What Is the Difference Between Quartz & Automatic Watches?

by Rob Wagner ; Updated September 28, 2017

Quartz and automatic watches use different technology.

Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Alexander Rushing

The difference between a quartz watch and an automatic watch is the type of movement that runs the timepiece. A quartz watch is powered by a battery. An automatic is powered by perpetual motion.

Quartz Function

A quartz watch runs by a battery-powered electronic movement that uses a low-frequency tuning fork that builds oscillation through an electrical current to create pulses to run the timepiece, according to Invention.smithsonian.org.

Automatic Function

The automatic watch uses a spring-loaded mechanical movement with a balance shaped like a half disc that moves with the motion of wearer’s arm to keep the timepiece wound and operating, according to Timezone.com.

Quartz Accuracy

A quartz-powered watch gains or loses up to five seconds a year depending on the quality of the electronic movement.

Automatic Accuracy

An automatic watches can gain or lose up to eight seconds a day depending on the quality of the mechanical movement and its age.

Quartz Servicing

A quartz watch must have its battery replaced every three to five years. A leaking battery could damage the watch.

Automatic Servicing

An automatic mechanical watch must be oiled and serviced every five years. There is no battery to replace.

Photo Credits

  • Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Alexander Rushing

About the Author

Rob Wagner is a journalist with over 35 years experience reporting and editing for newspapers and magazines. His experience ranges from legal affairs reporting to covering the Middle East. He served stints as a newspaper and magazine editor in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Wagner attended California State University, Los Angeles, and has a degree in journalism.