Recently I started to investigate whether a quartz will last forever. The question came to mind as I own a couple of automatic watches and have been told they can outlive me with the right care. I know that brands such as Omega, Patek Philipe, and Breitling, that is luxury brands, use quartz movements. Naturally, when being a watch enthusiast came to wonder if a quartz watch will last forever as well?
Quartz watches will not last forever. However, under the right care, a modern quartz watch will most likely outlive its first owner. Quartz watches is not very complicated, and therefore known as being cheaper, more durable, and more accurate than a mechanical or automatic watch.
In the following sections, I will disclose what makes the quartz watch cheaper, more durable, and accurate while not possible to outlive a mechanical and automatic movement.
Will A Quartz Watch Last Forever?
Quartz watches will not last as long as mechanical and automatic watches due to the construction of the watch. A quartz watch is made with electronics, whereas a mechanical and automatic watch is made of metal components. The mechanical and automatic clockworks can be serviced and has a lot of replacement parts.
A quartz movement is a lot more fragile when in contact with moisture. E.g., if condensation or leaks were to happen, the quartz watch would die. A dead movement would mean that a watchmaker would have to replace the movement, which makes the watch like new, hence no longer the same. However, the case of the watch can be reused. Therefore the watch looks the same.
All of these replacement parts for mechanical and automatic watches are specially machined and developed by years in research and development by engineers. A quartz movement is generally a lot cheaper to make and produce. Both because it has a lot less parts for the watchmaker to assembly, but also because the manufacturing process has evolved into a highly automated process.
It must be expected that most quartz watches last for at least the 2-year warranty that even the most exclusive quartz watches offer. However, some quartz watches have warranty periods of up to 6 years. However, just like everything else, the longevity of the watch depends on the care of the watch.
Do Quartz Watches Need Servicing?
One of the reasons why a quartz movement will most likely not outlive a mechanical or automatic movement is due to its electronic components. E.g., the coil to the step motor (which pushes the hands on the dial), is made of a wire thinner than a hair. Commonly, the watchmakers damage the coil when replacing the battery by hitting the coil with a finger or screwdriver.
Quartz watches needs servicing, just like mechanical and automatic watches. Every 2 to 5 years, a quartz watch needs a battery replacement. Furthermore, the mechanical parts of the movement needs proper lubrication.
Mechanical failure due to quartz’s low complexity and small number of parts they are not required to be serviced as often as mechanical watches. This means there is longer between the average service of a quartz watch and the gaskets, which makes the watch water or dust resistant will wear out, allowing dirt and debris to enter the watch.
Electrical failure can happen if the watch suddenly shorts and snaps a wire track. It can also occur due to corrosion on the circuit board. Either way, they are close to impossible to repair. If the problem is on the wire track, it might be possible to fix.
A defect coil can happen just from hitting the coil with a fingernail or a screwdriver. The coil powers the step motor, which is what makes the hands on the dial go around, is made of wire thinner than a human hair. A defective coil cant be fixed. However, it is replaceable.
Salts and oxidation around the battery can cause the movement to stop. It is relatively easily repaired with a thorough cleanse of the involved parts by a watchmaker. Corrosion is removed, and contact surfaces are polished for proper contact with the battery.
These four different types of defects is what you will most likely encounter on your current or future quartz watch. You should let your watchmaker take care of the servicing as it is complicated, and damaging the watch is possible. Don’t believe me, or want to learn how to disassemble a quartz watch properly? Then see the video below. It is a great resource to understand watchmaking.
Are Quartz Watches Durable?
All in all, a quartz watch is more durable than a mechanical or automatic watch. Quartz has less moving parts that can be damaged, and any maintenance/repair on a quartz are typically cheaper than on a mechanical or automatic watch.
While quartz watches are very delicate on the inside concerning moisture, they are durable for sport activities. If you have ever seen a commercial for a sports watch, they are mostly quartz. While Breitling, Richard Mille, and Rolex have plenty of sports watches, you rarely see them on any non-sponsored athlete.
Quartz watches are also generally cheaper, which means that people have less attachment to a quartz watch compared to a pricier mechanical or automatic watch. The quartz is easier to replace, and it is less costly to maintain.
Are Quartz Watches Waterproof?
Quartz watches are just as water-resistant as any other watch. What you should look for is the rated meters, BAR or ATM disclosed on the dial or the backplate of the watch.
No watch is waterproof. However, watches are equipped with a rated depth of water resistance. The ratings used are based on static pressure. Thus a 50-meter water-resistant watch is not guaranteed to be water-resistant in a hot tub or if sprayed with a water hose.
Imagine you roll down the window in your car. You are on the highway going 80 kilometers per hour (50 miles per hour), and you stick your hand out the window. You will feel a sudden push to your arm. That is the additional external force to your arm. The same principle applies to your watch when you are at the swimming pool. Just as you hit the water, the watch will get a lot of force on it, which might not equate to the 50 meters of static pressure.
I have written a lot more about water resistance here if you want to know exactly what you can do for activities with the rating your watch has.
Are Quartz Watches Accurate?
Quartz watches are very accurate, and even a cheap quartz watch will beat a mechanical and automatic watch in a precision battle. While a standard quartz movement will at max cost $50 to produce and assemble, the accuracy is much better than a $10.000 Rolex Submariner.
Assuming you had a Rolex Submariner brand-spanking-new from the factory and a brand-spanking-new quartz both certified in the COSC standard, the maximum deviation for the quartz is 0.07 seconds per day. In contrast, the automatic Rolex Submariner is allowed to vary -4 to +6 seconds per day. This simply goes to show that even the standards built to keep high standards allow the more significant deviation for the old technology.
If you are on the lookout for some real high quality and accurate watches, Grand Seiko, Citizen, Breitling, Bell and Ross, and Omega has some High Accuracy Quartz (HAQ). These watches have a precision within 5-10 seconds per year.
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