Differences between mechanical or quartz watches

Advices the 23 January 2013 by Traz "the doc"

You can choose a watch according to various features: style, special functions, but you can’t deny the movement remains a key one to consider for any watch amateur. Two main movement types exists: mchanical and quartz. Here are few explanations about those:

Mechanical Watches:

movado automatic

Watch: Movado Datron automatic

A mechanical watch movement is exclusively assured by mechanical items moving together (gearwheels, springs, prawls…). Up to the hands, the energy is provided by a spring untighening gradually and making the different gearwheels turning. Two types of mechanical watches can be found according to the way they wind up:
- The hand-wound watch has to be wound turning the crown by hand. It has to be made regularly.
- The automatic watch features a rotor turning as you keep your wrist moving. Then, the winding is automatically made as long as you wear the watch.
Hand-wound and automatic movements both presents advantages and drawbacks: the first is finer and the second cand avoid manually winding the watch.

Quartz Watches:

lip himalaya

Watch: Lip Himalaya

The quartz movement is quite a recent invention in the great World of watchmaking, as the first watch featuring a quartz movement is dated from 1969 (it was actually the Seiko 35SQ). They work with a piezoelectric movement, meaning that: as it is exposed to electric currents, the quartz crystal vibrates on a very high and regular frequency. So counting the number of vibrations will measure time.

As the quartz movement precision is exteme, from about few seconds a month (the best mechanical watches have a precision from about few seconds a day), quartz really was a major evolution at that time. Besides, few programming lines can easily allow adding many functions (chronograph, alarm, calendar, moon phases, tides schedule) when they can hardly be added to a mechanical movement. Finally, quartz movements are sturdier, having a better resistance to shocks and vibrations.

Hybrid watches:


Watch: Seiko SKA369P1 Kinetic

Here is a third category of movements, neither mechanical, nor electronic; quite a union between those two Worlds actually. Again, the Japanese Seiko initiated those “hybrid” watches through two inventions: the Kinetic and the Spring Drive. A Kinetic movement follows the same regulating system than a quartz, so here the energy does not comes from a battery, but from a accumulator recharged with a oscilliating mass. Then, the watch is as precise as a quartz and freed from any battery life.

As for the Spring Drive, it is very innovative, quite revolutionary. This movement is told to replace a classic mechanical regulating system (escapement and balance) with a electromagnetic-quartz regulation, all while keeping the whole mechanical transmission, from the retor to the hands, through the barrel.

Which to choose?

swatch-Black Laquered

Watch: Watch Black Lacquered

Choosing such or such a movement type depends on various parameters starting with the price. While you can buy quartz watches for few euros, a simple mechanical watch soon turns to be a real investment of several hundreds euros, even thousands for complex movements (chronograph, moon phase, alarm…). Then your choice could be influenced by a specific type of use; for example we would advice wearing quartz models for any activity implying shocks and vibrations (sports), when a finest model would give an elegant touch to a formal outfit. Finally, some like to know that a heart beats on their wrist. What about you, are you more mechanical or quartz?

by Traz "the doc"

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