In this article we are going to cover the differences between automatic vs solar watches, the pros and cons of each, and why you would want one or the other. So, the very first thing we will look at is the simple explanation of an automatic and solar watch.
Simply put, a solar watch is a quartz watch that harnesses energy from light to power the battery. An automatic watch is a mechanical watch that utilizes a person’s natural arm movements to wind the watch and power the spring.
So that is the simple explanation of each. Throughout the rest of this article, we will go much more thoroughly through the details of these two different watch types. We’ll start by taking a closer look at automatic watches.
In our more brief explanation, we brought up the point that automatic watches are mechanical watches powered by natural arm movements. But how does this work exactly?
Well, a mechanical watch is a watch that is powered by a spring. This is called the mainspring. So now how does this spring power the watch? It has to be wound. Then the wound up spring slowly unwinds. It is this unwinding of the spring that then moves the gears to power the watch.
In a manual winding watch, you have to actually wind up the watch manually with a knob on the crown. Whereas, in an automatic watch, however, you don’t have to do this. Instead, in an automatic watch, the mainspring is wound automatically when the user moves their arms around. Hence, the term “automatic watch”.
This effect is achieved by way of a weighted rotor inside of the watch. When you move your arms around, this causes the weighted rotor to spin, thus winding the watch.
Even with this type of automatic winding, most automatic watches still have the option to manually wind the watch, if needed. This is usually only necessary if you don’t wear the automatic watch often.
Now, let’s take a look at solar watches.
Solar watches. as the name suggests, are watches which gain power through sunlight alone. In fact, these days most solar watches can be powered even by artificial light. So, if you work in an office, your solar watch will still be able to get a charge.
A solar watch is basically powered by a rechargeable battery, which would make it a quartz watch. Quartz watches are watches that are powered by a small quartz crystal from a battery. The only difference between an ordinary quartz watch and a solar watch is the solar mechanism.
What happens in a solar watch is that there are solar cells underneath the dial of the watch that receive the light and converted into energy. From there, this solar energy is then transferred into the rechargeable battery. This battery then goes on to vibrate the quartz crystal, thus powering the watch.
As you can see, Automatic watches, and solar watches utilize two very different mechanisms. Now that we know the differences between an automatic watch and a solar watch, we can try to figure out which one is better.
Automatic Vs Solar Watches: Which Is Better?
In order to be able to say which watch is better between an automatic and solar, we must first know what you are looking for in a watch. Because the answer to that question, will determine the answer!
For instance, are you wearing a watch, purely for its timekeeping ability, or are you wearing it because you adore the fine craftsmanship? Let’s start by looking at the most practical applications.
If you are purchasing a watch and want the highest precision of accuracy between the two, then you would want to get a solar watch. This is because a solar watch is a quartz watch, and quartz watches are more accurate. Why is this?
The reason why quartz watches are more accurate than automatic is because quartz watches are powered by an oscillating quartz crystal, therefore there is no friction between moving parts.
Automatic watches, on the other hand, are mechanical watches which have a spring that has to wind and unwind to move the gears. All of these parts moving together cause friction, which can reduce accuracy. This means you will need to resync the time on a mechanical watch quite frequently.
Now what if we are looking at watches from a more cultural aesthetic viewpoint?
When it comes to cultural appeal, no other watch is held in as high a regard as the luxury watch. And you will notice that most of the really high end, super expensive luxury watches are automatic watches.
It is true that you can also find quartz luxury watches, but I have never heard about high end solar luxury watches. And since solar watches are the watch type we are using in this comparison, then automatic watches get the win when it comes to cultural aesthetic.
Big name brands of high end watches such as Rolex, Patek Phillipe, Omega, and others, all have automatic watches that are highly coveted. And the thing about these watches is that they are bought and sold at extremely high prices.
They are even often gold plated, and/or adorned with valuable jewels and emeralds. The same can’t be said for solar watches.
This goes to show how much automatic watches are valued in the public eye. Automatic watches are thought to be the work of fine craftsmanship. This is especially true when it comes to Swiss automatics.
What About Longevity?
Between automatic watches, and solar watches, which one will last the longest?
Quartz watches can last a long time. And in the case of solar watches, there is no need to replace the battery. However, after many years a quartz watch will degrade over time and need to be repaired or replaced. This is especially true for solar watches, which utilize solar cells and a battery.
Mechanical watches can last almost indefinitely. They are powered by gears and springs. These components may need regular maintenance or replacing over the years, but automatic watches can last for generations!
So ultimately, which watch is better depends on the intended use. Technically, solar watches are better for timekeeping, as they are more accurate. However, automatics are admired for their luxury aesthetic, and will probably outlive a solar watch.
When it comes down to it, both automatic and solar watches are good in their own right. It’s just that automatics have been revered throughout history, and even to this day.
Automatics can also potentially last longer than a solar watch if properly maintained. So based on all of these facts, if I had to choose only one watch type, it would be automatics.
That pretty much wraps up or comparison of automatic Vs solar watches. If you liked this, then we have many other articles where we compare different watch brands, types, and features. You can feel free to check some of those out here