Do you buy a quartz watch, or an automatic one? The question that so many watch enthusiasts have pondered throughout their horological journey. But it’s not just enthusiasts who are asking this question, before we at Lux Horology found our passion for Horology, we didn’t know left from right within the watch world. So, if you’re that person who is wanting to find out more, and maybe learn a thing or two, then stick around and use this as a guide to help you make your decision.
Quartz vs Automatic watches have been a thing since the beginning of time… no pun intended. No, but seriously – since the 1970s, when the “quartz revolution” began, people didn’t know what to go for, hence the reason why quartz watches became so popular. They were more affordable and more accurate, I mean, why wouldn’t you go for a quartz.
However, it didn’t last too long, as things are definitely back to “normal” now, with the luxury watch market increasing rapidly every single year. So before we ramble on any further, let’s break this up into segments, and discuss the advantages, disadvantages and anything else which might be relevant, about quartz and automatic watches – in hope, that you can find the answer you were looking for.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF QUARTZ WATCHES
Dating right back to the 1970s, when the quartz watches were being released. Well actually on the 25th December, Seiko introduced the Astron, which was the first quartz wristwatch to be released to the world, but you get the gist. Around the 1970s the “revolution” really started to take off.
Before the release of quartz watches, the Swiss watch manufacturers were producing the automatic and manual winding timepieces, which dominated the market. However, after the release of the quartz watch – it soon became apparent, that the more affordable and more accurate watches were the go to for a lot of people.
After the release of the Seiko Astron, the effect of the quartz watch wasn’t immediate – it wasn’t until Seiko and a few other pioneering watch producers, presented their quartz analogue watches at the 1970 Basel fair.
Not only were quartz watches becoming increasingly popular, but by the 1980s quartz technology had made it’s way into kitchen timers, alarm clocks, bank vault time locks, and time fuses on munitions. The technology was a revolutionary one.
By 1977, Seiko had become the largest watch company in the world, in terms of monetary value. With revenues surpassing $700 million. They were followed closely by Timex, with revenues of $475 million.
As some people weren’t overly pleased with the “Quartz Crisis”, such as the Swiss manufacturers, which were losing business – others were over the moon, with the new affordable technology. But it wasn’t “cheap” technology as such, because as you’d expect in a cheaper product, the quality will be lower, but with these quartz movements, you could bet your money that they were more accurate than automatic watches.
THESE ARE THE BENEFITS OF QUARTZ WATCHES
When it comes to Quartz watches, they’re much more affordable than automatic watches, as you might imagine – this is due to the cost of the movements being relatively low and cheap to make. This is why the “Quartz Crisis” was brought to life, as people weren’t prepared to pay upmarket prices for a watch that wasn’t as accurate as the quartz. It was also a time where watches were actually used as tools a lot more than they are today.
Quartz watches are incredibly accurate, as it uses quartz crystal to transfer the energy needed for a high amount of oscillations per hour. It would most likely be running at a frequency above 28,800 Vph, which is very common amongst automatic watches. Having an incredibly accurate movement allows for important events etc. to be timed to perfection.
– Less/ low maintenance
Having a low maintenance cost and or less maintenance overall is such a positive. Automatic and manual-winding watches usually have a 3-4 or 5-10 year period where they’ll need to be serviced once in a while. Unlike quartz watches, replacing a battery is fairly easy, and if you don’t want to do it yourself, it’ll cost around £10 to get it replaced by your local shop etc.
– Small and thin (Movements)
Having a small and thin quartz movement, allows for small and thin watches – which are very desirable, especially amongst those of you who may have smaller wrists. A smaller movement also means less material being used, in turn allowing for a light timepiece too.
THE DISADVANTAGES OF QUARTZ WATCHES
When it comes down to reliability within quartz watches, it can be a tricky one – as some quartz watches last longer than others, and it all depends on the type of battery etc. So it’s fair to say, that it’s near impossible to know when your quartz watches’ battery will stop working. But it will stop working, at some point… and it will be unexpected.
– Short lifespan
This links into the unreliability of quartz watches, but it goes a lot more in depth when we start talking about the actual movement itself. Sure, the battery will stop working at some point, that’s inevitable, but the quartz movement in general, will be a lot more likely to be damaged as it’s made using cheaper materials etc.
– Difficult to repair
In terms of the quartz watches ability to be repaired, it’s hard. One false move or accident when attempting to repair it, could cause a fault which then deems the movement irreparable, this is due to the nature of the components involved, e.g. thin materials, coil etc.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF AUTOMATIC WATCHES
The history of automatic and manual-winding watches dates back much further than quartz watches, as you’d expect. The first credible signs for a successful design, was by a man called Abraham-Louis Perrelet, whom of which was a Swiss watchmaker who lived in Le Locle, Switzerland.
It was in late 1776, or early 1777, that he had created the first self-winding movement for pocket watches, which actually used an oscillating weight inside, which moved up and down.
In 1977 Abraham-Louis Breguet had a spark to also try and create a self-winding movement – which used a barrel remontoire, however the movement was too complicated and complex, as well as being too expensive, to be manufactured and sold.
During the years 1776 to 1810 four different types of weight were used, this included the side weight, centre weight, rotor weight, and last but not least, the movement weight.
If we fast forward to 1923, we can see the advancements which have been made throughout the years, as this was the year in which the first mechanical wristwatch was born. Invented by John Harwood, from Bolton, England – and the Harwood system used the pivoting weight, as we mentioned previously, which allowed for the swinging motion when the wearer moved their wrist, which meant the mainspring could be wound.
THESE ARE THE BENEFITS OF AUTOMATIC WATCHES
– Low Maintenance
When we take a look at automatic watches, we can see that they’re low maintenance – apart from the odd clean and use of peg wood to scrape off any dirt etc. The watch will stay in pretty good condition, as long as you’re looking after the watch properly. You could say that winding your watch is a hassle sometimes, but that’s not maintenance, that’ just owning a watch for you! Having a low maintenance, really allows you to enjoy your watch.
– Power reserve
Unlike quartz watches, automatic watches have power reserves, which kick in when the rotor isn’t moving or there’s no movement detected, which means that when you’re traveling for example, and you take your watch off whilst you sleep, you can pick it up, right back in the morning, and it will still be ticking away. It’s has a positive impact on the efficiency of the watch but also your time, as any of you watch enthusiasts out there know… sometimes it’s nice to take the watch off, and admire it whilst you work or eat etc.
Automatic watches just look better! A bold statement which isn’t necessarily true – but what we mean by that, is the fact that, one, the movement looks a lot more appealing, and two, the watches themselves are usually thicker and have a lot more of an expensive aroma as such. Basically, they’re more expensive, and in most cases they look more luxurious.
This is a massive advantage when it comes to automatic watches. The long-term importance is key. Quartz watches tend to live a much shorter life than automatic watches, and that’s due to the quality of materials involved, as well as the time and effort of watchmakers, being precise. Automatic watches have a long lifespan, with the odd service every couple of years. Yes there’s components which will wear over time and oils which need to be topped up etc. but that’s not always the case, and if it is. A quick service will put the watch in line for another 10 years of clean smooth ticking
THE DISADVANTAGES OF AUTOMATIC WATCHES
– High maintenance cost
The service required for automatic watches are a lot more expensive than quartz watches, due to the expertise which is needed to repair/ restore the watch, but also because of the expensive price tag your watch comes equipped with. Not only that, if you have any damaged parts etc. which need to be replaced, it can be quite costly – but it does all depend on your watch.
– Not as accurate
If we take a quartz watch for example, the accuracy is paramount. They’re so accurate, that there’s no point even competing with them (we don’t mean that). But the accuracy within automatic watches are a lot less precise, with a range of -4 to +6 seconds being gained or lost each day.
– More expensive
This is an obvious one, although not entirely true. Well, yes the automatic movement is a lot more expensive than the quartz one, but in terms of watches which hold the two of them, sometimes it can vary, with quartz watches being more expensive than automatic watches. But if we solely look at the broad range of watches, you’re going to be paying more for an automatic watch, than you are with a quartz watch.
DO YOU CHOOSE THE QUARTZ OR THE AUTOMATIC WATCH?
Quartz watches are definitely intended for those of you wanting absolute precision accuracy, maybe you work a certain type of job that requires that type of accuracy. However, automatic watches might be considered more luxurious and maybe intended for the everyday wearer, who just enjoys watches.
Now, it’s obviously your choice as to buy and automatic or a quartz watch, but based on the tips and information we shared with you today, we hope that the decision has become a lot easier, or that you have gained some more knowledge. Even if you’re not planning to buy an automatic or a quartz watch, at the end of the day, if you’re wanting to get more involved within the watch world, learning anything and everything is the best way to go.