A Comparison Between Quartz, Mechanical, & Automatic Movements

Published
06/27/2020

The movement of a watch is considered its heart which is the key component that keeps the watch “alive”. It determines how the hands of a watch move depending on the design of its inner mechanism.

There are 3 types of watch movements: quartz, mechanical, and automatic. If you are having a hard time choosing between quartz, mechanical, and automatic watch, we are here to help you. In today’s discussion, we will differentiate these 3 types along with the pros and cons of each. Let us start with quartz movements.


Quartz Movements


Timepieces with quartz movements are very affordable and have incredible accuracy. They have fewer moving components and are powered by electricity. They are also more durable compared to automatic and mechanical watches. This is the reason why most field and sports watches use quartz movements.

Pros


  • Affordability. You can find quartz watches that only cost a few bucks but more attractive ones can reach up to a hundred dollars. Though they are still cheaper compared to automatic and mechanical watches.
  • Durability. Quartz watches only have few moving components so they are more durable compared to other varieties. Thus, they are ideal for jobs that deal with dirty works.
  • Less Maintenance. Quartz movements only need little maintenance besides changing their batteries every year.
  • Accurate Time. Among all movement types, quartz movements offer the most accuratetime. They will never add or lose a second all through the day.
 
Cons


  • Less Romantic. This is the biggest disadvantage of watches with quartz movements. They do not have the romance, character, and charm that mechanical watches have. This is because they do not have the engineering, technical craftsmanship, and history that mechanical watches possess.
  • Staggered Movement. The second hand of quartz watches does not move smoothly like automatic and mechanical watches.
 

Mechanical Movements


Mechanical movements use a mainspring as power sources. You need to wind the mainspring by hand to keep the watch ticking. Longer mainsprings provide a longer power reserve for your watch. Mechanical watches have intricate engineering and craftsmanship that enthusiasts will find appealing.


Pros


  • Tactility. Some watch lovers find the tactility of mechanical watches fascinating. You need to hand-wind mechanical watches to keep them working. Being able to wind your watch yourself makes you more connected with time. It makes you feel that your timepiece is “alive” and is not only an accessory. If you are looking for watch repair tools to help you wind up your watch, you can go to https://www.soflypart.com/
  • Character. Mechanical watches have breathtaking craftsmanship. Inside the watch case are small springs and gears that work with each other to display the time. These small components are part of the watch’s charm and are often unseen by the eye. Watchmakers spend hours perfecting this hidden mechanism of mechanical watches.
  • Smooth Hand Movement. Some folks find the smooth movement of a mechanical watch’s second hand aesthetically more satisfying than the ticking sound of a quartz watch.
  • They do not need batteries. Mechanical watches are powered by hand-wound mainsprings so you do not have to worry about replacing their batteries. Just wind the watch up when it stops.
 
Cons


  • Expensive. The precision engineering and craftsmanship that mechanical watches have will add extra costs to the price of the watch. While you will find mechanical watches worth around $500, most are more expensive than that.
  • Not Quite Accurate. Well-crafted mechanical watches are off by about 1 second per day so they have an accuracy of 99.999%. As the watch ages, this accuracy will taper off. Thus, you will have to go to a jeweler to tune up your mechanical watch every 5-10 years to keep its accuracy.
  • Easily Affected by Environmental Factors. Mechanical watches keep time through many tiny gears and springs so their movement is highly sensitive to environmental factors such as magnets, shocks, dust, and moisture. These can affect the accuracy of mechanical watches. If you want a strictly accurate timepiece, you should go for quartz watches.
  • Requires Constant Winding. Most mechanical watches can maintain their accuracy for up to 2 days but we recommend tuning them up once per day. While some may find this appealing, others consider it a nuisance.

Automatic Movements


A mainspring powers automatic watch movements. They use gears to control the watch’s hands but unlike mechanical watches, they don’t need to be hand-wound to keep them ticking. Your movement winds up your watch while you are wearing it. This is why they are named “automatic movements” and are also called “self-winding” timepieces.

Pros


  • They do not need batteries.
  • Character. Automatic watches possess the same craftsmanship and engineering that mechanical watches have.
  • Smooth Hand Movement. Similar to mechanical watches that are wounded by hand, the hands of automatic watches move smoothly.
  • Do not need to be wounded manually. If winding mechanical watches manually troubles you but still want a mechanical watch’s sophistication, you can opt for automatic watches.
Cons


  • Expensive. Just like mechanical watches, automatic watches are expensive because of the engineering and craftsmanship they possess.
  • Less Accurate. Well-crafted automatic watches can have the same accuracy as well-crafted mechanical watches. But, they will lose their accuracy in the long run and you will need to tune them up.
  • You Need to Store Them in a Watch Winder When You Are Not Using Them. Automatic watches do not require winding when you are wearing them regularly. If not, you need to keep them in a watch winder.
  • Easily Affected by Environmental Factors. Automatic watches are easily affected by the same factors that affect mechanical watches.
 
 

Conclusion

In summary, we recommend quartz movements if you prioritize accuracy and durability. If you want a smoother hand movement and love winding up your watch on your own, go for mechanical watches. However, if winding up a watch by hand bothers you but still want the intricate craftsmanship that mechanical watches possess, go for automatic watches. We also recommend reading more about the different watch categories before you buy a new watch.