A watch is very similar to a car. The way it is built determines how well it functions. Like a car, a watch needs an engine, known as a movement and this can be broadly categorized into two types - mechanical and quartz. A movement is the mechanism that measures and displays the current time and sometimes, it powers additional features of the watch such as calendars and more. Essentially, it is what makes a watch TICK.
Now, here’s the question. What is the difference between mechanical and quartz?
Mechanical components VS Battery Operated
Mechanical watches are categorized into automatic and hand-winding and they are powered by the energy released from a wound spring.
For an automatic mechanical watch, a rotor can be found inside which moves according to the wrist motion of the wearer. THINK KENETIC ENERGY! As the rotor spins, it winds the main spring which acts as a power source that provides energy to the timepiece. The more motion there is the more energy can be released. This is why an automatic mechanical watch requires regular wear to maintain timekeeping functions.
A hand-winding mechanical watch however does not contain a rotor. As shown above, a rotor is missing from the mechanism of the watch. This means that the watch requires frequent windings of the crown in order to power the watch. For this reason, many prefer automatic mechanical watches compared to hand-winding mechanical watches.
A quartz watch on the other hand is purely operated by battery. The battery sends an electrical current to create vibrations in order to maintain timekeeping functions. The wearer does not need to constantly reset the time.
The easiest way to differentiate a mechanical watch and a quartz watch is by looking at the second hand. The second hand of most mechanical watches have a smooth, ‘sweeping’ motion, as shown above, while the second hand of a quartz watch usually has a jerky motion for every second. Have you ever put your watch to your ear? In a quartz watch, you will hear the second hand make a ‘tick’ sound, while in a mechanical watch, due to the sweeping motion, the watch is almost inaudible.
A mechanical watch requires more maintenance such as regular servicing of the watch. Like an engine, with constant use, there will be wear and tear in the movement. Simple maintenance will include changing of worn down parts or greasing of the movement to ensure smooth running. With proper care, some mechanical watches can last for a lifetime or for generations.
A quartz watch is low-maintenance and only requires the change of battery after 1-2 years. However, the owner of a quartz watch runs the risk of a battery leak if the battery is not replaced quickly enough and this will cause the quartz movement to be completely destroyed. Some may also deem the changing of battery to be a hassle and without proper handling, water resistance can be compromised or parts may also break where the movement cannot be repaired.
If you pay more for a mechanical watch, it has to be more accurate than a quartz watch? Wrong! Consumers fork out more for a mechanical watch due to the craftsmanship involved in putting together the watch. In general, a quartz watch is more accurate in time telling compared to a mechanical watch.
A mechanical watch features mechanical movements meticulously assembled by highly skilled watchmakers. These watchmakers undergo years of training before they are allowed to assemble the movement. It involves the engineering of intricate series of tiny components working together to power the watch, requiring greater attention-to-detail from the watchmakers. In other words, they are more complex and harder to make. The technical craftsmanship and engineering are reasons that make automatic watches desirable by watch enthusiasts.
Compared to a mechanical movement, a quartz movement has few moving parts and does not require such high level of assembling skill. This makes it less expensive on the market as it can be mass manufactured.
Watch enthusiasts may remember the quartz revolution in the 1970s where Japanese manufacturers were able to mass produce affordable quartz watches which crippled the traditional craft of watch making for mechanical watches. Today, both quartz and mechanical have found their own appeals to audiences around the world.
The core functionality of a watch is ultimately to tell time. As to which is better, the decision is up to you! After all, watches have evolved to be a lifestyle accessory that showcases your taste and preferences.
If you are interested in mechanical watches, Arbutus offers mechanical watches in both hand-winding and automatic variants.