make sure the machine inside are running precisely (Just like your cars!)

2. Quartz Watch Pros & Cons: 

Pros: 

  • Almost always cheaper than mechanical.
  • Battery lasts for years.
  • No need for periodic maintenance service
  • More options available on the market. 

Cons: 

  • Not as fun for lovers of watch mechanics and engineering.
  • Higher risk of poor craftsmanship. 

WATCH: Eye-opening video from WIRED to see the inner working of Japanese Quartz vs. Swiss Mechanical Watches

Which Is The Superior Option? 

Ultimately, superiority between the two is an abstract concept. It really boils down to what you value most in a watch. Mechanical watches are more traditional and ‘pure’ experience but they require a lot of maintenance.

Quartz watches are far cheaper and more readily available but they aren’t as ‘fun’ if you love watch mechanics. 

In the end, the choice is yours. So long as you understand what you are buying, you’ll get a great watch for yourself.


Read more:

Automatic Vs. Manual Wind Watches: What’s The Difference?

Top 5 Tips For Buying Your First Luxury Watch

What are grey market watches?

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Ari Pham
Co-Founder, CEO WatchSignals.com