Quartz vs Automatic: which is better?
Both Quartz and Automatic are exceptional choices for a wristwatch. But what is the better choice for you? Most people don’t realize how different the movements are between a quartz watch versus an automatic watch. We will delve into the positives and negatives of each so you can make an intelligent decision on whether to choose a quartz watch or an automatic watch.
Start with Swiss Watch Movements
First, let’s assume we’re talking about Swiss movements in your watch, whether it’s a quartz or an automatic. The Swiss still make the best movements available. I do recommend you only look at Swiss watches no matter what type of mechanical movements you choose.
There is work being done to create American made movements. And the Japanese have developed good watch movements as well. But to simplify things, I’ll assume you’re looking at Swiss watches and deciding between a Swiss quartz watch and a Swiss automatic watch.
Quartz vs Automatic: What is the Difference?
There is a fairly significant difference in how these watches are constructed. At a simple level, a quartz watch uses a battery to keep time. An automatic uses the movement of your hand to keep the watch wound and keeping time.
Automatic watches are also called mechanical watches. They are actually older than quartz watches. Automatics are built with a rotor inside the caliper that spins as the watch moves. This generally happens while you’re wearing the watch. But automatic watches can also be wound in order to keep them running and are sometimes referred to as ‘self-winding watches.’ If you don’t wear your automatic enough, you’ll have to wind it for the watch to keep time.
Quartz movements use a battery to generate an electric current that powers a quartz crystal to keep accurate time. The quartz crystal vibrates (from the current) and oscillates the movement in the watch. This oscillation happens a consistent 32,768 times a second. The first quartz clock was created in 1927 by Bell Labs, but the quartz watch has only been in existence for around fifty years.
Why choose an Automatic Watch?
Expensive watches tend to be automatic watches. And so the automatic watch has become coveted by watch collectors. People choose an automatic as more of a show piece to indicate wealth or taste or style. There are some benefits of an automatic watch:
- The second hand on an automatic watch sweeps consistently across the watch face. It appears more graceful than a quartz watch (which moves once per second).
- They do not need batteries. They are charged by being worn and/or turning the crown.
- Many of the known brands (Rolex, Patek Philippe, Omega) all focus more on Automatic watches
- Mechanical watches have a rich engineering history that attracts some men
Automatic watches also have drawbacks:
- They are significantly more expensive than quartz watches because the mechanical movements are more complex.
- They are not as accurate as Quartz watches and tend to lose time.
- Because they are more expensive, guys tend not to wear them all the time. But you need to wear an automatic so that it can self-wind and keep better time. A conundrum.
- They require more maintenance than a quartz watch. Not a battery change but upkeep and technical servicing every few years.
- Automatics tend to be more delicate than quartz watches and should be more protected by their wearer. You don’t want to break a watch costing several thousand dollars or more.
Mechanical or automatic watches remain at the top of the most coveted watch list. They are beautiful and unique. Many automatic watches will have a sapphire crystal back that allows you to see the movement happening inside the watch. It’s entrancing. But what are the other options?
Why choose a Quartz Watch?
Quartz watches are often less than a third of the cost of an automatic. Quartz watches are still exceptional pieces of technology and just as beautiful as their mechanical competitors. So what are the benefits of a Quartz watch?
- More accurate timekeeping. Quartz watches are very accurate in timekeeping. Because they use a battery, they will keep accurate time even on the shelf.
- Quartz watches don’t require much maintenance over time. You just change out the battery when it fizzles. Typically this is around every 5 years of owning the watch.
- Quartz watches tend to be a hair lighter than their automatic counterparts because the movement doesn’t have as many parts.
- Quartz watches are very reliable and less delicate. Many tactical watch makers focus more on quartz watches because the movements are tougher.
- Although a quartz watch doesn’t need to be worn daily to keep time, it’s less expensive and men typically are more likely to wear them daily.
And you already know the drawbacks of a quartz watch:
- The watch battery has to be replaced approximately every five years.
- The second hand jumps from one second to the next, rather than a smooth movement around the watch face.
Quartz watches are almost engineering marvels and exceptional pieces of craftsmanship. There are some types of watches, for example Chronographs, which only exist in a quartz format. This is because the complexity of those movements require a battery to run.
Choosing between Automatic and Quartz watches
Deciding between a quartz or automatic is a personal decision. And it’s usually made based on style or design more than anything. Both types make exceptional watches. And both are impressive on a man’s wrist.
The vast majority of people do not understand the difference between these two types of watches, but now that you do, what will you choose?
At Smith & Bradley, we make both Quartz Watches and Automatic watches for men. But we focus on quartz because we believe it’s the best option for 99% of all men. You can buy four unique quartz watches and wear them when you want versus buying one automatic. And in several ways, they are a better choice.