The precision of quartz and other types of watches powered by batteries is oftentimes unmatchable even for the most expensive mechanical counterparts on the market. Nevertheless, battery-powered timepieces are not immortal and they will come to a halt sooner or later. So, how long does a watch battery last exactly?
In this article, we are going to have a look at the lifespan of batteries in standard quartz timepieces as well as three other types of wristwatches that require batteries to run: solar watches, kinetic watches and smartwatches.
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How Long Should a Watch Battery Last? General Rules
Before we have a detailed look at all 4 types of battery-powered timepieces, getting familiar with a few general assumptions regarding the subject sounds like the natural thing to do.
As a rule of thumb, we can say that a standard lifespan of a battery in a newly-purchased watch is between 2-3 years. The 24-36 month life expectancy relates to most quartz watches released after 2010. When it comes to older models, a battery replacement might be required sooner. A fair estimation would be around 18 months but that will naturally differ between products and brands.
There are, however, some other factors that will determine whether your watch will squeeze the maximum timespan of the battery or come to a halt sooner than the mentioned average. Let’s have a look at each of those below.
Featured-packed watches drain your battery faster
Whether we are talking about analog or digital timepieces, those that come with a wide array of functions drain the battery much faster.
When used frequently, features such as chronograph timers, backlights, LED displays and alarms, tend to drain your battery faster. Some say a constant use of chronographs can exhaust the battery even 50% quicker – and that applies to both digital and analog models.
To cut a long story short, the more perks the watch comes with and the more frequent you use them, the shorter the battery life.
Frequent contact with water might shorten the battery life
Nowadays, 99,9% of watches come with some sort of water resistance. Some will just be able to withstand an occasional splash or two and some won’t have any difficulties being 300m underwater.
Although officially there’s no strong link between frequently (and correctly) wearing the watch in water and the battery wearing off quicker, it’s recommended not to overcook it and only go at a depth specified in the manual/instruction.
Whereas the watch battery shouldn’t have a problem withstanding the so-called “acceptable” depth, it would be wise to get the watch pressure and/or seal tested, anyway. Sometimes it happens that, even though the water resistance sounds impressive, the seal is leaky and might allow water inside the watch at a certain pressure level. Corrosion in most cases hugely impacts the battery life as well as the general well-being of your timepiece.
A foggy watch face should be an immediate red flag that the seal isn’t working correctly. If some water gets inside your watch, a quick-fix (but temporary) solution is to put it in a locked container filled with salt and raw rice for a few hours. Doing this should absorb the moisture out of your timepiece and reduce the risk of movement and battery damage. Nevertheless, in such a case a trip to local servicemen is a must to avoid further damage in the future.
The original battery lasts the longest
The 2-3 year average lifespan suggested a few paragraphs above relates mostly to the original battery the watch comes with. Each battery that follows after that is likely to die off quicker. Why is that?
It’s quite simple. The battery is an integral part of any quartz timepiece but so is the movement. When the watch comes to a halt, the first thing that springs to our minds is that the battery has died. That, in most cases, will be the correct assumption. Nevertheless, watch movement wears off in time, too. And when it does, it will require more energy from the battery to keep up with all the functions. Each next battery you put in a watch is likely to last about 20% shorter than the one before.
Does Stopping a Watch Save the Battery?
A common idea amongst wearers who love to keep the running costs as low as possible is that once you pull out the stem of the watch, the timepiece goes into an ultra-battery-saving mode. On the surface, it makes so much sense. Couldn’t be more wrong, though!
The fact is, once you withdraw the stem on your watch, it only proceeds to put a lever against the gears to stop them. On the outside, it might look as if you have just put your wristwatch to sleep. In reality, even with the stem pulled out and the hands still, the battery is still supplying power to the timepiece.
The only way to stop the battery from draining is to pull it out completely. Such a move makes sense for people who own a larger collection of watches and want to avoid the need to purchase tons of new batteries at the same time.
How Do I Know If My Watch Needs a New Battery?
Captain Obvious would say “when your watch stops” and leave it at that. Let me be a bit more detailed here so you can prevent the timepiece from stopping in the first place.
Before completely coming to a halt, most watches will first display symptoms and signs that they are not too well. Let’s take a brief look at the most common ones below.
The Second Hand Jumps in 3-5 Second Intervals
For most everyday wearers, the second hand bears the least importance and that’s why it’s the first to start running less precisely once the battery shows signs of wearing down.
This isn’t a given for all models from all brands. But most timepieces, especially those released in the last 10 years or so, will use the deteriorated movement of the second hand to let you know that the battery might be worth looking into. Depending on the watch model, the hand is likely to jump in 3-5 second intervals.
Instead of ignoring such signals and running the risk of the watch coming to a complete stop, contact a professional to have it checked. Batteries that have completely exhausted and left inside a watch possess a risk of leaking and damaging the movement. You don’t want that to happen!
Moisture Underneath The Dial
As already mentioned above, some watches might not be sealed correctly. In such a case, even though the watch might have an impressive water-resistance rating, you run the risk of permanently damaging the battery when deciding to shut your eyes off to this fact.
Apart from putting the battery at a huge risk, moisture inside the watch often leads to rust and the subsequent deterioration of the watch’s movement. Whereas replacing the battery won’t break the bank, having to purchase a brand new movement, or even repairing the one that has been damaged, requires a much bigger investment.
Watch Functions Don’t (Always) Work
If your watch is packed with additional functions and features such as an alarm, stopwatch, backlight or chronograph, an obvious sign that your battery is not at its best would be for one of the mentioned features to stop working, or run on one day and fail to do so on another.
Naturally, a movement issue in such a case is also a possibility but more often than not, it’s down to a battery that’s running on low fuel.
The Time Isn’t on Point
One thing you should always expect from battery-powered timepieces is their awesome accuracy.
Whereas watches with mechanical movements (automatic or self-wound) are allowed to lose a minute or two a day, the precision of quartz timepieces is usually superb. If you notice that your watch constantly loses minutes, it’s definitely a red flag. On most occasions, it will mean that battery replacement is needed.
How Long Does a Battery Last in Other Types of Watches?
I believe we’ve got the lifespan of batteries in standard quartz timepieces covered in great detail. But what if you are thinking about buying a battery-powered timepiece that doesn’t belong to the group? Or do you already own one and wonder when you will have to reach into your pocket for a replacement? Without further ado, let’s proceed.
People that are still learning about different types of watch movements mistakenly consider Kinetic timepieces as mechanical watches that don’t require a battery. That’s because they are required to be worn (or kept in a watch winder) in order to keep ticking.
The fact is, these type of watches have their own batteries, too. And, more often than not (if properly taken care of), run for much, much longer than quartz timepieces. Many people report decades (s) of hassle-free use.
We can say that Kinetic watches, launched in 1988 by the Japanese mogul Seiko, are a hybrid of automatic and quartz watches. They require wrist movement or winding to run but at the same time, they keep the superb accuracy characteristic of quartz timepieces. Because of their great quality and super long battery lifespan, they are considerably more expensive than regular quartz models.
Like in the case of kinetic timepieces, the energy cells in solar watches can last decades, too. In order to be able to do so, they need to be constantly charged.
Unlike kinetic watches, solar-powered models don’t need to be worn to run properly. A natural light source is their fuel and, as long as they are exposed to such from time to time, they will keep ticking for a long period of time, providing you with the same level of accuracy as the standard battery-powered models without the need of battery replacement every few years. Japanese brand Citizen is one of the world’s leaders when it comes to solar timepieces.
It was pretty easy to give you some general idea of how long a battery can last in all three types of watches above. As far as smartwatches are concerned, the task is a lot more difficult.
That’s because smartwatches use different kinds of batteries that will greatly differ in terms of their endurance. Like other wearables, smartwatches use Lithium Ion or Lithium Polymer batteries. These batteries are rechargeable just like those in smartphones and tablets. When it comes to the lifespan of a single charge, it will vary depending on the brand. Some low-budget smartwatches can last as little as 16 hours whereas more expensive powerhouses can run even for a full month.
How Much Does It Cost to Replace a Battery in a Watch?
The cost of replacing the watch battery might differ depending on the timepiece model, movement complexity as well as the type of battery required. As a rule of thumb, we can assume that the cost of replacing the battery with a professional watchmaker is likely to set you back around $5-$15. Naturally, luxury watches are an exception to this rule.
Watchmakers in the US and the UK are likely to offer most if not all types of batteries at their shops. Oftentimes they will be considerably more expensive than if you were to purchase them online. Marketplaces like Amazon or eBay offer watch batteries from as little as $0,30/piece and bringing your own battery to the watch shop is absolutely acceptable.
Can You Replace a Watch Battery Yourself?
If you don’t feel like spending the abovementioned sum on a battery replacement at your local watchmaker, you might consider giving it a try on your own. That is only if your watch uses the most common type of Lithium battery and doesn’t need professional tools to open.
When deciding on replacing the battery yourself, make sure to take all the necessary measures to retain the waterproofing integrity. Normally, the more expensive the watch the bigger the risk of costly damage when done by an unqualified person. That’s why, in case you are a lucky owner of a top-end timepiece, I highly recommend letting a professional do the job.
There are plenty of helpful materials for DYI enthusiasts online. Popular tutorial website WikiHow has great step-by-step instruction on the subject. Youtube is also full of easy-to-grasp videos that will make the task much easier.