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Reasons to Own an Inexpensive Quartz Watch

Paul Altieri

Luxury timepieces are wonderful displays of craftsmanship and mechanical engineering; however there are certain scenarios in which the best timepiece for the job is an inexpensive quartz watch. While they generally provide very little satisfaction in ownership, cheap quartz-operated wristwatches are highly practical, and given their ludicrously low price point, are something that everyone should own.

Rolex-Oysterquartz-17013 Quartz Watch
For a brief time, Rolex used Quartz movements. Pictured here is the Rolex Oysterquartz 17013

Since their introduction in the 1970s, quartz watch movements have become increasingly more capable and less expensive to produce. While they were once considered new technology and were extraordinarily costly to manufacture, quartz watches have now become exponentially less expensive than their traditional, mechanically operated counterparts. Today, an inexpensive but reliable quartz watch can be purchased for as little as $10 (or sometimes even less); and it will keep excellent time to within a handful of seconds per month. Given their degree of affordability, inexpensive quartz watches can be viewed as disposable objects; and should one ever get lost, stolen, or broken, it can simply be replaced for less than the cost of lunch.

Suunto Spartan Collection
The Suunto Spartan Collection is an affordable option for a top-of-the-line timepiece

Available in analog, digital, or hybrid (analog and digital) displays, quartz movements can be designed to be exceptionally feature-packed. Some contemporary digital quartz watches contain specialized sensors that provide them with highly advanced feature-sets, such as altimeter, compass, thermometer, and even GPS functionality. Certain quartz timekeeping devices such as Suunto’s range of highly specialized, sports watches, have transcended their humble wristwatch origins, and now more closely resemble small, wrist-mounted computers with impressive selections of features and advanced functions.

In addition to their ability to house exceptional feature-sets, quartz watch movements are significantly more durable than their mechanically operated counterparts. When they were first introduced to market, digital quartz watches were marketed as having “solid state” designs because they had no moving parts to wear out or get damaged. While this inherent durability is now taken for granted, it remains true that a digital quartz movement is exponentially more impact resistant than a mechanical one.

The X-District Chronograph from Swatch is an example of an Automatic Quartz movement
The X-District Chronograph from Swatch is an example of an Analog Quartz movement

Even an analog quartz movement will be significantly more durable than a conventional mechanical one, since the most delicate parts of the mechanical movement have been replaced by a battery and a circuit with a quartz crystal oscillator. With far fewer moving parts, and electronic components performing some of the more delicate and precise functions, analog quartz movements are able to achieve far greater degrees of accuracy and durability, while still allowing the watches they power to retain their classical appearances.

Lastly, even if timekeeping accuracy is not a priority, and a highly fortunate financial situation makes it so that the expensive repair and replacement costs associated with luxury watches are not a concern, sometimes wearing a high-end, luxury timepiece can attract the wrong kind of attention, and ultimately cause unnecessary issues or even a potentially dangerous situation.

Rolex President 18078 Bark Accents
The Rolex President 18078 with Bark Accents is far from affordable

Rolex is the most well known, luxury brand in the world, and nearly every human being on this planet knows (or at least can figure out by looking at it) that a Rolex President is an expensive watch. While receiving this type of attention may be just fine while sitting at the bar of a Manhattan cocktail lounge, it very well could result in a robbery or mugging in other parts of the world – or even just the wrong neighborhood. Regardless of whether or not the watch is covered through jewelers insurance against loss/theft, the serious physical dangers associated with a robbery or mugging are better left avoided entirely, if at all possible.  

Today, countless devices that are capable of telling time surround us, and despite the recent advances in smart-watches and other wearable technologies, the role of an inexpensive quartz wristwatch still has a practical place in the lives of everyday people. Smart-watches provide far more functionality than even the most advanced quartz timepieces; however they often cost several hundred dollars, and have battery-lives that span hours or days, rather than the several years offered by regular quartz watch movements. By the end of a two-week camping trip in the wilderness, a smart-watch will likely have required recharging at least once, while an inexpensive quartz watch will have used up an insignificant percentage of its multi-year-long battery life

Inexpensive quartz watches can be purchased for as little as the cost of a burger and fries, and will offer timekeeping performance that rivals that of even the most expensive and technologically-advanced, mechanical wristwatches. They will both look and feel inferior when compared side-by-side with a true luxury timepiece; however for certain situations, the shear practicality of an inexpensive quartz watch makes it the absolute best timepiece for the job.

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Paul Altieri