Difference Between Quartz and Automatic Watches - Chronoexpert

Some of you might have wondered what the difference between a Quartz and Automatic movement is. We at Chronoexpert want to make sure we explain all the technical information to you in an easy and digestible manner so that you can use it in your purchasing decisions, whilst also getting a luxury watch that will work with your lifestyle.

Quartz Movement

Credit to gentlemansgazette.com

As the Name suggests, a quartz movement involves a quartz crystal. Not the mystic kind, but it is no less magical on how the movement is powered. The biggest thing to remember here is that it is an electronic movement, not mechanical like an automatic or manual. A battery is therefore essential to all quartz movements. The battery sends a small charge to the quartz crystal which in turn vibrates 32,768 times a second. By electronically dividing this figure down by twos, it eventually reaches 1 and the second-hand moves by one second. This process is repeated with every second-hand movement. So next time you look down at your watch, know that every second, 32000 vibrations are happening in your quartz watch! These are great value movements, usually suited to slim watches and ladies watches.

Advantages

  • Can be very slim due to the movement being electronic.
  • Accurate and consistent in terms of timekeeping as you are not adjusting for many moving parts.
  • Represent good value as they require little maintenance, unlike mechanical movements.
  • Most of the watches you see on the market are quartz movements.

Disadvantages

  • You must remember to change the battery once it dies, usually 2-3 years.
  • Rarely carry the same prestige as an automatic movement and most of the big maisons tend not to make quartz movements in the fear that it dilutes their brand image.
  • Prone to losing a second every few days due to temperature and other variances.

Automatic Movement

Credit rolex.com

An automatic or mechanical watch is usually a watch powered by manual movement. Keeping in mind that around the 15th century the first watchmakers were able to create parts small enough to use in a personal watch. Here you have cogs and wheels, springs and jewels that work in pure harmony to represent time.

For example, a modern-day Rolex movement ticks 28 800 times an hour. This is an amazing piece of engineering even 20-30 years ago. Most people would liken these movements to a car. The watch movement is adjusting for temperature, kinetic movement, positioning and still maintaining to keep excellent time. Most chronometers in this category are notoriously difficult to manufacture and thus carry that prestige also. Perfect for your first serious watch by one of the reputable names in watchmaking.

Advantages

  • Some prestigious and boutique brands will exclusively make automatic movements.
  • Powered by kinetic movement so your wrist moving or a manual winding process makes it interesting and fun to wear.
  • A more traditional form of watchmaking and connoisseurs will appreciate this feature and heritage in horology.
  • Some movements are shown in skeleton backs which are a fabulous detail.


Disadvantages

  • As most automatic and manual movements are powered by a spring that has a reserve, if you do not wear this watch regularly, the movement will completely stop. This can be annoying if you forget to wear your watch for a day or few days and pick it up to realise it stopped working, forcing you to manually wind the watch, set its time and in some cases its date.
  • Servicing can be quite costly. Keep in mind it is like servicing a car with all the moving parts in the movement. As I write this, the current service on a Rolex is £600 usually recommended every 3-5 years on older models and on the newer ones servicing can go almost 10 years without any issue. All manufacturers will have their own guidelines and we may very well write about these in a future article.

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