What Is the Difference Between a Quartz and an Automatic Watch?

Dominic's Fine Jewelry | Watch care

Modern timepieces fall into two key groups: a quartz or automatic movement. We break down the fundamental differences between these two types of watch movements and outline best care methods for each.


What is a quartz watch?

As its name stipulates, a quartz watch contains a small piece of quartz crystal integrated into the watch’s mechanics.

When an electric current passes through quartz, the crystal oscillates with near-perfect frequency and becomes the ideal constant to measure time against. The result is an incredibly accurate watch, with premier quartz watches accurate within seconds of a year.

Quartz watches are battery operated and the batteries can last upwards of five years before needing to be changed. Therefore, a quartz watch can be left untouched for long stretches of time and the time will remain exact.

This crucial crystal also minimizes the number of moving parts which keeps the cost of quartz watches comparatively low. The combined result is an affordable and durable watch.

How do I care for a quartz watch?

Quartz watches are fairly low maintenance. We suggest bringing it to a professional whenever you need to change the battery for a thorough cleaning and replacement battery.

rolex oyster perpetual

What is a mechanical watch?

The introduction of quartz watches in the 1960s could have technically rendered mechanical watches obsolete; by most practical standards, a quartz watch is a superior timepiece given its accuracy and inexpensive production. But there is an incredible and ongoing demand for mechanical watches that employ the same historical technology that watches have used for hundreds of years.

Complicated mechanical watches are admired for their incredible craftsmanship. Powered by a wound spring instead of a battery, mechanical watches are made of 50 to 300 delicate, moving and interconnected parts to keep time. Even though the result is a less accurate timepiece, mechanical watches are highly coveted engineering marvels and their complexity commands a higher price.

Mechanical watches are made of two sub-groups: automatic and manual.

What is an Automatic or Self-Winding Mechanical Watch?

Automatic watches are powered by a semi-circular rotor that spins on the back of the watch’s movement. This turns a gear which winds the aforementioned spring that functions as the mechanical watch’s battery. So long as the automatic watch is worn regularly, the weight segment is pulled by the natural force of gravity and oscillates as you move throughout the day. This constant motion effectively keeps the watch consistently wound. However, if the watch remains unworn, it needs to be wound like a manual mechanical watch to restore its power.

What is a Manual Mechanical Watch?

In 1842, Jean-Adrien Philippe, the co-founder of Patek Philippe, invented a mechanism that allowed watches to be wound by hand. Watches previously had to be wound with a special key. With Philippe’s breakthrough, the watch’s energy supply could be renewed by turning the crown multiple times and winding the mainspring. The spring then slowly uncoils to generate the required energy to move the watch’s gears and complications.

How do I care for a mechanical watch?

A mechanical watch will be off by a few seconds per day which, compared to a quartz watch that is only off by a few seconds per year, seems like a significant difference. But the reality is that a mechanical watch actually boasts an impressive 99.994% accuracy rate. To maintain that level of accuracy, it’s important to take care of your mechanical watch by having it serviced once every three years.

Also, do not overwind your watch. When the mainspring is already fully wound up, putting any additional tension on the spring could break it or affect the balance wheel’s rotation causing the watch to run too fast.

If you have any additional questions about your watch, feel free to contact our support team who can help with further instructions on watch care.

Source: truefacet.com

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