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Automatic watches vs quartz watches - which is best?

Ever wondered what the difference is between an automatic and a quartz watch? Or are you wondering which one is better? Well, good job we’re here to shine some light on it for you.

So, first thing first, what the heck to these terms even mean!?

In short, these 2 terms refer to 2 separate types of movements that are used in watchmaking. For those of you that are unsure of what a “movement” actually is, it's the power house of the watch; the thing that makes it tick…or sweep (we will get to that later).

So lets break it down:

How does a quartz watch work?

A watch that contains a quartz movement is powered using a battery. The battery, which is contained inside the watch, sends an electrical signal through a small piece of quartz crystal that’s embedded into the watch’s circuitry.

When the electrical signal from the battery meets the quartz crystal, it oscillates at a near perfect and constant frequency. This consistency of the oscillation creates vibrations that in turn cause the seconds hand on the watch to move around the dial in a ticking motion 1 second at a time.

How does an automatic watch work?

Automatic watches (also known as self-winding watches) are a lot more complex than their quartz rivals. Instead of having a battery and circuit board, an automatic watch is composed of hundreds of small, intricate mechanical parts that make up the movement.

When the watch is being worn (or placed in a watch winder) the motion causes a rotor inside the watch to transfer kinetic energy to the watch’s power reserve. This then causes the seconds hand to move in a smooth sweeping motion around the dial.

Ok, so with the basics out the way, let's now figure out which one is “better”.

Quartz Advantages

Quartz Disadvantages

Automatic Advantages

Automatic Disadvantages

Cheaper than automatic watches

No sweeping seconds hand

Sweeping seconds hand

More expensive than quartz watches

More accurate than automatic watches

Relies on battery to operate

Does not need battery to operate

Not as accurate as quartz watches

Thinner and lighter than automatic watches

Not considered a "proper watch"

Considered a "proper watch"

Need re-winding

No need to re-wind

Some big brands have stopped producing new quartz pieces

Larger and heavier than quartz watches

Potential extra cost for watch winder

Quick, low cost, easy maintenance

Considered a more beautiful than quartz watches

Expensive and long maintenance

No extra cost for watch winder

Sensitive components

Advantages and disadvantages of quartz watches.


1) Cheaper than automatic watches - due to the internal workings being much less complicated quartz watches are usually quicker and cheaper to manufacture. Thus making them a more affordable option.

2) More accurate than automatic watches – quartz watches are well known for being far more accurate than automatic watches. A typical quartz piece will gain or lose 15 seconds per 30 days as opposed to automatic watches that can gain/lose 1-10 seconds per day.

3) Thinner and lighter – due to having less components making up the mechanism, a quartz watch will usually be slightly lighter than an automatic watch. The lack of components also means that the caseback will protrude less from the watch body as it has less to conceal. However, this is only an advantage if it's your personal preference to have a lighter, thinner timepiece.

4) No need to re-wind it – once your quartz watch is ticking that’s pretty much it. It will do all of the work for you. No need to re-wind it or keep it in a watch winder; it will keep ticking away even when it's off your wrist. So when you next come back to it it will still be showing the correct time.

5) Maintenance – as quartz pieces have less moving parts than automatics, they don’t require as much maintenance i.e. servicing. The only real issue is having to get the battery changed every few years. This also results in quartz watches incurring much cheaper maintenance costs overall when compared to automatics. Additionally, the maintenance work on a quartz piece can be carried out at a much quicker rate than that of an automatic. So your baby will be back on your wrist in no time.

6) No extra cost for a watch winder – a quartz piece does not require any additional winding, therefore there is no need to buy a watch winder.


1) No sweeping seconds hand – the seconds hand on quartz watches move in an intermittent ticking motion rather than a smooth sweep, like on automatics. For some people this is a deal breaker. For me personally, I couldn’t care less. If you’re in the same boat as me, then ignore this one.

2) Relies on battery to operate – if the battery in your watch suddenly runs out of power your watch won’t work until you have a new battery fitted.

3) Not considered a “proper watch” – due to the lack of traditional craftsmanship needed to assemble a quartz movement (when compared to an automatic movement), these watches often lose credibility within the watch community.

4) Some big brands have stopped producing - Many big brands, such as Omega and Rolex, no longer produce new quartz pieces. Therefore, you would either have to seek out an older model or look for an alternative brand.

Advantages and disadvantages of automatic watches.


1) Does not need a battery to operate – as long as you keep the watch moving it should keep time. However, this can be affected if the watch needs servicing.

2) Sweeping seconds hand – for some people this is the thing that they love most about their automatic watch, the way that the seconds hand sweeps so smoothly around the dial rather than ticking intermittently.

3) Considered a more beautiful option than quartz – the craftsmanship and intricacy of automatic movements is a work of art in itself. I personally love exhibition casebacks and skeleton dials on automatic watches so that I can admire the inner workings.

4) An automatic is a “proper watch” – many people consider mechanical watches as “proper” watches as they rely on more traditional, technical watchmaking skills.

5) Larger and heavier than quartz – although we said that it was an advantage for a quartz watch to be thinner and lighter than an automatic piece, this comes down to personal preference. At the moment, larger, bulkier watches are very in fashion. Heck, some of those Hublot’s are gigantic! And some people do prefer to have a more hefty watch on their wrist.


1) More expensive than quartz watches – with automatic watches the sky is the limit as far as price is concerned. However, it is important to note that this is highly dependent on brand, trends and complications etc. There are some brands that offer very well priced automatic pieces. Although, they still tend to be more pricey than quartz watches.

2) Not as accurate as a quartz watch – losing/gaining between 1-10 seconds per day as opposed to quartz’s 15 seconds per month, automatics lose the battle here. Although this is not to say that automatic watches are not accurate or reliable. They are still incredibly reliable instruments of time.

3) The need for re-winding – if an automatic watch is not worn regularly or kept in a watch winder it will stop once the power reserve has run out. When you return to your flat watch you will need to feed it some power and re-set the time and date.

4) Watch winder extra cost – the power reserve on an automatic watch does not last forever. Some people can’t bear going back to their automatic watch and realising that the movement has stopped. To prevent this, they can either wear it frequently enough to stop the power reserve from going empty or keep it in a watch winder. Sometimes watch winders can be quite expensive.

5) Maintenance – as there are more moving parts in an automatic watch, the need for servicing becomes more frequent. The servicing of an automatic watch also comes with a much higher price tag than that of a quartz piece. Additionally, due to the many components within the watch and the skill needed to carry out the job properly, you may be waiting a few weeks before you get your watch back from its spa day.

6) Sensitive – the numerous parts that make up the automatic movement are quite delicate. In some cases the watch can become more susceptible to environmental factors that can affect how the watch operates e.g. harsh temperatures, high altitude, excessive shaking. Automatic watches certainly need to be handled with care. Why not check out our other blog right here to learn all of the unexpected ways that you can damage your watch.

The verdict.

As you can see both movements have their advantages and disadvantages and the answer to which one is “better” really does depend on your personal needs and preferences.

Our recommendations?

Well, if you’re a seasoned watch person then an automatic should be no problem for you, as long as you are aware of how to look after it properly. If not, we have another blog that you can check out right here.

Or perhaps you already have a quartz piece and are looking to upgrade? If so, an automatic would be a very fitting choice and a great way to upgrade your collection and try out something new.

Or maybe you are new to the watch world? If so, it may be more beneficial to go with a quartz piece. This way you can ease yourself into wearing a watch daily and it won’t break the bank.

Whatever choice you make, don’t stress about it too much. Just enjoy! …and remember that we have loads more in stock if ever you change your mind 😉 cheeky.

See you for the next blog.


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