Quartz vs Automatic Watches: Which one Should I Choose?

While shopping for watches, it’s likely you’ve come across the terms quartz and automatic. Both types of watches have their pros, cons, similarities and differences.  But whether you’re looking at a quartz or automatic watch, accuracy, reliability, performance, design, features and functionality are bound to be on your checklist. So which type of watch is best?  Well, we’re about to put the two head to head in the ultimate comparison to help you make the right choice for your next watch purchase.

Quartz vs Automatic Watches: Which one Should I Choose?

The difference between quartz and automatic watches 

There are some distinguable differences between quartz and automatic watches. Automatic watches are a type of mechanical watch, which have been around for much longer than their quartz counterpart. 

 

But while time on market is a big difference between the two types of watches, there is another significant comparison to be made. 

 

The main difference between them is the fact that quartz watches are battery powered, while automatic watches rely on movement and energy from the wearer in order to tick. 

 

We’ve already gone into detail about automatic watch movements and what makes them so unique in a previous blog so here, we’ll explain a little bit more about the quartz alternative. 

What does quartz movement mean?

A quartz movement refers to a watch that is battery powered and reliant upon an electronic current in order to operate.

 

The movement type was pioneered by Japanese watchmakers in the 1960s, with the famous watch brand, Seiko, being one of the first to mass produce models for international markets. 

 

At the time, Swiss mechanical watches were still dominating, but the quartz alternative was fast becoming a popular choice among consumers due to the more affordable price point. 

 

Posing a threat to the big Swiss brands, it wasn’t long until collectively, they created their own quartz calibre, the Beta 21, and began using it to power new models. 

 

The quartz movement took on a new meaning. Now, consumers could enjoy the luxuries offered by these renowned watch brands, but at a lower cost. 

 

To this day, many of the world’s biggest watch brands, including Omega, Tag Heuer and Longines include quartz watches as permanent features in their collections.

How does a quartz watch work?

Quartz watches work by passing an electric current from the battery powered circuit through a small quartz crystal. The vibration this creates causes an oscillating movement, which in turn, drives a motor and moves the hands. 

Do quartz watches need batteries?

Yes, the battery element of a quartz watch is perhaps its biggest distinguisher from mechanical movement watches. The battery operation format affords the watches a number of benefits. 

 

While most quartz watches require traditional batteries, companies, such as Citizen, have created more sustainable solar powered alternatives. The Eco-Drive technology used by Citizen allows watches to be powered by light, including artificial sources. 

 

So, although batteries in traditional quartz watches need to be replaced every 3-5 years, solar powered ones last much longer.. 

Quartz vs automatic: Reliability, accuracy and performance

Both quartz and automatic watches are widely considered to be accurate. However, some watch experts argue that quartz watches are more reliable because they are accurate to within half a second while automatic watches can be off by a few seconds. 

 

The technicalities behind the two types of watches means that both have some distinctive pros and cons, with reliability, accuracy and performance being just some notable comparison points.

 

Let’s start with the battery replacement issue. Of course, this can become a nuisance, but apart from giving it some consideration every few years, quartz powered watches are relatively low maintenance. 

 

Automatic watches on the other hand, need to be worn daily, or at least wound daily, in order for them to remain functional and for the movement mechanisms to be regulated. 

 

Both watch types can be considered reliable in that sense. While batteries require little effort from the wearer, technological advancements in watchmaking have enabled automatic ones to benefit from days long power reserves. And if you’ll be wearing your watch daily, winding really won’t be an issue. 

 

Both watches are also incredibly accurate. Quartz crystals swing at a constant frequency when an electric current is run through them, allowing them to boast astonishing accuracy, losing only a few seconds each year. 

 

But again, the extended time on the market of automatic watches has meant manufacturers have really been able to hone the accuracy of their calibres. Now, automatic watches, particularly those with chronometer status deviate just 4-6 seconds each day.

 

An advantage that is exclusive to quartz watches is that advancements have allowed luxury watch models to become much more accessible due them being more cost-effective to manufacture and consequently, easier to mass produce. 

 

But automatic watches remain models of choice for collectors and watch enthusiasts due to the intricate detail that goes into making them tick. 

 

This table summarises the key differences between quartz and automatic watches;

 

 

 

Quartz

Automatic

Power source

Battery

Self-winding or wearer’s movement 

Origin 

1960s

1770s

Size 

Various available 

Various available

Weight

Light

Tend to be heavier due to steel mechanisms inside 

Price

Affordable

Tend to be more expensive due to the complexity of movement mechanisms

Accuracy 

Tend to be more accurate due to ticking motion of second hand. Only deviates half a second per day.

Seamless hand movement is more appealing but watches can deviate a few seconds a day. Those with chronometer status, only 4-6 seconds.

Reliability 

Wearer only has issues if battery runs flat

Needs to be kept wound but if worn often, wearer will have few issues

Power reserve 

Years - Only runs out of power when battery needs replacing

Days - Watch must be kept wound to reserve power

Maintenance 

Low maintenance 

Wearer must consider keeping the watch wound to maintain performance 

Best quartz watches 

At Wallace Allan, we stock an extensive range of quartz watches. Here are some of the best selling models from our collection: 

 

Best automatic watches

Here are some notable automatic watch models that you can pick up from Wallace Allan today: 

 

 

For more information on the best automatic watches, why not check out our blog on the best models for under £2,000

 

Now you know the differences between quartz and automatic watches, browse our collection to find the perfect piece for you. 

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