What’s the Difference Between Quartz & Mechanical Movements?

The watch movement or the caliber is a mechanism that makes every watch tick. It is an engine that powers a watch and all of its functions. The mechanism moves the hands and powers any additional features such as annual calendars, chronographs or dual time zone displays. Powering all the timekeeping tasks, the movement is the most important component in any watch. There are many different movements that power a watch, but they all fall into two categories: mechanical and quartz movements.

How Can You Tell Which Movement is Which?

A simple way to tell a mechanical movement from a quartz movement is the way the second hand moves. The second hand on a quartz watch moves in ticks, while with mechanical movements, the hand moves smoothly.

Quartz movements are extremely accurate and need little regular maintenance apart from replacing batteries. While some lower-end quartz watches may run for decades without maintenance, a fine Swiss quartz watch should be serviced every 7 to 10 years. The batteries should be changed every 2 years to prevent damage.

Quartz watches tend to cost less as they have fewer moving parts and are cheaper to manufacture. Watch aficionados aren’t as attracted to them as they lack the craftsmanship and fine engineering of their mechanical counterparts. However, when made by high-end Swiss watch manufacturers, quartz movements are a perfectly acceptable solution.

Mechanical movements are preferred by many watch enthusiasts because they incorporate a high level of craftsmanship and quality. They are skillfully made by watchmakers and contain several tiny compartments that work together to power the mechanism. Mechanical movements use energy from a wound spring. This spring stores the energy and uses it to power a series of springs and gears. While the design of mechanical watches has remained unchanged for centuries, the latest technology allows for more precise engineering and finer details.

The most popular mechanical watches are those that contain perpetual-wind movements. They’re more popular because as long as you wear them regularly, you don’t have to wind them every day to make sure they are accurate. Perpetual-wind watches gather energy through the motions of your wrist. A metal weight spins with each move of your wrist, harnessing that energy to continually wind the mainspring. A special mechanism prevents it from over winding, keeping optimum tension for impeccable timekeeping performance.

Men's Rolex Explorer II in stainless steel with a white dial.
Men's Patek Phillipe in stainless steel with a white dial and a grey leather strap.
Men's Panerai Luminor in stainless steel with a black dial and brown leather strap.

Pros & Cons

Quartz watches are extremely accurate, but what also makes them popular among buyers is their low price and durability. These watches can also be equipped with additional technological features such as GPS tracking or illumination. They are also slightly more accurate than mechanical watches, which may be accurate to within a few seconds a day.

On the other hand, mechanical watches boast a much more impressive mechanism that watch-lovers love to observe. Many mechanical watches will have a clear crystal window on the back of the case to allow the owner to see the mechanism at work. Mechanical watches can last for generations as they have a significantly longer life span than their quartz counterparts have, and thus can become cherished family heirlooms.

Mechanical watches require regular maintenance and need to be cleaned by a professional every 3 to 5 years to avoid excessive wear on the parts of the movement. However, this investment will ensure that your mechanical watch lasts for many more years to come.

Watch Servicing

In conclusion, if you are looking for a cheap, accurate watch with little to no need for maintenance, you should go with quartz watches. But if you want an impressive mechanism that represents a form of art, and you are looking for a watch that will last you a lifetime, a perpetual-wind mechanical watch is an unrivaled choice.

If you own a mechanical watch, make sure to have it serviced every 3 to 5 years so that it continues to perform as well as the day it was acquired. If you need your watch professionally cleaned or serviced, call us at 619-299-1500 to find out what our in-house watch department can do for you. Our watchmaker is certified and was Rolex factory trained.

A complete watch service at Leo Hamel Fine Jewelers consists of disassembling the watch movement, cleaning out old lubricant, re-lubricating all friction points, re-assembling the movement, and adjusting the timing to factory specifications. Included is a one-year warranty on timekeeping and a 90-day warranty on parts.

The exterior of the watch is then fully refinished; removing all scratches and restoring the factory finish to the case and bracelet, making your watch look new again. You’ll be surprised at what a difference that makes!

How Do Mechanical Watches Differ From Quartz?

Mechanical watches are wonders of tradition, meticulousness, and craftsmanship. That’s what makes them loved, prized, and coveted. Luxury watch brands, such as Rolex, often grow in value as time goes by. But this is only if you take good care of them. There are a few things that you should be careful about after buying your Rolex in San Diego stores, and we’re listing them here. Feel free to visit us in store to get more first-hand information about the care and maintenance that premium-quality watches require.

Adjusting the Day & Date

In general, adjusting the day and date shouldn’t be done when the watch reads between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. This time window varies from one manufacturer to another, but the point is that you shouldn’t do this a few hours before or after midnight. Even though the date and date functions do the changeover at midnight, the gears that perform this engage earlier. If you don’t follow your instruction manual when it comes to changing the day and date, these indicators could get misaligned, and some components might get broken.

Screwing Down the Crown

Some professional watches, like diving models, have a crown that must be screwed down. This gives the watch added waterproof capacity. The crown should screw between 1.5 and 3 full turns to only finger-tightness. However, owner sometimes cross-thread the crown in this process or screw it back too tightly. Cross-threading could cause permanent damage, and forcing the crown back could make it almost impossible to unscrew. If you ever feel resistance while doing this, stop, carefully unscrew the crown, and start again.

Men's stainless steel Rolex GMT Master II with blue and black bezel.
Men's Rolex Submariner in yellow gold with a white dial and bezel.

Underwater Functions

Chronographs are generally water-resistant, to varying degrees. While there are some chronographs that are fully operational even while submerged, you want to check this before you do it. You can refer to the manual or ask the seller/manufacturer. If you are not sure whether you can use the chronograph underwater, better not to risk it. When the pushers are pushed into the case, water may enter, depending on the watch’s structure. Needless to say, this turns into major water damage very quickly.


Don’t rest your hand with the watch on large stereo speakers, clock radios, an iPhone, and iPad or Kindle cover, etc. The magnetic fields inside these appliances and objects can magnetize the watch, causing it to run ahead or late. You can check this by placing your watch under a compass and moving it slowly. If the compass needle reacts and moves likewise, you can be sure the watch was magnetized.

Buy, Repair, or Service a Rolex in San Diego

Leo Hamel Fine Jewelers is your go-to place for anything related to Rolex in San Diego. Our in-house Swiss factory-trained technicians are at your service, as well as our friendly and knowledgeable staff. Stay ahead of our best deals by subscribing to our mailing list and visit us regularly in store. We are San Diego’s largest independent jewelry and watch store and we’d love you show you what we’ve got!