Watch Movements Explained: Quartz vs. Mechanical
Does the movement inside a watch matter? The battle between quartz (battery) and mechanical watch movements has been a critical debate/discussion for decades. Many enthusiasts argue that quartz is more suited for convenience and those looking to throw on a watch without worrying about winding it or setting the time and date like a mechanical watch. Others argue that mechanical movements are pure and the most valid form of watchmaking dating back centuries. For me, both options are great for all collectors.
For those new to watch collecting, quartz watches are powered by a battery, plain and simple. The battery sends an electrical charge to a small quartz crystal, causing the crystal to vibrate. These vibrations allow the movement to oscillate, driving the second, minute and hour hands to move and tell accurate time.
Quartz-powered watches are the more convenient option for those who just want to throw on a watch and go. Their high accuracy and minimal maintenance make them the perfect choice for someone looking to wear a nice watch without worrying about servicing the movement, like in a mechanical movement. The only care needed is the occasional battery replacement every 2-3
years, making quartz the better choice for those who want to throw on a watch with no high-maintenance components.
Mechanical watch movements are viewed as the “pure” form of watch movements. Crafted and constructed by expert watchmakers, mechanical movements comprise various small gears, levers and other pieces to build the heart of a watch. The coolest part of a mechanical watch is that no batteries are required. Mechanical movements use a wound spring to create energy to drive power to the movement components. However, these watches stop if unworn or unwound, meaning you need to wind them and reset the time; if you have a day and date on your watch, that will also need to be set.
There are two types of mechanical movement; manual winding and automatic or self-winding. Manual winding movements require the watch to be wound via the crown. Winding the crown adds tension to the main spring sending the built-up energy to the movement to operate and tell time. Automatic or self-winding movements aren’t wound by the crown but by motion from the wrist of the person wearing the watch. For this to happen, the watch has an internal weight,
known as a rotor, that spins with the wearer’s motion and transfers that energy to the main spring in the movement to power the watch.
There are plenty of manual winding and automatic watches available. For manual wind, check out the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical and the Mido Oceanstar Tribute Gradient for automatic or self-winding.