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What is a Quartz Watch and How Does It Work?

If you have any interest in watches, you have likely heard of quartz watches. However, unless you are familiar with the different types of watch movements (how watches and clocks move their hands), you likely aren’t sure what the term means. Understanding quartz movement will help you to make informed buying decisions when you want a watch.

Mechanical Watches

Early watches used a manual mechanical system. Mechanical watches are technological marvels that use the complex movement of many small pieces to make the handstick at the right time. Of course, there are many different quality levels with mechanical movement. However, this style of movement is most often reserved for luxury watches today due to the manufacturing complexity.

Automatic Watches

Automatic watches are an evolution of mechanical watches. They store energy in an innerspring to turn the hands. This spring can be charged with energy either by winding the watch or by the wearer’s wrist movements. The latter is a popular style because it forgoes the need for winding or batteries.

Quartz

Quartz movement is a very different approach to keeping time than a mechanical watch. The name is derived from the quartz crystal that produces a highly precise frequency through a crystal oscillator. A battery powers the mechanism and time is kept very accurately. Compared to mechanical watches, quartz watches are simpler, easier to maintain, and significantly more accurate.

Meca-Quartz Watches

A meca-quartz watch is a combination of mechanical and quartz movement. Typically, they are two separate systems. The timekeeping may use quartz movement while the complications (date keeping, stopwatch, etc.) use mechanical movement. However, other hybrid setups exist.

Quartz Movement Details - How Does a Quartz Watch Work?

The short description above may leave you wondering how a quartz watch actually works. At first, it sounds almost like magic. Quartz has an interesting property that allows it to be oscillated at a consistent rate when a consistent electrical frequency is applied to it. Thus, the power from an electrical battery can be converted into the mechanical motion of the arms.

Inside the watch or clock, the quartz crystal looks a little like a tuning fork. When powered with the watch battery or power from an outlet, the crystal vibrates with very exact timing. Using relatively simple gearing, this can be transferred to the hands.

A quartz watch is much simpler than a mechanical watch because it forgoes the need for so many small parts to keep accurate time. It may seem surprising in the digital age with computers and atomic clocks but keeping a mechanism moving in time properly is no small feat. This is especially true for a small package that can be strapped to your wrist.

Why Are Quartz Watches Worth Investing In?

Typically, lower-cost watches use quartz movement because it is much easier to produce. This has led some to think that only low-quality, low-value watches use quartz. However, this is far from the case. In fact, there are a lot of benefits that recommend the quartz movement for the highest-end luxury watches. While certain famous brands opt for mechanical movement, there are also investment-worthy quartz watches.

Durability

First and foremost, quartz watches are simpler and require much less maintenance. They are significantly more durable than their mechanical counterparts. So, you can count on a quartz watch lasting longer and requiring less servicing.

One of the advantages of this is that you can expect a quartz watch to retain value relatively well even if you wear it. You aren’t risking it completely breaking due to one small part out of hundreds wearing down.

Practicality

In a similar sense, quartz watches tend to be much more practical than mechanical watches. They keep better time and can be left to their own devices. As long as you change the batteries from time to time, your quartz watches will likely keep on ticking.

Even compared to powered mechanical watches, quartz watches are much easier to own and more practical. Compared to hand-wound watches, they are in another league of practicality.

Size

Typically, quartz mechanisms can be made quite a bit smaller than mechanical mechanisms. They are lighter and have fewer parts. In fact, many quartz watches feature a larger than necessary face to make the time easier to read. Thus, the watches tend to be more practical from a size perspective as well as maintenance.

Despite the simplicity and other advantages, quartz watches can be worth significant money if they are of limited quantity and desirable. With the right piece, you can see a return on investment.

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