Here you'll find a brief guide on Quartz and Automatic watches to help guide your buying decisions.
A Brief Explanation of Automatic and Quartz Watches
Since as early as 2000 BC, humans have built and used a variety of tools in order to keep track of time. Prior to modern clocks, tools ranged from obelisks to track movement of the sun, water clocks, candle clocks, hour glasses, and a number of other machines. While the history of timekeeping instruments alone could fill a book, we're going to jump right into a quick explanation of quartz and automatic movements.
In order to set the stage, it's important to know that a "watch movement" is the component within the watch that keeps time and powers the watch hands - it can be thought of as the engine.
Quartz Movements - Our current Vaer line is powered by quartz movements, and the majority of modern clocks also use quartz power. Quartz movements were first invented in 1927, and brought to the consumer market in watches in the late 1960s. While once seen as the pinnacle of timekeeping technology, they're now readily available around the world. They're battery operated, incredibly accurate, and very affordable - all of these reasons are why they're used in our core Vaer offering.
Automatic Movements - While automatic movements are technically more dated technology than quartz movements, they're still often used in watches, because they carry a different degree of quality, craftsmanship, and complexity. Instead of batteries, they run off of energy from a wound spring - this spring stores energy and distributes it through interconnected gears and springs, controlling the supply of energy to power the watch. The main spring is "charged" either through hand-winding or natural motion generated from user wear. In the case of charge through user wear, a rotor, driven by motion of the wearer's arm, charges the spring. We're excited to release an automatic watch line in order to incorporate this side of the watch world into our lineup.
Are Automatic Watches Objectively Better Than Quartz Watches?
While you may see this opinion in watch forums and comment sections, the short answer is... no! The go-to assumption for many consumers is that an automatic watch as simply "better" than all quartz watches because of it's complexity, craftsmanship, and cost. Ultimately, though, it all comes down to consumer preference and needs.
While most automatic watches may carry more mechanical complexity and cost significantly more than most quartz watches, they’re also less accurate by nature of design. While a mechanical movement generally have accuracy of +-10 seconds to +- 30 seconds per day, a quartz movement will have this same accuracy range (or better) over the course of an entire month. For those that are in the pursuit of ultimate timekeeping precision, a quartz watch is going to be the clear choice.
Automatic watches also run on a "power reserve", which is essentially the amount of time the watch can continue to operate off the power generated by winding of movement. Most watches come in around a 40 hour reserve, which means that if the watch is not wound or worn for 40 hours, it will stop, therefore losing track of the time. A quartz movement, on the other hand, continues to tick as long as long as a battery is active - in our watches, this is 3-4 years per battery. Again, if you're looking for a reliable timekeeping instrument that keeps time without regular wear, then an automatic may not be the best choice.
Despite the above, automatic watches are incredible feats of human engineering that deserve all the praise that they get. It’s a magical thing to know that there is a machine on your wrist being powered by nothing more than natural motion. A machine that is capable of tracking time with micro gears and springs without the use of electricity is a fantastic thing. There’s also something to be said for the fact that an automatic watch is entirely “off the grid”. There are not batteries to die or satellites to connect to – it’s physical components working in perfect harmony to produce accurate time - this is amazing.
The movements used in Vaer mechanical watches will all be powered off of both hand-winding, as well as natural motion. In the case of natural motion, the energy generated by your motion is harnessed by a rotor in the watch movement, then stored in the main spring.
So Is Quartz or Automatic Right for You?
We say both, each for different occasions!
Sometimes you may want a watch that you can just “grab and go”. If you want to be confident that the time is going to be accurate when haven't worn your watch in a week, a quartz is going to be the choice. Due to the lower cost of a quartz movement, your quartz watch may also be the choice for situations where damage or loss may occur.
Other times, you may want to feel the weight of an automatic watch, knowing that it houses beautiful machine right on your wrist. You may love having the ability to look down at that sweeping second hand and to be able to flip the watch over and see the inner-workings of the movement through an exhibition casebook - at these times, an automatic will be the clear choice.
Fortunately, Vaer already offers a full quartz line here, and we’re releasing our automatic line via Kickstarter on July 9th - it will be offered at only $299 ($150 off). If you’d like more information on our automatic line, and you’d like to sign for access to early bird discounts upon release, you can do so here.