Solar vs. Quartz Watches: 16 Pros and Cons

While solar and quartz watches are both battery driven movements, they have different pros and cons. So if you are anything like me, you want to know where you get the best bang for the buck, which watch type last longer, and what the pros and cons are for the two watch types. In the table I have created below is a quick and dirty summary of the pros and cons.

Solar WatchQuartz Watch
Pros– The solar-powered battery can last for over 20 years.
– It can be charged from any light source.
– Quartz watches cost less than solar watches.
– Does not have the PV panel that some solar watches have.
Cons– Additional complications to the movement that can break.– Requires battery change every 1-3 years.
The pros and cons of quartz and solar watches

The discussion of the pros and cons is a long list, and for some, the pros can be cons and vice versa. In the following sections, the table above will be elaborated. After reading this, you should no longer have any questions above solar watches or quartz watches.

What is a Quartz Watch?

Quartz watches is what you see on most people’s arms. While smartwatches have started to replace a majority of the quartz watches, quartz watches are still a popular choice. I will go into detail why they are popular later. The name of “quartz” comes from the oscillating formed pitchfork in the movement made of quartz crystal.

A quartz watch is characterized by the electronic-driven movement. The current from the battery is transferred through a very tiny pitchfork shaped crystal that vibrates at 32,768 Hz. This little vibrating pitchfork is attached to a microchip, which translates the 32,768 vibrations per second to 1 vibration per second. This is also why you can identify a quartz watch by the 1 tick per second.

A quartz watch can be both analog and digital. The analog design is with the hour, minute, and seconds hands. Whereas the digital is a display with a, you guessed it, digital watch.

The quartz watch was developed in the 1960s, and the first production quartz watch was the Seiko Astron. Quartz was made as an alternative to mechanical and automatic watches, which is more expensive to buy and requires costly maintenance.

Their relatively low costs also characterize quartz watches. Brands such as Daniel Wellington has succeeded in making a good looking fashion piece for a low price. This means you can buy 3 different watches, which each matches a particular style. Whereas if you were to buy 3 watches with mechanical movements, you would most likely spend from $500 and up.

What is a Solar Watch?

Solar-powered watches were introduced in the 1970s. Their designs were very unique and innovative when compared to their quartz counterparts. However, solar watches first got affordable in the 1980s, where the sales started to grow.

The early solar watches featured a visible solar panel on top of the watch. A classic design from the early days of solar-powered watches is the squared Casio G-Shock design.

A solar watch is almost a 1-to-1 of a quartz watch. However, the difference is an added solar panel (you might know them as PV panels) and a rechargeable battery. That is more or less the difference.

What is a Solar Watch
What is a Solar Watch

In the modern world, the technology of solar watches has advanced quite a bit. The solar watches you find on the market today will absorb natural sunlight and artificial light from lamps and TV-screens. Although natural light is always more effective, it’s an amazing feature to be able to sit in the office all day and never worry about the battery life of the watch.

The Pros and Cons of Quartz and Solar Watches

Both quartz and solar watches have their own advantages and disadvantages. The quartz watch was developed to make the mechanical watch types obsolete. However, mechanical watches are still in production, and people are very passionate about them (including me).

The advancement of the solar watch is, therefore, better than the quartz watch in some aspects. Yet, they are not going to replace quartz anytime soon.

Although solar watches are advantageous compared to the quartz watches, they are not without disadvantages.

The Advantages of Quartz Watches

To be honest, there are many reasons why quartz watches are favorable over other types of watches.

Quartz watches is cheap, and due to their affordability, they are often turned to fashion pieces. Due to their ease of manufacturing, the maintenance costs are very low, parts are easy to replace, and they can be made very thin. Quartz is more accurate than other types of watches.

In the following sections, I will go into detail with each of the benefits with each benefit of quartz watches. It’s important to note that some of these benefits also apply to solar watches since they are both essentially quartz movements.


One of the biggest advancements from the mechanical to the quartz watches is the affordability. Mechanical watches are made from high precision machinery. All parts are very thoroughly tested to secure the correct tolerances, as it’s very important when assembling a mechanical watch.

However, quartz watches are much cheaper to manufacture because they don’t have to go through such an extensive quality check. While the quartz watches are of course quality-checked, there are fewer complicated components in a quartz watch compared to a mechanical watch.

Due to their affordability, it’s possible to own more quartz watches than if you were to buy the same amount in solar watches or mechanical watches. So if you have different styles, quartz watches is a big advantage.

It could be you are working an office job with a formal dress code. Such an environment would require a dress watch. However, if you are a diver in your free time, you would want a diving watch.

Fashion Piece as Well as Time Teller

As a side-effect to their affordability, many brands are producing watches, which is a piece of jewelry, accessory, or fashion piece. Brands such as Daniel Wellington and Fossil are among some of the brands which use the price of the watches to make a ton of different fashion related trend watches.

Even if you are a big watch lover and are devoted to mechanical and automatic watches, quartz watches are an easy entry to get watches that fit the current trend, which would be too expensive to do with mechanical or automatic watches.

Low Maintenance Costs

The service costs of a quartz watch are very low. All watches are in need of servicing from time to time. However, quartz watches are the best current optimized watches to avoid servicing.

While many quartz watches are made of plastics, some are made with metal components, just like mechanical watches. Typically higher end quartz watches also have jewels. Mechanical parts and the jewels have to be cleared from time to time and relubricated.

Standard Quartz Movement
Miyota Cal. 2035 – Standard Quartz Movement

Where quartz watches get their low maintenance costs from is the limited complexity. The quartz watches consist of relatively few parts, meaning it is not very time-consuming to disassemble and reassemble. Furthermore, there is not a ton of moving parts in a quartz watch.

The most frequent service cost in a quartz watch is the battery change required every 1-3 years.

Cheap to Replace

Typically when things are cheap and have low maintenance costs, they are also cheap to replace (Just think of most things you find at Ikea). The classic squared Casio watch is going for about 20 dollars at retail. Servicing such a watch is almost a waste of money because a brand new will cost the same as the service.

Although being cheap to replace, I personally urge people to take care of their watch. Replacement watches will never get the same sentimental value.


The whole idea of quartz watches was an improved accuracy. Although being very cost-effective, it took almost 10 years from the first quartz watch to be a common affordable item. However, the accuracy has always been a part of quartz watches.

There are different levels of accuracy with watches, any watches, really. High-end watches will, of course, be more accurate than watches from the dollar store. However, a very poor quartz watch will perform within ±15-20 seconds per month. In contrast, high-end quartz watches will be accurate within ±1-2 seconds per month.

There is High Accuracy Quartz (HAQ) watches, which accurate within ±10-20 seconds per year. HAQ watches are watches that can maintain their accuracy without any atomic clocks, GPS, or any other third party aids to the movement.

You can more about the accuracy between the quartz watches and mechanical/automatic watches in my other post (open a new window to another post on this site).

Can be Very Thin

Another major advantage of quartz watches is its ability to be very thin. Since the movement of a quartz watch consists of a limited number of parts, they are easier engineered to be thinner than the traditional mechanical watches.

If you are to buy an (actual) thin mechanical watch such as Bulgari Octo Finissimo or Piaget Altiplano 910P, you are going to spend somewhere between $10,000 to $30,000. In contrast, quartz watches such a the Skagen brand can be acquired for just $100.

The Disadvantages of Quartz Watches

While the quartz watches have advantages over solar watches, they do also have some disadvantages. Just as with the advantage section, some of these disadvantages also apply to solar watches.

Having a quartz watch comes with some disadvantages which need to be known before acquiring one. In the following sections, you get a good understanding of the disadvantages of quartz watches.

Frequent battery changes

One of the drawbacks that come with a battery-powered movement is that the battery has to be changed. Although a basic battery change only costs around $10, it’s just an irritating event.

Furthermore, depending on the area you live, some jewelry stored can take days or even weeks to make a simple battery change, which is also frustrating.

How to replace a battery in a quartz watch
Change of quartz watch battery (Let the professionals do this!)

The frequency of battery change depends on the watch and the functions it has. Typically chronographs will require more frequent battery changes compared to a watch, which only tells time. This is due to the additional power draw from the chronograph function. However, if you never use the chronograph function, the battery life won’t be affected.

The typically battery change interval is between 1 and 3 years.

Difficult to Repair

Something that, in my personal opinion, makes the quartz watches the least attractive, is the possibility of repairs to individual components. Most damages caused to a quartz watch will result in partial or total failure of the movement.

Most watchmakers would look to replace the whole movement rather than replacing individual components. This is mainly caused by the low prices of the internal components and the fair of inevitable failure.

Since a lot of the quartz watches are consisting of a good portion of electronics, moisture and water can easily fatality damage a quartz watch.

Furthermore, if something is shaken loose in a quartz watch, there is a risk of that component to touch the bronze-colored coil. The coil consists of copper thinner than human hair, and touch by a finger or a loose part could easily damage the coil.

Lastly is the oxidation and salts caused by a faulty battery. While it’s a fairly easy fix, we all know that a battery that has eroded can be nasty, especially if there is other metal close by the eroded battery. If the watch has been sitting for long enough, the entire movement could be errored.

Quartz Watches Doesn’t Last Forever

Sadly quartz watches don’t last forever. While the modern quartz watches are expected to last a lifetime, they are made of electronics that will die out sooner or later. However, when buying a quartz watch, you can under the right care make it last a lifetime.

Quartz watches are made to be replaced rather than last for several generations. While you should expect a Grand Seiko to die out any time soon, I wouldn’t be too sure about a quartz watch from the dollar store.

Advantages of Solar Watches

There are some great advantages of solar watches if you are ready to pull out extra money. The benefits of a solar watch range from a decreased environmental impact compared to other watches, infinite battery life, charging in any light, and more.

The modern technology used in today’s solar watches allows for hiding of the solar panel. On almost all newer solar watches, you will not be able to identify the solar panel visually. This is because watchmakers have found a way to make the dial the solar panel. This is a technology that originated from Citizen’s Eco-Drive Technology.

Infinite Battery Life

What I personally think is the simple handly best advantages of solar watches, is the infinite battery life. Theoretically, you will never have to change the battery of a solar watch, because you can charge the watch using the sun.

Although the reality isn’t so pink and soft, you will need a battery change from time to time. However, watchmakers such as Citizen has proclaimed a life of up to 20 years on the battery (which they call capacitor) that comes when you purchase the watch. Furthermore, the internal capacitors (which cannot be changed) is proclaimed to last up to 40 years.

Citizen Eco-Drive Technology
Citizen Eco-Drive Technology

Can Charge in Any Light

What makes modern solar watches even cooler than quartz is their ability to charge in any light. You basically no longer need to throw the watch out in the sun for days to get a full charge as you did back in the days.

To give you an example, Citizen’s Eco-Drive watches get a full charge in 11 hours under direct sunlight. To put that in contrast, to provide you with 1 full day of battery life, you only have to spend 2 minutes in the sun.

Furthermore, artificial light has been made a possible charging option. It’s like the ultimate wireless charging dock for your phone. You can be buried in the dark corridors of the office with dim lights and still manage to charge the watch.

An Environmental Time Keeper

In the times of increasing focus on environmental change, it thinks it’s no bad time to mention that solar watches is quite environmental compared to their quartz counterparts. Although they might pollute the same amount when being produced, the solar watches will have significantly larger gaps between battery change than quartz watches.

Unlike mechanical and automatic watches that require a lot of heavy tooling cutting in precious metals, solar watches are quite simple to manufacture and don’t require precious metals.

None/Low Maintenance Required

Most servicing done to quartz watches are battery changes and for high-end quartz watches occasionally cleanings and relubrications. However, with solar watches, you buy yourself an almost “no maintenance timepiece.”

The reason being, that your average solar watch is not a high-end quality watch required to be disassembled, cleaned, and relubricated. However, it’s a functioning tool that takes care of its own charging.

Very Accurate

A typical function you will find in solar watches is GPS, atomic clocks, or other aids that help the watch keep the time down to the millisecond. You will, therefore, find that solar watches can be way more accurate than the quartz watch, although they are very accurate anyway.

Since the watches are equipped with a charging dock on the dial, they can draw more power than a regular quartz watch. That is not to say you can’t find a regular quartz watch with an atomic clock or GPS builtin. It’s more normal to find such functions in a solar watch.

Disadvantages of Solar Watches

There are some disadvantages to owning a solar watch. While it’s manageable to deal with, as it’s a part of owning a watch, they can be a different experience compared to quartz watches.

E.g., solar watches typically have a different troubleshooting mode than quartz. Where quartz would normally just stop when running out of battery, the solar watches give a heads-up.

Although you might think that is an advantage, most people who haven’t owned a solar watch and is unaware of its strange behavior will think it’s broken. I have made a full troubleshooting guide for solar watches, which you can find right here (opens a new window to troubleshooting guide).

Additional Parts That can Break

The biggest disadvantage of having a solar watch is that there is additional components in the watch that can break. Any extra components is an increased risk of failure.

Solar watches such as the Citizen Eco-Drive watches have internal capacitors, some kind of recharging module, and other linking electronics that allows the solar panel to charge the watch, which the quartz watches do not.

Solar watches are not made to be broken, so don’t worry. However, there are, in general, bigger costs associated with repairs of solar watches compared to quartz watches.

Difficult to Repair

While this disadvantage also applies to the quartz watches, solar watches have additional electronics that can’t be disassembled. The electronics are either soldered to the PCB or wired connections in the PCB. The soldering is done to reach higher durability from shocks.

The increased complexity of the solar watches makes it hard to replace e.g., a single capacitor. Instead, the entire PCB has to be changed, which costs more when compared to a regular quartz watch.

More Expensive Compared to Quartz Watches

With performance comes costs, or with quality comes costs. The solar watches do have some added value to you as a customer when wanting a timepiece to keep time accurately for years on end. The self-sufficient aspect of the watch makes the average solar watch more expensive than the average quartz watch.

Furthermore, you will also see that solar watches have many other features that a typical quartz watch doesn’t. These additional features are not free either. It’s not unusual to find a chronograph, digital display, GMT, or other function.

Solar Watches Doesn’t Last Forever

Just like the quartz watches, solar watches don’t last forever. This is meant in the sense that, if water penetrates the watch, the entire electronic assembly will be destroyed. At this point, the entire “heart” of the watch needs to be replaced. Hence the actual watch do no longer exists even though the case is exactly the same.

Jonas Henriksen

AllInWatches is founded by Jonas, who has a great interest in mechanical watches. All aspects of manual and automatic (mechanical) watches is a big interest and have been a passion since 2015, where the first automatic watch was purchased. Seeing the transparent case back and discovering the heritage of watchmaking piqued an interest in horology.

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