This article will explain the differences between chronograph watches vs quartz watches. This happens to be a particular topic about watches that is often misunderstood, or misinterpreted. Our goal here with this article, is to thoroughly explain exactly what each of these types of watches are, and their practical purposes.
The first thing to that we would need to look at will be the most simple and easy to understand definition of both a chronograph and a quartz watch. So here they are.
What Is A Chronograph Watch?
A chronograph is a type of stopwatch that uses an analog display, and features sub dials to measure elapsed time.
What Is A Quartz Watch?
A quartz watch is a type of watch that is powered by a battery and uses the vibrations of a quartz crystal to move the watch mechanisms.
So we can already see here that the very first defining difference between a chronograph and a quartz watch is that a chronograph refers to the function of a watch, while a quartz watch refers to the way a watch is powered.
For example, there are watches with different functions that include chronographs, dive watches, fitness trackers, etc.
On the other hand, there are mainly just two distinct ways in which a watch is powered. One way is by quartz, and the other way is mechanical. While it is true that both quartz and mechanical watches have moving parts, the difference between mechanical and quartz watches is that mechanical watches do not use a battery. Instead they are powered by a spring which is “wound up” and then slowly unwinds to move the watch mechanisms. Quartz watches on the other hand, have a battery that powers the movement.
Now there is such a thing as a meca-quartz watch as well, which combines qualities of both quartz and mechanical watches. We will get into that later though.
Anyway, now that we know the basics about the differences between chronograph and quartz watches, it’s time to get into a little more detail about how these watches work.
More On Chronograph Vs Quartz Watches
More On Chronograph Watches
As stated earlier, a chronograph watch is basically a type of stopwatch. You see, rather than using digital displays, as is common in many sports watches, chronographs have an analog display. Chronographs are easily identified because of their sub dials.
Chronographs can have 2 or 3 sub dials, but most commonly have 3. These 3 sub dials are used to measure elapsed time. They represent the hour, minute, and seconds respectively. These sub dials are different from the hour, minute, and seconds hands, because they apply to the stopwatch function only.
An interesting fact about chronographs, is that they were used as stopwatches before digital watches became the dominant type of stopwatch. Before chronograph watches, there were chronograph clocks. These chronograph clocks were used to track horse race times. Later on, with the arrival of watches, it was common for chronograph watches to be used to track automobile race times.
Nowadays, chronograph watches are usually worn for more aesthetic purposes. Many appreciate the style of a chronograph. Still others may be into chronographs because they admire the level of craftsmanship or detail that goes into one.
More On Quartz Watches
We briefly mentioned that the defining feature of a quartz watch is that it uses a battery and a quartz crystal, but how do these work in conjunction with one another?
Without getting too technical, basically what happens is that electrical current from the battery is sent into a circuit. This circuit then sends energy into the quartz, causing it to vibrate. This vibration then goes on to power the watch movement. The process is the same in both analog and digital quartz watches.
Interestingly enough, quartz watches are actually more accurate than mechanical watches. As a matter of fact, this feature plus the lower production costs of quartz watches, at one time threatened to upend the entire Swiss watch market.
These days quartz watches dominate because of both convenience and technological improvements. They are simply much easier to use than mechanical watches, and far more practical. This is especially true in an age of smartwatches and fitness trackers. While there will always be a place for mechanical watches as jewelry, quartz watches are much more relevant to the times.
Are Chronographs Quartz?
A chronograph watch can be either quartz or mechanical. It really just depends on the watch. Though it would appear that there are far more quartz chronographs than mechanical. And it’s at this point that we can get into the discussion about a watch type that I mentioned earlier: the meca-quartz.
About the Meca-Quartz
As the name implies, a meca-quartz is a watch that contains a hybrid between both mechanical and quartz movements. The relevance here is that meca-quartz watches are chronographs.
Meca-quartz watches do run off of a battery, but they utilize 2 separate motors. In a meca-quartz chronograph, the regular timekeeping functions of the watch (hour, minute, and seconds hands) are controlled by quartz movement. The chronograph hour minute and seconds sub dials, however, are controlled by mechanical movement.
Seiko was actually the first company to introduce meca-quartz watches into the market. This was displayed in their Caliber 7A28, which debuted in 1982. After that, more watch manufacturers followed suit, but meca-quartz watches never really gained too much momentum. Meca-quartz watches are still being produced today, but they are seen as more of a novel item in the world of watch enthusiasts.
Chronograph Vs Quartz: Conclusion
I hope that this article has more thoroughly explained the topic of chronograph vs quartz watches. A lot of times people may think that chronograph and quartz watches are two mutually exclusive watch types.
But, as you have seen, one title refers to the type of watch, while the other refers to its function. And a chronograph can be either mechanical or quartz.
That’s it for this look into chronograph and quartz watches. For more comparisons, you can check out our Vs articles here