Dear George, I have been in the market for a watch and wanted to know what is the difference between mechanical and quartz watches?


John T - Melbourne

Thanks for the question John; I’ll try answering this without going to nerdy.


A mechanical watch is powered by a spring (called the mainspring) which transmits energy as it gradually unwinds. As with all watches the mechanical watch keeps constant time by using the means oscillation (a repetitive variation like a pendulum). This time keeping element swings back and forth and produces the constant and hopefully consistent ticking.  When it comes to a mechanical watch there are two types – Manual-wind and Automatic.


As the name suggests manual-wind mechanical watches are wound by hand. Each day the wearer must wind the crown on the side of the watch. The watch relies on the mainspring being wound daily, so as that it has enough energy to turn the gears which help keep the watch telling the right time.

Automatic (Self-winding)

As the name suggests automatic watches don’t require being wound by hand. Instead the mainspring on an automatic watch is wound by the natural motions of the wearers wrist while it is being worn. The down side to this is that if the watch is left unworn for a day or so, it will stop running. This is where you see some watch automatic watch fanatics using electronic watch winders, which rotate the watches so as that the time and date remain current.


Quartz watches are controlled by an electronic circuit which keeps time to within a few seconds a month. They are based on the oscillation of a quartz crystal vibrating at about 32,000 times a second, which controls a motor that drives a few wheels and the hands. Quartz watches were introduced to the market in the 1960s and represent the majority watches now found on the market. While they are not as well-regarded as their mechanical counterpart, they are far more accurate because the oscillations from a quartz crystal are faster and more consistent than those of the mechanical balance wheel.


*You can tell a quartz and a mechanical watch apart by the way the hand moves. A quartz watch has a short tick, while a mechanical has a smooth movement between each second.


(image via Valet Magazine)

16 January 2013
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