Quartz v Mechanical

How to tell the difference between quartz and mechanical

Perhaps you understand whether your watch is run by a quartz movement or mechanical movement, or you have heard the terms but are not sure what they mean? We can give you a basic overview of the differences, and guide you to a better understanding of what type of movement is in your watch and how it works.

A watch movement is the engine of a watch that acts as the powerhouse to make the watch and its functions work. This internal mechanism inside the timepiece moves the hands and powers any complications such as a chronograph, annual calendar or a dual time zone. Driving all of the timekeeping functions, the movement is the essential component in a watch and keeping accurate time; a watch would not function without it.

There are countless different movements that are created by watch manufactures utilising proprietary innovations, but each of these movements will fall into one of two categories; quartz or mechanical.


Mechanical movement

The second hand moves with a “sweeping” motion.

Quartz movement

The second hand moves with a “ticking” motion.

The movement inside a watch is literally what makes it tick. Movements can be split into 2 categories, quartz and mechanical.

A quartz movement is electronic and so called because integrated within the electronics of the movement is a small piece of quartz mineral. Quartz minerals oscillate on an almost perfect consistency which can explain the accuracy of highly crafted quartz timepieces.

Most quartz watches are battery powered and these batteries can last generally between 2 to 5 years. The battery sends an electrical current through the quartz, electrifying the crystal to create the vibrations. Some brands, such as Citizen’s Eco-Drive, utilise solar power and can even charge indoors. Another form of quartz can be seen in watches such as Seiko Kinetic which have a small mechanism on the back that charge an internal capacitor within the watch as it’s being worn.

Because of the strict oscillation of the quartz, this results in a second hand that visibly moves once every second and darts from second to second with a well-known ‘tick’ motion.

Mechanical movements can be self-winding (automatic) or hand-wound. Mechanical movements use energy from a wound spring, rather than a battery, to power the watch. This spring stores energy and transfers it through a series of gears and springs, regulating the release of energy to power the watch. An Automatic watch will have a rotor on the movement which will re-wind the mainspring when your wrist moves. If consistently worn, an automatic, self-winding watch will never run out of power.

The second hand on a mechanical watch will have a ‘sweeping’ motion whereby the hand glides with tiny increments between each second.