A watch movement is the engine that powers the watch. The movement is the heart of the watch, the mechanism that uses energy and transfers it into the incremental forward movements that count time.
Watch movements need a power source, in other words, and there three primary ways that a watch can be powered:
In a quartz movement watch, a battery sends an electrical signal through a quartz crystal. The crystal vibrates when electrified, producing oscillations as it vibrates that drive the motor in the watch.
In a mechanical watch, a person has to manually wind the watch. The act of winding coils up a spring, called the mainspring, which coils up and stores potential energy. As the spring unwinds, it releases energy through a series of gears and mechanisms in the watch, providing and regulating power over time.
In an automatic watch (also called a self-winding watch), the watch has free-spinning rotors inside. When you wear the watch and move your arm around, those rotors spin in response to the movement, and transfer their rotation to the mainspring. The spring unwinds as in a mechanical watch, but instead of being deliberately wound by a person, the watch is simply powered through your own natural kinetic energy.
5 Differences Between Quarts and Automatic Watches
While it may seem like the only thing that is different about these watches is the power source, and that all other aspects of a watch would be identical, the different power sources actually create more differences than you might imagine.
1. Second Hand Movement
A quartz watch will have a second hand that clicks forward every second, with a noticeable incremental movement. Automatic watches have second hands that sweep smoothly forward without pausing.
2. Weight and Size
A quartz watch will be smaller and lighter than an automatic watch, because the internal mechanism is simpler.
A quartz watch is extremely accurate, and will keep time to within less than a second per day. Even a very good automatic watch will gain or lose a few seconds a day, which can add up to several minutes in a month.
Quartz watches require very little maintenance, other than changing the battery every few years. Automatic watches, due to their more complex mechanisms, need service and maintenance every 3-5 years.
As you can probably tell, quartz watches are more affordable than automatic watches. They have fewer complex interlocking parts, and are therefore easier and less expensive to make, and easier and less expensive to maintain and repair.
Because they were introduced as a more affordable alternative to expensive mechanical watches, quartz watches have (perhaps unfairly) never earned the same prestige and reputation of mechanical watches.
While watch collectors and aficionados appreciate the beauty and intricacy of automatic watches, and they remain the most fashionable and prestigious watches in the world, many of the world’s best watch makers are taking a fresh look at quartz. With its ease of care and superior accuracy, even iconic Omega has added a quartz watch to their line. Whatever movement you prefer, there are excellent options available.