Mechanical vs Quartz Movements

What is the difference between quartz, automatic and hand-wound (mechanical) movements?

A watch’s “movement” is what makes it tick; it’s the power behind the watch. Timex watches are either powered with a mechanical movement (hand-wound or automatic) or a quartz battery (analog, digital or solar) movement.

Mechanical Movements

Hand-wound (manual) movements are the oldest of movements and date back centuries. The crown of the watch is manually wound by hand each day to power the mechanism that moves the hands. The movement is comprised of gears, wheels and springs housed within the watch case.

After winding, the watch movement gradually releases the energy stored and that’s what powers the watch. The power stored though does run out, and requires winding daily in order to keep the watch ticking.

Note as you wind the crown you will begin to feel tension, and this indicates the watch is sufficiently wound. You should never wind beyond this point for fear of breaking the mechanism.

Our most popular hand-wound mechanical watch is our Marlin Hand-Wound Reissue, which is a faithful homage to the original watch first released in the 1960s.

Shop Mechanical Hand-wound Watches.

Automatic (or self-winding) movements were introduced at the beginning of the 20th century and rely on mechanical movements that do not require daily-winding (though most can still be hand-wound). They are powered by the movement of the wearer’s wrist throughout normal everyday activity. The movement of the wrist turns the rotor which winds the mainspring and the stores the watches’ energy. If worn daily, automatic watches will continue to run without winding.

Mechanical watches (both hand-wind and mechanical) are admired for their craftsmanship and artistry. One notable feature is the sweeping motion of the second hand which moves multiple times per second versus a quartz movement where the second hand moves only once per second.

Mechanical movements are less accurate at timekeeping than quartz movements and depending on the make of mechanical movement can lose or gain up to a few seconds every day. Furthermore, given the intricacy of the mechanical movement itself, they are also more costly than their quartz counterparts.

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Quartz Watches

These are battery-powered movements versus mechanical power. The quartz crystal in the movement is powered via an electrical current from a battery. Quartz movements are very reliable at keeping time and may only lose a few seconds a month compared to several minutes of a mechanical movement. Despite being more accurate than their mechanical counterparts, quartz movements are less expensive and only require a battery change every couple of years if properly maintained.

Some quartz battery changes require a jeweller’s assistance but our vintage-inspired Q Timex watches showcase a battery hatch that the wearer can unlock themselves with a coin.