Are Quartz Watches Really The Devil?

Go to any watch forum or group and you’ll find a number of members showing extreme distaste for quartz watches.

‘They’re cheap.’
‘They’re mass-produced.’
‘They’re low quality.’
‘They’re void of artisanal integrity.’
‘They’re no engineering marvel.’

These are just some reasons I’ve often seen pop up in conversation among watch fans. Some are valid concerns, applied in too broad a context. Others are simply snobbish. Some are just plain falsehoods.

Where I think the majority of opinions fly out of context is in regard to luxury. These days, in an age of smartphones and smart watches, the traditional wristwatch is largely a luxury item. As such, being in a field of interest populated by luxury items, watch fans often deride quartz movements as being poor or mass produced in a luxury context.

The underlying sentiment behind these often misplaced reasonings is true, in a sense. The quartz watch, as we know it, isn’t a luxury item. To call it that, or market it as that, would be telling fibs. This is part of the reason Daniel Wellington cops so much flak, alongside some other watch brands marketing cheap and cheerful pieces as luxury.

Quartz watches, however, are often an excellent workhorse. Where an automatic is usually daintier than its battery powered counterpart, and considerably more expensive to repair, a quartz can be worn with less regard for its safety. Casio’s G-Shock range takes this idea to the extreme.

The key thing to remember is that luxury is not equal to quality. An item can be inexpensive and good quality. It just isn’t a luxury item.

There are some great value entry level quartz watches. Timex’s popular Weekender model is a solid watch. It’s quartz, it’s good value, it just isn’t luxury. And they don’t advertise it as luxury.

Timex Weekender Watch Review

People who get into watches as a hobby often deride quartz for not being interesting, or not having any spark from an engineering perspective. Quartz movements might not have the aesthetic beauty of mechanical ones, but the engineering behind it is interesting nevertheless. I somewhat sympathised with the idea of quartz being dull in this context, until I happened across a YouTube video explaining how quartz movements were designed and the workings of them.

I found the ideas and design principles quite fascinating. It changed the way I look at quartz watches. Besides the engineering and design side, quartz watches can be fun and interesting too, like the Casio A500 range.

While quartz can be a fun and inexpensive entry point to watches, they’re not the only fun and inexpensive entry point into watches. Some types of mechanical watches can be a fun and inexpensive entry point to watches too. Quartz is simply more reliable in the long run, and usually more accurate for timekeeping, especially when comparing budget ranges.

Lastly, I’d like to tackle the point of quartz and luxury being mutually exclusive. Seiko managed to pull the two together, quite well. They did it by combining the two styles, in a mecha-quartz movement, christened the Spring Drive and used in their upmarket Grand Seiko line.

Grand Seiko Spring Drive Movement - Is Quartz Really The Devil?

Mecha-quartz is nothing new, but the usage of quartz simply to regulate a mechanical movement to a pinpoint standard is something that seems to have been accepted by the watch community at large, given a distinct lack of voices who would claim Grand Seiko to be unworthy of the luxury label.

The mecha-quartz concept can be utilised in a more budget concept too, such as niche brand Dan Henry using a quartz movement with a mechanical chronometer complication in his 1962 Chronograph.The 1962 is a damn good watch; further proof to me that quartz isn’t the devil.

Dan Henry 1962 Chronograph Panda Review Australia

The key takeaway is that quartz watches are fine. They’re not luxury items, they’re workhorse items. And workhorses are good to have.

There’s nothing to be ashamed of in owning or liking quartz watches. If you see a quartz watch you like, if it’s reasonably priced and fit for purpose, buy it. Enjoy the hell out of it!

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With content features ranging from appearances on popular menswear hubs (The Rake, StyleForum, Put This On) to French perfume newsletters and university course readings, Sam is a writer, designer and enthusiast in the fields of menswear and fragrance.

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