At Enoksen, we are nearly two years into our Quartz movement journey. We therefore felt it was time to revisit the story below which was written at a time when all our watches had automatic movements. By the time of writing the original story, plans for Quartz based watches were well advanced, but we were yet to learn what reactions we would receive from the market.
It also coincides with a decision we took recently; we have decided to introduce an additional level of quality control prior to shipping a watch with an automatic movement.
As you will learn below, the accuracy of an automatic movement is depending on a number of factors, some of which we can control and others we can’t. With thousands of Enoksen watches in service around the planet we have seen movements perform very accurately, and others not so accurately. When we receive the movements from Seiko they are obviously quality controlled and tested with a guaranteed accuracy ranging from -20 to +40 seconds per 24 hours. This is, in reality, potentially quite far away from what we consider accurate.
So whilst our watches perform within the factory tolerances, it is not good enough for our standards. We have therefore invested in both equipment and Human Resources allowing us to fine tune our automatic movements prior to shipment. In other words - when you take delivery of an Enoksen watch with an automatic movement, you can do so in the knowledge that the movement has been adjusted and optimised as much as humanly possible.
Most watch connoisseurs will argue that only a mechanical movement will do. Although this may be true, the majority of premium brand watches are equipped with a mechanical movement, with the odd exception having a manual one, which needs to be wound regularly to keep it moving.
There is definitely a case for both mechanical and quartz movements, depending on the purpose of the watch of course. It’s hard to beat the fascination of craftsmanship that makes a mechanical movement. On the other hand, it’s hard to beat the incredible robustness and accuracy of a quartz movement.
It sounds insane, but more often than not a £40 quartz watch will keep time more accurately than a £10,000 mechanical one. Mechanical movements are more delicate and they require regular servicing to be at their best. Their accuracy is influenced by a number of factors such as the activity levels of the wearer, resting positions, temperature, humidity and even the gravitational pull of the earth.
Quartz, on the other hand is more clinical – it merely relies on the power from its battery... and it just works.
In the modern world, a watch battery usually delivers three to ten years of service, depending on which type of quartz movement we are talking about. This is why quartz-based watches are almost always used by servicemen such as police, coast guard, army, and Special Forces.
At Enoksen, we love the romance and the drama of a mechanical watch and we have done our very best to select a movement that gets as close to quartz accuracy as possible. We want to provide you with that incredible feeling of owning something that is truly analogue in this digital age and for you to have that sweeping movement of the second hand.
There are exactly 86,400 seconds in a single day. As time goes on, most watches will gain or lose a few seconds regardless of whether they are mechanical or quartz-based.
In the case of our mechanical watches, the second-hand makes 6 small steps every second, which is what gives it its sweeping movement for a total of 518,400 small steps per 24 hours.
Even if a watch is 99.9% accurate, it will still be off by nearly a minute and a half in only 24 hours! So even a mediocre wristwatch has to be well over 99.9% accurate to even begin to be useful on an ongoing basis.
So, what would be a reasonable expectation of accuracy from a watch?
Generally speaking, modern mechanical watches vary in accuracy from movement to movement, ranging between +/- 60 seconds per day at the lower end and +/- 2 or 3 seconds per day at the very best. The Seiko NH35A used in many of our Automatic watches is rated for between +/- 20 to 40 seconds per 24 hours. We tend to find the range to be somewhere towards the middle. With our added quality control, we have been able to get that figure down to +/- 4 seconds per 24 hours.
Automatic watches are usually more accurate than their purely mechanical counterparts, but quartz is superior to mechanical by a large margin. As a rule, a quartz watch could be as accurate as +/- 0.01, although +/- 2 seconds a day is within the acceptable limits.
Are quartz watches always more accurate than mechanical ones?
Yes, they are, but not always. Accuracy and precision are not exactly the same thing. It’s important to remember that even when a mechanical watch is allowed to vary +6/-4 seconds per day, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will consistently vary by that amount each day. A mechanical movement is noticeably affected by the gravitational pull of the Earth. It only takes a performance distortion of 1/1000th of a per cent for a watch movement to be one second less accurate in a day. This causes the performance of mechanical movements to be somewhat different from day to day when not stored in a fixed position. The good news is that the actual variations of a mechanical watch will often cancel each other out. This means a mechanical watch will tend to be more accurate over a longer period than the single-day COSC (Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres) measurement may imply.
In layman’s terms... looking at the performance of a watch over a 24-hour period may not provide the full picture of its accuracy.
On a daily basis, quartz watches are generally more consistent than mechanical variants under identical conditions. Quartz performance is affected mainly by temperature changes and weakened batteries. So a quartz watch that you measured to gain 0.5 seconds yesterday will be consistently and increasingly off correct time by about that amount. You can be pretty certain that in 60 days, it will be about 30 seconds off. At the end of a year, it would likely be over 180 seconds off.
Compare that to a mechanical watch that you measured to gain 2 seconds yesterday. It would seem that our example quartz watch is 4 times more accurate than this. But while the daily measured variations seem much higher, they are not likely to be as consistent, so will have a dampening effect. You cannot accurately predict that the mechanical watch would be off by 120 seconds at the end of the same 60 days. It might be right on time, or it may be 200 seconds off. The broader range of variations allows most mechanical watches to stay closer to correct time than the daily variation rate implies. Over a year, some mechanicals can on average stay closer to correct time without having to be reset than a quartz watch might, where others always tend to gain roughly the same amount each day.
Why would anyone want a less accurate watch?
In the 1970s, the demand for simplicity favoured the more accurate quartz style watch. Quartz technology debuted in watches with LED screens, and by the end of the 1980s, they powered both digital and analog watches, kitchen timers, wall clocks and everything in between. The dramatic rise of quartz technology nearly killed the Swiss watch industry in the 1980’s. It wasn’t until the 1990’s that the appreciation for the mechanical watch began to increase again. Why? Well, there's no single answer to that, so you can take your pick: there is beauty and artistry in imperfection, there's tradition in the history of mechanical watchmaking and there's fascinating engineering at work in every mechanical watch.