Timepieces have been man’s obsession dating as far back as anyone can remember. We have come so far from simple sundials to smartwatches. Wristwatches, in particular, have undergone tremendous changes over time and there are countless watch parts suppliers making them all over.
The debate between mechanical (automatic) watches and quartz watches has been raging on for a while now. While both serve the same purpose of telling time, the one thing about wristwatches that sets them apart is that they are far more than just gadgets for telling the time; they are a fashion statement on the part of the wearer.
Still, the question remains, which is the superior watch between the mechanical and the Quartz?
A mechanical watch is one that relies on a clockwork mechanism to track the passage of time; in simple terms, it does not use batteries. It is instead driven by a mainspring that is periodically wound by a built-in winding mechanism. This winding then transmits the force to a set of carefully paced gears that trigger oscillations that are paced out at a constant rate.
Mechanical watches date back to the late 1700s, the first ones ever made are credited to Abraham-Louis and Hubert Sarton. An automatic watch has the following main parts:
- Rotor: A semicircular weight mounted on the movement that swings through 360°. The rotor is what winds the mainspring.
- Reverser Mechanism: This is found between the rotor and the gears. It is what allows the rotor to wind the mainspring in any direction.
- Crown: The button on the outside part of a watch that can be used to wind the mainspring and set the hands manually.
- Mainspring: A metal strip that stores the energy when wound and releases that energy gradually as it unwinds.
- Gear Train: A set of strategically positioned gears that transmit energy from the mainspring to the escape wheel.
- Escarpment: The part that divides time into equal fractions.
- Balance Wheel: The organ that regulates all watch movements, commonly called the heart of the watch.
Quartz watches use an electronic oscillator that is often regulated by a quartz crystal. The crystal oscillator emits a signal that has a precise frequency, a feature that makes Quartz watches the most accurate. The history of Quartz watches date back to 1927, the year that Warren Marrison and Horton build the first one. A quartz watch has the following parts:
- Battery: The electronic power source that runs everything. Good watches can run for almost two years without replacing the battery.
- An Integrated Circuit: The component that carries electricity to other parts.
- Quartz Crystal: A crystal inside the watch that generates a voltage by vibrating.
- Stepping Motor: This component converts electric pulses emanating from the quartz crystal into mechanical power.
- Gear Train: A series of gears that regulate energy that makes the hands of the watch move.
Mechanical and Quartz watches may look the same at first glance, but they differ in so many ways that go beyond their outer casings.
When it comes to craftsmanship, mechanical watches are the pinnacle. The delicate engineering that goes into making a mechanical watch is a marvel itself. Setting up all the tiny components to work in tandem with each other without an electric energy source takes skill.
Quartz watches, on the other hand, are much more impeller when it comes to the general design. What they lack in craftsmanship they make up for with accuracy.
Quartz watches are 100 times more accurate than mechanical watches. The movements in mechanical watches depend on many things and can also be affected by external factors. Temperature, for example, in high temperatures, they lose time, and in low temperatures, they gain time.
Quartz watches, on the other hand, have less moving parts since thanks to a reliable central source of energy. The lesser the moving parts, the higher the accuracy.
The time, resources, and the quality of materials that go into making just a single mechanical watch are immense. For this reason, mechanical watches last for a very long time. Only physical damage can stop them in their tracks. They last for over 100 years.
Quartz watches, on the other hand, owing to how simple it is to mass-produce them, don’t last long. The materials used are of inferior quality; they last an average of 10 years.
A standard mechanical watch has at least 130 parts, most of them metal. This makes them some of the bulkiest watches around. The more complex the watch, the heavier it gets. Quartz watches, on the other hand, have few internal parts, with most of them made of plastic. Most times, the heavy part of a quartz watch is the strap and the computer casing.
Cost and Availability
The invention of quartz watches was a game-changer. Before them, watches were a luxury reserved for the monied few. Quartz watches are faster to make and can be mass-produced, making them cheaper and widely available.
Mechanical watches, on the other hand, cost a lot, especially luxury ones. The time it takes to make some is so long that some brands are impossible to find in the market. Some mechanical watches take up to 6 years to get everything working right.
Maintaining a quartz watch is very easy. In fact, the most you will ever do is replace the battery once it runs out. In the case of repairs, countless shops can quickly fix them. Mechanical watches, on the other hand, are another matter. The process of maintaining and repairing them is as complicated as their creation. What’s more, you will need a skilled artisan to do just that, and they charge a lot.
The question on which is better between Quartz and mechanical watches does not have a definite answer. Some quartz watches are better than mechanical ones, and vice versa, it all boils down to personal preference and how deep their pockets go. But if style and making a statement is what you are going for, then a mechanical watch is just what your wrists needs.