What Does Quartz Mean on a Watch? (History, Brands, Types)

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Written By Alan

Would you believe a G-Shock I was gifted in 2014 by my grandpa started my lifelong journey of a watch geek?

🕑  Last Updated: March 28, 2023

While to say that there are as many types of watches as there are brands would be a stretch, it’s certainly true that there are a lot of different options out there to choose from.

Whether you’re looking for something simple and straightforward or something that’s a little more complicated and intricate, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for.

However, with such a wide variety of choices available, it can be tough to know where to start when it comes to finding the perfect watch.

And then there’s the endless list of weirdly-sounding watch terms.

For example, people just starting out in their journey as watch enthusiasts are asking themselves the question “what does it mean when a watch says quartz”?

Since it’s usually located at the center of the dial, does it mean it’s a very popular watchmaker? Is it a special type of design? Or is it something completely different?

Stick with us for a short while as we clear the doubts once and for all.

So, What Does Quartz Mean on a Watch?

In short, the “quartz” word engraving that you can see on hundreds of thousands of watches from all sorts of brands simply means that the watch is battery-powered.

That’s in contrast to other movement types, such as automatic or mechanical, which run without a battery.

So, how does quartz work in a watch?

As you might remember from your high school science classes, quartz is a type of mineral that’s piezoelectric. This means that when it’s placed under pressure, it creates an electric charge.

Watches that have a “quartz” label use this property to create an electrical current that powers the tiny motor inside the watch. This, in turn, makes the hands move around the dial and keeps track of the time.

History of Quartz Watches

The beginning of the quartz watch era dates back to 1969 when Seiko, a Japanese watch brand, released the world’s first-ever quartz wristwatch – the Astron.

The invention sparked what is known as the Quartz Crisis, a period of financial trouble for many Swiss watchmakers who couldn’t keep up with the new technology as they continued to concentrate on traditional mechanical movements despite the emerging trends from Asia.

The Quartz Crisis lasted throughout most of the 1970s and 1980s, but eventually, the industry managed to recover (many Swiss brands didn’t, however).

Nowadays, you’ll find quartz watches in all sorts of different styles from major brands like Bulova, Citizen, Rado, and more.

Quartz Watches vs Other Types

As far as types of movements are concerned, quartz timepieces are just one of the many options that are available on the market.

Quartz vs Automatic

The most common alternative to quartz watches is automatic or self-winding watches. These watches don’t need a battery to run and are instead powered by the movement of your wrist as you wear them.

While this might sound a bit strange at first, it’s actually a very clever way to power a watch. Automatic watches have a tiny weight inside them that swings back and forth as you move your wrist.

This movement is then used to wind the mainspring, which powers the watch.

While automatic watches don’t need a battery, they’re not entirely maintenance-free. You will still need to have them serviced every few years to make sure that they’re running properly.

Quartz vs Mechanical (Manually-wound)

Another type of watch movement is the mechanical watch. These watches are powered by a mainspring that needs to be wound periodically.

They’re very similar to automatic watches in terms of how they work, but the main difference is that you need to manually wind them every day or every few days at best (or as directed by the manufacturer) to keep them running.

While they might seem a bit old-fashioned, mechanical watches are still hugely popular among watch enthusiasts. Many people love the traditional feel of winding their watch every day and the fact that they don’t need a battery.

Quartz vs Kinetic

There’s also a type of watch movement that’s similar to automatic watches but uses a different method to store energy. These are known as kinetic watches.

Kinetic watches are one of the trademarks of one of the leaders in the Japanese watch market, Seiko. They have a tiny generator inside them that produces electricity when you move your wrist. This electricity is then stored in a capacitor and used to power the watch.

In other words, they combine the best of both worlds: they’re powered by your movement like an automatic watch but produce similar energy to quartz watches, at the same time matching their unbeatable accuracy.

Unlike regular quartz timepieces, they don’t need battery replacements. On average, they’re also more expensive.

Quartz vs Solar

Solar watches are another type of battery-powered watch. However, they don’t use a standard battery; instead, they have a tiny solar panel that’s used to convert sunlight into electrical energy.

This means that as long as you expose your watch to sunlight for a few hours every month, it will never need a battery replacement.

For example, Citizen’s Eco-Drive watches (powered by the light) can last up to 6 months on a full charge when stored in the dark. Its general lifetime is around 10-20 years.

Solar watches are very similar to quartz watches in terms of accuracy and maintenance. The main difference is how they’re powered.

Watches With the Quartz Label: FAQ

Now that the mystery has been solved and you know that “quartz” simply refers to battery-powered watches, you might still have some questions on the subject.

We’ve gathered some of the most frequently asked questions and we’ll answer them all below.

Do Quartz Watches Need Batteries?

Yes, they do. Just like any other battery-powered device, watches that have quartz movements need to have their batteries replaced from time to time.

How often this needs to be done depends on the watch brand and model, but you can usually expect to change the battery every 1-2 years.

When the time comes, you can either do it yourself (if you’re feeling brave and have the right tools) or take it to a watchmaker. They’ll usually be able to do it for you in just a few minutes while you wait.

Are Quartz Watches Accurate?

Yes, quartz watches are very accurate. In fact, they’re usually more accurate than mechanical or automatic watches.

While an average quartz watch will lose or gain around 15 seconds per month, a mechanical watch can easily be off by several minutes over the same period.

Of course, this only applies to well-made and properly serviced watches. Cheap quartz watches from unknown brands can be just as inaccurate as their mechanical counterparts.

Do Quartz Watches Need to be Serviced?

Quartz watches don’t need to be serviced as often as mechanical or automatic watches.

That being said, it’s still a good idea to have them checked by a professional every few years to make sure everything is in order.

During a service, the watchmaker will usually clean and lubricate the movement, as well as replace the battery if needed.

Are All Battery-Powered Watches Quartz Watches?

The simple answer is no, not all battery-powered watches are quartz watches.

As we’ve already explained, a quartz watch is one that uses a piezoelectric quartz crystal to generate an electric current that runs the watch’s movement.

There are other types of battery-powered watches that don’t use this type of crystal, such as kinetic watches.

These watches generate electricity through the movement of your wrist and don’t need to be wound or have the battery replaced as often as a quartz watch.

Do All Watches Have Quartz Crystals?

Again, the answer is no. While the vast majority of watches on the market today are quartz watches, there are still a fair number of mechanical and automatic watches being made.

As we’ve already explained, quartz watches use a piezoelectric crystal to generate an electric current, whereas mechanical and automatic watches don’t need a battery at all – they’re powered by either the movement of your wrist or the spring inside the watch.

What Is Better: Quartz or Automatic Watches?

This is a tough question to answer as it really depends on what you’re looking for in a watch.

If you want something that’s accurate and doesn’t require much maintenance, then a quartz watch is probably a better option for you.

However, if you’re looking for something with a bit more character and history, then an automatic watch is the way to go.

It really comes down to personal preference in the end.

Do Quartz Watches Hold Their Value?

This is another difficult question to answer as it depends on the make and model of the watch in question.

In general, however, quartz watches tend to depreciate in value more quickly than automatic or mechanical watches.

This is because they’re powered by a battery, which will eventually need to be replaced, and because they don’t have the same level of craftsmanship as a mechanical watch.

With that said, there are always exceptions to the rule and there are some quartz watches that are considered collectors’ items and are worth a lot of money.

Is It Worth Buying a Quartz Watch?

At the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide whether or not a quartz watch is worth buying.

As we’ve explained, there are both pros and cons to owning one. It really comes down to what you’re looking for in a watch and how much you’re willing to spend.

If you’re looking for an accurate and low-maintenance watch, then a quartz watch is a good option.

However, if you’re looking for something with more character and tradition, then an automatic or mechanical watch might be a better choice.

Is Rolex a Quartz Watch?

The Quartz Revolution didn’t spare even as major players as Rolex. The Swiss brand was producing quartz watches for as many as 30 years but finally ceased production in 2001. The Rolex Datejust Oysterquartz, which was the last-produced Rolex quartz, began to appear in auction catalogs in the following years and became a true collectors’ item.

The vast majority of Rolex watches are now automatic, with a small selection of their watches being mechanical.

Do Quartz Watches Tick?


The oscillator in every quartz watch is what keeps them going. The volume would vary according to the frequency of oscillations per second. More expensive quartz pieces vibrate 16 times every second, which significantly lessens sound.

In contrast, automatic and mechanical watches have the so-called “sweeping second hand” motion, which is a result of the balance wheel’s rotation.

What Does Swiss Quartz Mean?

A Swiss quartz watch is a watch that uses a Swiss-made quartz movement. The “Swiss” in Swiss quartz refers to the fact that the watch movement was made in Switzerland, not that the entire watch was made there.

In order for a watch to be considered “Swiss-made,” at least 60% of its value must come from Switzerland.

So, while a Swiss quartz watch movement may be made in Switzerland, the rest of the watch (such as the casing, strap, and dial) could be made elsewhere.

What Does the Japanese Quartz Movement Mean?

By analogy, just as the Swiss quartz movement is a watch movement made in Switzerland, the Japanese quartz movement is a watch movement made in Japan.

Like Swiss quartz movements, Japanese quartz movements are known for their accuracy and low maintenance.

However, Japanese quartz movements are not as widely used as Swiss quartz movements in high-end watches.

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