You may have heard the terms ‘quartz watch’ and ‘automatic watch’.
What’s the difference? Is one better than the other? How would one choose whether to buy an automatic watch (like our Automatic) or a quartz watch (like our Classic, Minimalist, Chronograph and Petite)?
Well, in short, these types of watches differ in many ways, and it all depends on what you’re looking for in a watch. We’ve put together a quick guide to explain the terms and help you decide what’s best for you.
The words ‘quartz’ and ‘automatic’ refer to the type of watch movement, which is the engine that powers the watch. There are two categories of movements: quartz movements and mechanical movements. The mechanical movement category is further subdivided into two subcategories: automatic (or self-winding) and manual (or manual-winding) movements.
For the sake of simplicity we will focus only on automatic (or self-winding) movements within the “mechanical movement” category, as they are the most common type of mechanical movement.
Let’s take them in turn.
What are Quartz Movement Watches?
Quartz movement watches are your standard watches – they make up 97% of watches produced every year.
Seiko introduced the first quartz movement watches in 1969 with their Astron wristwatch. The limited edition watches (100 units only) cost the equivalent of a Toyota Corolla at the time!
Thankfully, since then, advances in technology have made quartz watches much cheaper to make. That’s why quartz watches are so affordable nowadays.
How do they work?
Quartz watches are usually powered a battery, which sends an electrical signal through a tiny crystal of quartz that is embedded in the circuitry.
Here’s the magic: when electricity is run through a quartz crystal, it oscillates at an almost perfect constant frequency of 32,768 times each second. The constancy of the vibrations is the basis for which the movement keeps time, whether the watch has an analog display or a digital display.
Because the vibrations of the quartz are almost perfectly constant, quartz watches can keep time very accurately. Our Ronda movement watches, for instance, have an accuracy of -10/+20 seconds per month.
Quartz watches are very low maintenance; they keep time accurately and reliably and require a battery change once every few years.
What are Automatic Watches?
Mechanical watches have been around for many centuries. However, the first automatic (or self-winding) watches, which did not require a person to manually wind the watch to power it, were invented in the 1700s.
Automatic movements are complex devices made up of a mainspring and trains of gears. They’re often composed of hundreds of tiny and intricate parts. When you’re wearing an automatic watch, the movements of your arm cause an internal moving weight to rotate and transfer energy to the power reserve. You can also gently shake the watch from side to side to cause the weight to rotate and ‘power up’ the reserve.
If you wear the watch continuously (or even take it off for a day or so, depending on the power reserve), it will continue to run just from the power it stores up while you wear it.
The power reserve varies from movement to movement. Our Automatic watch (which has an ETA 2824-2 movement) has a power reserve of ~38 hours, which means that it can store energy to power the watch for up to ~38 hours.
As automatic movements often have hundreds of tiny parts, it’s very time-intensive to put them together, and they require a lot of painstaking manual labour. That’s why automatic movements are a lot more expensive than quartz movements.
Why Choose Quartz Over Automatic
- Quartz watches are cheaper than automatic watches. It’s because the movements are less labour-intensive to make
- Quartz watches are extremely reliable and accurate when it comes to keeping time; while a good quartz watch may run 20 seconds off per month, a good automatic watch may be off by several minutes in a month
- Quartz watches require very little maintenance; you just need to change the battery every few years. Automatic watches, while they don’t have a battery, need servicing every 3-5 years
Why Choose Automatic Over Quartz
If automatic watches are more expensive, less reliable and accurate, and require more maintenance, why are watch aficionados and collectors so drawn to automatic watches?
Well, there’s a lot of emotion and subjectivity behind this preference. Here are some reasons:
- Automatic movements have a lot of craftsmanship and artistry behind them that has been developed over centuries
- Many mechanical movement makers have deep history and heritage
- Automatic watches are an impressive feat of engineering and there’s an allure to their mechanical character. Think about car enthusiasts’ preference for cars with manual transmissions over those with automatic transmissions, or think about how some people are super passionate about motorcycles but you won’t find the same passion for scooters
- Many automatic watches have a clear sapphire case back that lets you see the automatic movement gently oscillating while it’s at work, which is really cool
- Many people are captivated by the sweeping second hand on automatic watches. While a second hand on a quartz watch moves once per second, a second hand on a mechanical watch moves multiple times a second, giving the illusion of a sweeping motion. This is a sign that the watch is powered by a mechanical movement, and is something that is deeply appreciated by lovers of mechanical watches
Since quartz watches and automatic watches suit different needs and wants, the choice comes down to what you’re looking for.
If you’re interested in browsing Linjer’s collection of quartz watches, you can check our Classic, Minimalist, Chronograph and Petite. All use movements from the renowned Swiss company Ronda, and have top-notch build and finishing; for instance, we use sapphire crystals with anti-reflective coating and Italian vegetable-tanned leather straps.
If you’re interested in browsing Linjer’s automatic watches, you can check out our Automatic page. On the product page, you can also see photos of the movement through the flat glass on the case back. This watch is powered by the 2824-2 movement from the Swiss company ETA. This movement is known to be a very robust movement and it has a power reserve of 38 hours. Our Automatic watch is unique in that it is extremely affordable (sub $500 USD) given the selection of movement as well as the luxury quality of other components and finishing. It’s also extremely sleek, at 8.4mm thick. Automatic movements are quite thick, and at a price below $5,000 USD you’ll be hard-pressed to find an ETA 2824-2 watch that has been engineered to be slim. Most are more than 11mm thick. If you find one, let us know!