Quartz Movement: What Is a Quartz Watch, and How Does It Work?

Written by Ryan F. Miller
| Last Updated on January 20, 2024

Quartz watches – they don’t need to be wound, as they run on batteries. Great! Or what?

In this article, we’re going to take a look at how a quartz watch runs, what the difference between quartz movements and mechanical movement is, and hopefully answer, whether or not you should buy a battery-powered watch.

Let’s take a look at it.


What Is Quartz Movement?

Quartz movement is a type of watch movement, where the watch is powered by a battery. This battery powers a quartz crystal, creating vibrations and moving the watch’s hands.

Quartz movement watches are less attractive to collectors, and they’re typically less expensive, as they’re more simple. There are fewer moving parts, and the main element is the battery. On top of that, they’re very accurate and don’t need much upkeep aside from a battery replacement from time to time.

You can find expensive quartz watches if you look for them, but they’ll typically be less costly than mechanical watches or automatic movement watches.

How Does a Quartz Watch Work?

Quartz movement utilizes the power of a battery to keep the watch running. The battery sends a small electrical current through a quartz crystal (hence the name). This current electrifies the crystal to create vibrations (32,768 times per second), using the crystal as an oscillator. The electric circuit counts the vibrations, and every time it has vibrated 32,768 times, it sends a small pulse to move the second hand, and eventually the other watch hands.

This periodic vibration from the battery and quartz crystal is also the reason why the quartz movements watch hands aren’t moving in a sweeping motion but moves in small increments instead.

Japanese vs. Swiss Quartz Movement

The two most popular watch movement types are Swiss and Japanese. Both work, but there are differences between the two. Below we will tell you a bit about both, to hopefully make you able to choose between the two.

What Is Swiss Quartz Movement?

The Swiss movement is often associated with high quality. If a watch manufacturer wants to label their watches as “Swiss”, they need to meet certain requirements when it comes to quality and production. Whether it’s mechanical or quartz movements. To be marked Swiss-made, a watch has to meet the requirement of a minimum of 60% of Swiss value.

Swiss watchmakers appreciate quality over quantity, which is why Swiss watches are often very high quality. A Swiss watch is typically a bit more expensive too.

What Is Japanese Quartz Movement

Where Swiss watches focus on quality, Japanese watches focus on functionality. The Japanese also take great pride in their craftsmanship, but the watches will be produced with an eye for functionality, instead of aesthetics.

Japanese watches are often a bit cheaper since they focus less on the hand-crafting aspect of the watches. Nevertheless, they’re still great (usually).

Quartz Movement Accuracy

Quartz movement is very precise. If you need a watch showing a precise time, you definitely want to get your hand on some quartz timepieces.

Compared to mechanical movements, quartz movements are more accurate – the pinnacle of precision in the watch world. This is due to the very stable battery and crystal combination, whereas mechanical movements rely on 100’s of small parts to move the hands. The crystal in the quartz movement will always be oscillating at the same frequency, which makes it so reliable.

The simple design is simply superior in this aspect. Even low-cost timepieces can outperform more expensive mechanical timepieces when it comes to accuracy.

If we’re talking seconds, these are common loss/gains per month:

  • Bad movement: more than 15 seconds per month
  • Standard movement: 10-15 seconds per month
  • Great movement: under 5 seconds per month

A research paper shows regular quartz movement watches to perform within +/- 15 seconds per month.

Are Quartz Watches Good?

To watch enthusiasts, a quartz movement watch is less attractive. They typically don’t increase in value, especially compared to a mechanical movement watch. This is due to the simplicity of the quartz movement and the complexity of the mechanical movement. Watch movements are important if you’re looking for an investment opportunity.

Now, if you’re just looking for a watch to wear, the quartz movement is good. Especially if you don’t wear it every day, and don’t want to set the time when you pick up the watch again (a mechanical movement watch will stop after 40-50 hours).

Of course, you can buy both a bad and a good quartz watch. If the watch and movement are poorly made, you’ll be disappointed, so we always recommend looking for well-made timepieces (the same goes for mechanical movement and automatic movement.

Analog vs. Digital

The quartz movements were first used in analog watches (a watch face with watch hands – the second hand, minute hand, and hour hand) – but soon, people started to experiment with digital watches, and as the quartz technology also improved, the two combined. The first digital watch was released to the public in 1972 and was created by an American company, Hamilton Watch Co.

After the first release of the digital watch, the Japanese led the development of these new watches, and Seiko began to skyrocket within the space. A digital watch could show an accurate time, got less expensive, and got the necessary power to last for a long time.

A new type of watch with quartz movements was born. As a digital watch needs power, it can’t run on automatic movement or mechanical movement.



Do quartz watches have a battery?

Yes, quartz watches have a battery. The battery is the main difference between a quartz watch and a mechanical watch. Because they have batteries, they also require a battery change from time to time, which for some can be annoying.

What is better, quartz or automatic watches?

Quartz and automatic watches can both be good – or bad. An advantage of quartz watch movements is accuracy. They’re generally more accurate than mechanical watches because there are fewer moving parts. Watches built on quartz movement are often cheaper too since there’s less craftsmanship needed to build it.

What is the life expectancy of a quartz watch movement?

The life expectancy of a quartz movement watch is 20-30 years. Some watches last longer, and some die faster. It all depends on the build quality. Make sure you buy a quality quartz watch if you intend to keep it for a long time.

Should you buy a quartz movements watch?

It’s all up to you. If you like quartz movements over mechanical movements, then you should buy it. If you don’t want to change the battery, you should probably go with a mechanical watch or even an automatic watch.

About Ryan F. Miller

For years I’ve been buying and selling watches as a hobby, which led me to the decision of starting Watch for Tomorrow. I write a lot of the content, and I enjoy doing it. The most important aspect for me is the guidance of buying watches as well as avoiding bad ones. There are many bad watches out there, that are just too expensive. Hopefully, I can help you find your dream watch!