The Quartz vs Automatic Watches Showdown 🥊

Quartz vs Automatic Watches header image
By Maverick, 15th of August 2022

The showdown of the Watch World: Quartz VS Automatic watches.

The fight amongst watch collectors and enthusiasts has been brewing since a young contender came onto the scene in the 1960s.

Whether your reasons for owning / collecting watches is because you love the craftsmanship, precision and design of automatic watches…

Or you love the accuracy, practicality and the durability of quartz watches…

There is plenty of arguments for both types of watches.

So of course, we’re going to dive deep into these arguments here, but first we need to discuss how these different watches actually work.

We better put on our gloves and jump into the ring, as this fight of Quartz Vs Automatic could get very interesting…

What’s a Quartz Watch?

The Tissot Supersport Gent, powered by a Swiss quartz movement: ETA F06.115 (source: tissotwatches.com)

To start this Quartz vs Automatic Watches Showdown, first we look to the red corner, weighing in is our young, good-looking and accurate challenger, the quartz watch.

Quartz watches are very recognizable because of their ticking sound.

Tick, tick, tick. Once per second.

This ticking sound is powered by a battery that charges a quartz crystal with an electrical current.

This causes a vibration that drives the stepping motor and allows for very accurate timekeeping.

For example, the ETA F06.115 above is an an affordable Swiss quartz movement.

The F06.115 powers the stylish Tissot Supersport Gent (amongst many other Tissot watches) and has an accuracy of -0.5 to +0.7 seconds per day.

That’s pretty damn accurate.

Now, if you are keen on all the intricate technical inner workings of a quartz watch, then I’d definitely recommend watching the video below from our friend Steve Mould.

It’s a no BS, clear and concise explanation of exactly how quartz watches work.

He even chains a bunch of flip flops together to show you how the signal from the quartz crystal is translated into the seconds hand for accurate timekeeping…

How a Quartz Watch Works

by Steve Mould (17:34 minutes)

What’s an Automatic Watch?

Seiko Prospex Sea SPB297 and caliber 6R35
The Seiko Prospex Sea SPB297, powered by their in-house automatic movement 6R35 (source: seikowatches.com)

And in the blue corner of our Quartz vs Automatic Watches Showdown, is the smooth, calculated and experienced champion looking to retain his title, the automatic watch.

The automatic watch is powered by the motion of the wearer’s wrist.

By gathering energy from the mainspring through to the barrel to the gear trains, it powers the second hand to create the distinctly smooth, sweeping motion automatic watches are so famous for.

Just as the quartz watch ticks once per second, the sweeping motion of the automatic watch will tick 4-6 times per second.

Unlike the quartz watch, an automatic watch is powered by a weighted rotor and not a battery.

As a result, the weighted rotor stores up power and the watch continues to run through the night when taken off.

The example above is an Automatic 6R35, bringing to life the striking Seiko‘s Diver SPB297 watch from their Prospex collection.

The high performing Auto 6R35 has a power reserve of approximately 70 hours and an accuracy of +25 to -15 seconds per day

Now again, if you’d like a more technical explanation of how an automatic watch works, with a skeletonized Patek Philippe Calatrava 5180, make sure you check out the below video from Watchfinder & Co.

Watching the stripped away mechanism… is completely fascinating.

How an Automatic Watch Works

by Watchfinder & Co (9:35 minutes)

The Showdown: Quartz Vs Automatic Watches

As you can probably imagine from reading just the descriptions of both watches there are quite a few differences between quartz vs automatic watches.

So let’s start this showdown for the ages and look at some comparisons and differences between the two…

Quartz Vs Automatic Watches Round #1: The Seconds Hand’s Motion

Firstly and possibly the most obvious difference between the quartz and automatic watches is the motion of the second hand.

A quartz watches’ second hand moves with small individual ticks at one per second.

Conversely, the mechanical movement of the automatic watch is a sweeping motion and will tick 4-6 times per second.

We’ll call this round a tie… personal preference.

One point each.

The quarts vs automatic watches showdown

The Quartz Vs Automatic Watches Showdown

Quartz  1  :  1  Automatic

Quartz Vs Automatic Watches Round #2: Accuracy

Now, these movements result in more than just aesthetics.

In the case of the ticking movement of the quartz watch, this is considered to be the most accurate vs the automatic when it comes to timekeeping.

And let’s be honest here, is that not the original function of a wristwatch?

For example, Citizen debuted the Eco-Drive Caliber 0100 in 2019. This technological marvel of quartz accuracy is considered to be the most accurate ever designed.

How accurate? Accurate to just ±1 second per year!

Check out the incredible feat below…

The Caliber 0100

by Citizen (5:35 minutes)

Well, could this be the future of watchmaking?

Hard to argue isn’t it… certainly a big contender.

And I must say, there is still spectacular craftsmanship in quartz watches, which brings us to the next point of contention…

Oh, and this round has to go to quartz…

The quarts vs automatic watches showdown

The Quartz Vs Automatic Watches Showdown

Quartz  2  :  1  Automatic

Quartz Vs Automatic Watches Round #3: Craftsmanship

Of course, automatic watch enthusiasts love the high level of craftsmanship and impressive engineering that come with the mechanical movements of automatic watches.

These small, complex, high precision machines that fit on your wrist are one part art, one part science, with every single component fitting perfectly into place.

No wonder watch collectors love automatic movements.

A lot of the time they also come with a clear open display case back so the wearer can see all the beautiful intrinsic details of the gears in motion. 

To make the argument for precision performance and craftsmanship, just take a look at the Omega Co-Axial Master Chronometer with their automatic caliber below….

The Co-Axial Master Chronometer

by Omega (1:30 minutes)

Now if that doesn’t that get you emotional…

What a beauty to behold.

Art meets science… every small intricate part working in synchronised harmony.

Sorry quartz, Automatic wins this round. We are neck and neck…

The quarts vs automatic watches showdown

The Quartz Vs Automatic Watches Showdown

Quartz  2  :  2  Automatic

Quartz Vs Automatic Watches Round #4: Maintenance

While many do look at automatic watches as superior due to their attention to detail, they do require a little more TLC when compared to the quartz watch.

As I said above, automatic watches are powered by the motion of the wearer’s wrist, so generally you want to wear them regularly.

If you don’t wear them regularly, they will either  need to be kept in a watch winder or you’ll have to manually wind it every few days.

Automatic watch owners also need to be a little more mindful as they must service their watch every 3-5 years.

Quartz watches on the other hand, require much less maintenance due to their battery power design.

The battery will continue to power the watch even if the owner does not wear the watch regularly. 

And the battery should last a couple of years.  

Quartz nails automatic in this round and inches ahead ever so slightly…

The quarts vs automatic watches showdown

The Quartz Vs Automatic Watches Showdown

Quartz  3  :  2  Automatic

Quartz Vs Automatic Watches Round #5: The History

Another point automatic watch collectors love talking about is of course the history and heritage associated with automatic watches.

For the uninitiated, Hubert Sarton was the French inventor who is credited with one of the earliest automatic watch designs in 1778.

From this moment many would add to the design and innovation of automatic watches.

In 1926, John Harwood would then create the first automatic wristwatch with the winding rotor we use today.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of the history and classic innovation of these watches.

A quick search online will show you just how deep and rich the history of automatic watches is.

The quartz watch however, is a much more new school design.

While the first idea and invention of the quartz watch date back years, the quartz watch design took off around the 1970s.

Swiss watchmakers dominated the watch world with their skillful automatic watch design.

However after Seiko released the Quartz Astron 35SQ in 1969 it would kick off what was known as the “quartz crisis”.

And it was this release of the Astron that changed the commercial wristwatch market forever.

Quartz watches simplified watchmaking and production. Not only are they more accurate but they are easier and cheaper to produce. 

Last round and Automatic smacks quartz down…

The quarts vs automatic watches showdown

The Quartz Vs Automatic Watches Showdown

Quartz  3  :  3  Automatic

 

It’s a Tie Ladies and Gentlemen!

Damn… what a fight.

But this leaves us with the biggest question of all yet to be answered.

Which watch is better when it comes to Quartz VS Automatic watches?

The answer to that question is it’s a personal preference.

Both automatic and quartz watch designs are

So at the end of the day, it is about what you want to get out of your watch.

If you’re someone that wants:

  • A simple low-maintenance watch
  • A watch you can rely on for accurate time
  • Not fussed with the history and craftsmanship…

Then quartz watches are for you.

On the other hand, if you’re someone who:

  • Enjoys caring for your watches
  • Loves the mechanical craftsmanship and precision
  • Has an urge to tell friends the backstory to their timepiece…

Then you’re an automatic watch person. 

So, we’d better wrap this fight up.

And with all this in mind we’ll finish with a more obvious common trait both of these watch types share…

Whether it’s quartz or an automatic, a watch looks undeniably good on a wrist!

And hey, if you’re a watch lover, I’m sure there’s enough room in your watch collection for both.

Living on borrowed time,

– Mav

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