Automatic Quartz verses Mechanical Watches

attribution to stratman via Flickr Creative Commons.

Automatic Quartz vs Mechanical Watches


When shopping for a new wristwatch, one of the decisions you'll have to make is whether to choose an automatic quartz or mechanical method of movement. All watches have some type of movement (known as a calibre) that keeps the hands moving and the watch functioning as intended. While both automatic and mechanical calibres are effective at keeping time, there are subtle differences between them that shouldn't be overlooked.


How to Tell The Difference Between Quartz Automatic vs Mechanical Watches


Before we go into the nuances between automatic and mechanical watches, let's first go over the basics of distinguishing between these two movements. Mechanical watches feature a sweeping hand movement in which the second hand moves fluidly from one number to the next. Automatic quartz watches, on the other hand, feature a stuttered movement in which the second hand only moves once every second. If the second hand on your watch moves smoothly from one second to the next without stopping, it's has a mechanical calibre. If it stutters, it's a quartz automatic.


Automatic Quartz


Automatic quartz watches are powered via a small battery along with a genuine quartz crystal (hence the name). The battery projects electricity through the quartz, at which point vibrations are created. These vibrations are essentially responsible for moving the second, minute and hour hands.


Many watch enthusiasts prefer quartz watches due to their high level of reliability and low maintenance requirements. As the electrical current runs through the quartz, is oscillates almost perfectly each time, ensuring a highly accurate time reading. Keep in mind, however, that you'll need to replace the battery in an automatic quartz watch on a regular basis (usually 1-5 years); otherwise, it will stop functioning.


Mechanical Watches


On the other side of the fence are mechanical watches, which are powered by a wound, coiled-up spring. Mechanical watches contain more gears and components than their automatic quartz counterpart, often featuring hundreds of tiny parts skillfully interwoven together by watchmakers. Instead of being powered by a battery, however, they are driven by wound springs. Once wound, the spring stores energy, gradually transferring it to the gears as needed.


If you plan on owning a mechanical watch, you'll need to get into the habit of winding it on a regular basis. Depending on its power reserve, it may require windings as frequently as once every 24 hours, or for some of the newer mechanical watches, once every week.  This may deter some people from choosing mechanical over automatic quartz. Then again, some people enjoy to wind their watch every couple of days.


Hopefully, this will give you a better understanding of automatic quartz and mechanical watches.