The quartz vs. mechanical watch debate rages on and on and will probably persist for the foreseeable future. What watch do you want: an automatic, manual or quartz watch?
The simple truth is, none of them are bad. Choosing between them is a matter of personal preference more than anything else.
Mechanical timepieces were a huge hit in the early part of the 20th century before the quartz craze of the 70s. Now, after being able to capture some of the advantages that were initially thought to be exclusive to their mechanical counterparts, most analogue watch movements today are quartz watch movements. In short, quartz is back and here to stay.
Here is a rundown of some of the advantages that a quartz watch may afford you.
Quartz watch accuracy is exceptional
A non-certified modern quartz watch has an accuracy of about 99.9998%. A certified one is 99.9999% accurate.
To put this into perspective, a non-certified quartz watch will lose only around a second per day while a certified one generally won’t lose any. A vintage mechanical watch can lose up to 60 seconds a day, and a modern one between 3-5 seconds.
Over the course of a month, the lost seconds can pile up and become significant.
People might peg you for a lunatic for wanting your watch to be accurate to the minute, but what if you’re broadcaster, an astronomer or a global navigator? Is an accurate watch too much to ask even if you’re just an average person living a typical life?
Quartz watches are more accurate than any mechanical watch, whether automatic or manual. However, regardless of the type, always go with reputable brands to ensure your watch is at least accurate enough for everyday/normal use.
Quartz can also be complicated
The world’s most complicated timepieces are mechanical - no argument about that. But quartz has caught up, and now modern quartz watches can offer the same sophisticated, aristocratic look as manual or automatic watches.
Take Davosa’s Nautic Star Chrono line for instance. For the considerably affordable price range of under $500, you get a durable, polished stainless steel watch whose dial shows not only hours, minutes and seconds but also chronograph and date.
Since the movement is quartz, the chronograph is usually more accurate than that of a mechanical watch and measures up to one-tenth of a second. In the end, you have a beautiful dial whose 12-hour, 30-minute and 60-second counters give it a stylish, elaborate look similar to that of a pilot’s cockpit.
Some others, like the sports versions, feature a tachymeter scale and even allow you to compute the speed of travel in kilometres per hour.
Quartz is slim, sleek and stylish
Quartz watch movements, since they don’t have the mainspring that powers mechanical movements, are usually very thin - sometimes even thinner than a millimetre. This has allowed manufacturers to come up with light, elegant yet powerful timepieces.
This is again a matter of personal choice. The modern minimalist watch is a style borrowed from the popular pocket-watch design of the 1800s. The duty of such a watch is just one - to tell you the time while looking fabulous and subtly tucking under the sleeve of your designer suit’s jacket.
You can still have a large quartz watch with a large case and dial but whose thickness is no more than a centimetre. If this is your style, then quartz is your best bet.
No winding, minimal maintenance
If you’re not one for winding your watch every now and then, a quartz watch is a great option. As long as the watch’s battery has power, you can rest assured that you’ll always have the time.
Automatic mechanical watches are the next best thing since they don’t have to be wound by hand. However, since they rely on arm movements to generate power, the watch may stop if left unused for a long period of time.
Quartz timepieces are almost maintenance-free, especially compared to manual mechanical watches. The battery usually lasts two years or even three on some modern models. As long as you replace the battery when needed, you won’t have to keep re-setting the time.
We may be in an age full of innovations but automatic watches are still the in-thing for many people. They were the in-thing before the 1970s when quartz took over, and in recent times they’ve returned as snazzy fashion pieces.
Manual or battery-operated watches are good too, but there are advantages that only an automatic timepiece can offer. We’re gonna run down the major ones here.
First things first, though: what are automatic watches?
If you’re not one for checking time on your mobile handheld - be that a huge 10-inch tablet or a four-inch iPhone SE - you’re gonna have a watch. A watch can be automatic, manual or quartz (think batteries). Both manual and automatic watches have to be wound but, as the names suggest, one self-winds while the other is, well, manual.
That’s why an auto watch is also called a self-winding watch. Rather than having to do it yourself, these novel watches rely on the movements made by your arm to generate the power needed to run them. As long the wearer is alive and animated, they run. Pretty cool, huh?
It’s only in horology where the word complication has a positive connotation. A complicated watch has more features, and is therefore considered more exclusive and luxurious.
Most of the world’s most complicated watches are mechanical watches, and automatic watches are mechanical. If you like a watch to be able to give you more than just the time then an auto watch is a good bet. Some of their extra features are pretty unique too.
Davosa’s 200m Apnea Diver watch is an excellent example. Not only does it feature a beautiful and durable stainless steel build but also its dial offers a very novel feature for diving enthusiasts. The dial uses brilliant, internationally recognised color codes to help the diver breathe well while under water.
Yet another stylish feature exclusive to mechanical watches, a group that automatic watches are a part of. The second's hand on many auto timepieces moves in a continuous, smooth motion, giving the watch a sophisticated and elegant feel. The hand almost glides around the dial.
Still, for those who prefer the traditional style, some modern autos feature additional gears that enable them to tick once each second.
Self-winding watches last long
Automatic timepieces can run for decades. In fact, those that are serviced professionally every four to five years can last more than half a century!
The important thing is to make sure the parts are cleaned and oiled every number of years. For many collectors and enthusiasts, picking up a screw-driver set and fine-tuning their beloved watch is a fulfilling hobby. Those who are less handy prefer to take them to a professional for a relatively small fee.
Also, auto watches are easy to bring back to life if left unused for long. Most restart once the parts are re-oiled and the watch is given a good shake.
That unique, aristocratic feel
Watch connoisseurs will tell you that timepieces are not just for telling time. A good watch will accentuate the sharp look of a nice suit in a way that no other jewellery can.
Automatic watches today are coveted for the same reason as restored VW Beetles - vintage glamour. They were great before the quartz surge of the 1970s and now they’ve stolen the show again. If you love vintage stuff, they’re a must-have.
Automatic watches with a see-through case back take it up a notch. Watch with wonderment as the gears move and tick in perfect symphony to drive your device. They never stop. The beauty of it is eternal.