Published on 31st May 2021
Watches, as you know today, were not a mere accessory, centuries ago. They were a luxury item that the nobles, aristocrats, and other elite members of the society would wear for showy display of wealth and luxury. High personnel in the Military and professions that required timekeeping were also a part of the luxury. This lasted until the 1700s, when the Automatic Watch Movement was introduced. A self-winding watch mechanism that required minimal upkeep.
The real Quartz Vs Automatic Watches battle began in the 1970s, when Seiko, a Japanese Watch brand introduced their newest watch with the Quartz movement. Introduction of the Quartz Movement caused a stir so vast, that the period became known as the ‘Quartz Crisis’.
A sudden subjugation of the otherwise Swiss-made ruled watch industry by the new technology was seen. The Watch Market was suddenly flooded by these industrially produced cheaper and more efficient timepieces that were more precise and durable. Of Course, the existing market took a huge hit and resisted new technology. Soon enough, they caved in and began producing Quartz Movement watches as well, starting the Quartz VS Automatic Watches debate.
Some people still cherish the traditional watch movements, others have simply developed upon the older practices. Today, the Mechanical, Quartz, and Automatic watch movements have found a way to co-exist in the watch market and have created their own niche. Let’s first understand what we mean by a watch movement.
What is a Watch Movement?
The Watch Movement, also referred to as the Caliber is the ‘power source’ of the watch. It is the engine that powers the watch and its all functions to operate. This engine moves the hands and other functions like chronograph, date, and calendar. Whilst there are various renditions of watch movements across the globe, they all fall under the common categories of Mechanical, Automatic, or Quartz.
Let’s understand the 3 major Movements and their key features. We discuss the major pros and cons that’ll help you match the watch type with your personal style and preference.
Mechanical Watch Movement
If we trace back the roots of the modern-day wristwatch, this is where it all began. The Mechanical Watch Movement is the predecessor of modern-day automatic watches. Usually considered as outdated technology, the mechanical movement is still cherished by time-keeping enthusiasts. The prime identifier of the mechanical watch movement is the smooth sweeping motion of the second hand. It is the result of the slow and steady unwinding motion of the spring. It requires the wearer to manually wind the watch using the crown, in order to keep the watch working.
The horologists still refer back to this mechanism in order to understand and develop upon the intricate complexity of the gears and springs and how it was designed in so detail to gain accuracy. Custom-made watchmakers, especially Swiss Watches, are still in the practice of incorporating this mechanical watch mechanism in their latest timepieces.
Here are the key features of a mechanical watch movement.
- Smooth Sweeping motion of the seconds hand.
- Batteryless, requires winding.
- Detailed mechanism, often accompanied by clear sapphire crystal back on the dial, often allowing the display of the intricate mechanism.
- Collector’s Item.
Automatic Watch Movement
The Automatic Watch Movement, which is a step forward from the Mechanical Watch Movement, was introduced in the late 1700s. They were frequently known as ‘self-winding’ watches, in contrast to the mechanical watches which are known as ‘manual winding watches’. Automatic watches, instead of having to be manually wound time in and time again, these watches harness energy from the movement of the wearer’s wrist. Therefore, as long as the watch is used daily it does not require winding.
The Automatic Watch operated on the potential of the Rotor, which is a small metal weight, connected to the Mechanical movement, allowed to rotate freely. The movement of the wrist causes the rotor to move, transferring energy and winding the Main Spring automatically, which in turn moves the entire internal mechanism of the automatic watch to work.
Here are the key features of the automatic watch movement you can have a look at.
- Batteryless, Operates through a self winding mechanism.
- May require Main Spring replacement every few years due to wear and tear.
- Uses wrist movement to charge the watch through Rotor.
- Display unique craftsmanship, and often seen as collectibles.
Quartz Watch Movement
The Quartz Movement, popularized by Seiko in the 1970s, was a revolution in the watchmaking world. The Astron was the first watch to incorporate the Quartz watch movement, which took its inspiration from Bell Telephone Laboratory’s Clock, invented in the 1920s.
The key difference between the Quartz movement and Automatic movement lies in the power source. Initially, the mechanical watches used the kinetic energy of the winding motion and converted it into potential energy, which powered the internal spring and gear mechanism. On the other hand, Quartz movement used electrical energy (stored in the battery) as potential energy, which in turn powered the whole mechanism.
The Quartz movement is battery powered. It operates through the electrical current provided by the battery that results in the movement of the internal mechanism via the vibration of the quartz crystal that eventually drives the motor. This eliminated the rotor previously used in automatic movement watches.
Here are a few key features that can help you identify a Quartz Watch Movement.
- Quartz Watches are battery powered.
- It usually engages in tick-per-second movement, unlike a smooth sweeping motion witnessed in mechanical watches.
- Accurate and does not require much upkeep; A battery replacement is often the most it would require.
- Mostly industrially made.
- Parts are easy replaceable and often cheaper to obtain.
The ongoing debate on quartz vs automatic watches and here’s what we have to say.
Quartz Vs automatic Watches: Our Verdict
When it comes to Quartz vs Automatic watches debate, it can be quite confusing to understand which movement type is right for you. Here’s where we help you to decide which out of the three is the most suitable for you.
The Quartz movement is made for people whose expectation from the watch is to simply show them the precise time and do not ironically have a lot of ‘time’ in hand for the upkeep of their timepieces. These are usually cheaper than Automatic watches and require minimal maintenance. They are made to do their job and not get in your way. Powered by a battery, Quartz wrist watches are a great epitome of innovation and sustainability.
On the other hand, if you are a connoisseur of fine craftsmanship and heritage in the watch world, you will definitely appreciate getting your hands on a classic Mechanical watch. If the regular winding is too much for you, you can also go for a minimal maintenance upgrade, the Automatic Watch. Self-winding, and built with precision, these watches have continued satiating the watch enthusiasts for centuries. A rather indulgent choice, it does come with a prerequisite that it does need to be worn regularly to keep it going.
The passionate debate of Quartz Vs Automatic watches has been going on for decades now. The answer lies in the user’s preference. The question “Are you practical or passionate?’ might help you answer the question! Let us know in the comments, which watch movement do you prefer and why? If you liked reading our article, you can find more useful content here. Don’t forget to tell us what you think about the quartz vs automatic watches debate and which of one these is a clear winner for you! If you liked our article check out our other watch articles. Thank you for reading!