Quartz vs. Mechanical – A Tale of Two Watches
It was the best of time, it was the worst of time – one watch using the vibrations of synthetic stone to keep perfect time, the other using antiquated technology that needs constant maintenance and rewinding.
But people often pay thousands more for the latter.
Like Dickens’ Two Cities, quartz and mechanical watches are similar in function but the movement, price and purpose of both are quite different.
Quartz watches are simple, efficient, and mostly inexpensive. They keep accurate time and only need the occasional battery replacement for maintenance. A quality quartz watch is sleek and functional – they have traveled from the depths of the sea all the way into outer space, being the first watch to fly to the moon.
A quartz watch movement uses modern technology to power the hands of the timepiece. The battery sends small jolts of electricity into a tiny quartz crystal, causing the crystal to vibrate. These vibrations provide consistent power to the watch, allowing for near-perfect timekeeping (losing only about a minute a year). This precise movement is paramount for military personnel, whose operations are centered on exact timing.
To identify a quartz watch, simply look at the second hand. Individual ticks, rather than a sweeping motion, are the key giveaway.
Unlike their battery-powered counterparts, mechanical watches rely on pure mechanics to move the hands. This technology has been around for centuries and is still not perfect, but affluent consumers will often pay thousands for a mechanical watch. Simply put, the purpose of a luxury mechanical watch is to have something nice to look at and showcase to others; telling time is not the highest priority.
The allure of a pricey mechanical watch is the sheer novelty of the design - prestigious Swiss watchmakers often make complex mechanical movements as an art form in their craft. A unique, catchy movement is valuable to the true watch enthusiast.
There are two kinds of movements used in mechanical watches: the first is a manual movement, which derives energy from a wound spring. This energy is slowly transferred through the gears to power the hands of the watch. The mechanics are easily seen if the watch has a “skeletal” movement. The wearer is responsible for winding the watch every 24 hours to keep the time and complications consistent.
Automatic movement is very similar, but it doesn't require the wearer to turn a crown to wind. Instead, a semi-circular plate, called a rotor, spins around the center of the watch whenever the watch moves (i.e. when the wearer reaches for something). This allows for the watch to wind itself, and will stay continually wound so long as there is movement to feed it.
Mechanical movement doesn't make a watch a “far, far better thing” than a quartz movement – it’s just a different mechanism that fits a different style.
How to Spot a Fake Watch
Every casual consumer is susceptible to buying a fake watch. The very luxury timepiece you are wearing right now could very well be a fake, but how do you tell? Fortunately for you, the chances are slim IF you bought it from an official store. Still, you can’t be too careful, so here are some pointers to help you spot a fake:
- Research the most copied brands. Rolex takes the cake as the most copied watch brand in the world, because unlike most luxury watch brands, Rolex produces more than a million watches a year due to high demand. Making yourself familiar with the movement, aesthetics and overall style of a brand will help you spot a fake.
- Perform an inspection. After gaining an understanding of what to look for, take the time to inspect any watch before buying. There are some obvious red flags that are easy to spot for the initiated: blatant typos, poor finish, and cheap metal are a few examples. Some of the more subtle flaws come with more background knowledge – a luxury piece with a tourbillon, an expensive mechanism that takes complex equipment to make, cannot be replicated in a fake. A fake watch will have fake complications that only appear to work as they should.
- Have common sense. Those who understand the watch industry know the fundamentals of watch resale. Expensive watches, for example, never go on sale or clearance, and can never be found for a ridiculously low price tag. A true brand will be sold by an authorized retailer and not by a street vendor (with the exception of the lesser-known “grey market,” which sells used authentic watches). Unsung luxury brands with no following and no website are probably not real brands.
The next time someone claims to have purchased an authentic timepiece for cheap, you can be the one to judge. A little research and practice will make you into an authority on fake watches, and may save you from buying a fake yourself someday.
How to Pick the Right Watch
The time has come to get a new watch. You want to purchase a watch that just fits you as a person. But in this situation, “you” means a whole lot of things like your budget, activities and style. Precision Time offers a wide array of styles to fit your niche, but finding your niche is up to you. Take these factors into consideration while you search for the perfect timepiece. You will never regret wearing a piece that makes a statement and fits your lifestyle.
- Type: What variety of watch are you looking for? There are a myriad of different watches to choose from, but most of them fall under two categories: functional and fancy. If you need something more functional, like something to keep the time during a swim or hike, an analog or digital watch is right for you. Fancy watches are mainly mechanical, with the complex gear system as more of a novelty than form of function.
- Activities: When do you plan on wearing the watch? Different venues call for different types of watches – an analog at work, a digital while exercising, a luxury mechanical while at a board meeting, and so forth. There are inappropriate times to wear certain watches both for social and safety reasons. After all, you wouldn't want to wear a pricey mechanical watch to go rock climbing.
- Size: What size suits you most? In this case, size is referring to the circumference and thickness of the watch face. Some people prefer large watches like the SottoMarino Mostro, which boasts a very prominent face. Others prefer smaller watches because they are lighter on the wrist. The most important thing is that the watch is comfortable.
- Complications: What do you want the watch to do? If you want all the bells and whistles, a gadget watch will suit you well (or even a smartwatch, heaven forbid). If all you need is the time, a digital or analog watch will be perfectly functional and legible. Some consumers don’t even want a watch for telling time: they would rather sport a nice timepiece to match their fine dress.
- Movement: How do you want your watch to be powered? Most people are not that concerned with how the watch works so long as it tells time, but enthusiasts are very picky about the intricacies of their favorite watches. Mechanical, automatic, and quartz - these are all included in the jargon of watch movement mechanics. Mechanical movements are fun to boast, but some consumers prefer the reliability of quartz.