High-Tech Watchmaking

5 Watches Taking Quartz Movements to the Next Level


May 4, 2016 Buying Guides By
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Too often, quartz is disregarded as a cheap, passionless way to tell time. While mechanical watches are put on a pedestal as complicated high art (and to be fair, in many cases they are), quartz is labeled timekeeping’s easy answer. You can see how the perception takes root. High-end mechanical movements come from clean, brightly lit manufactures in the verdant Switzerland countryside; quartz-powered watches can be found for $50 at your local Big Lots.

But quartz watches shouldn’t be looked down upon. Many of our favorite affordable watches are made by well-regarded brands using great quartz movements. Even the high-end price range is home to some incredible quartz watches — spend four figures or more and you can have a watch that is not only more accurate than a similarly priced mechanical watch, but also comes with new features, and in impressive shapes. To put it bluntly, when watchmakers push the boundaries on what quartz movements can do, the result is some of the most technologically advanced timepieces you can buy. These five watches prove it.

Grand Seiko 9F

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If an in-house movement is something that matters to you, know that Seiko goes as far into in-house production as growing its own quartz crystals. But that’s not even scratching the surface of the impressive movement inside the Grand Seiko 9F. While quartz watches are already incredibly accurate, fluctuations in temperature can affect them; to combat this, Seiko has a thermo-compensating movement that measures the ambient temperature 540 times a day, then adjusts the frequency of the quartz’s vibrations to compensate. The 9F is accurate to within +/- 10 seconds per year, while most quartz watches are only accurate to within +/- 15 seconds per month. Furthermore, Seiko’s movement is hermetically sealed; the company claims the watch can go 50 years without needing service to its moving parts.

Citizen Eco-Drive One

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Citizen’s Eco-Drive technology has always been a good argument for quartz, but its latest application in the Eco-Drive One is particularly stunning. Coming in at 2.95mm, Citizen calls it the thinnest light-powered watch in the world (for reference, the thinnest mechanical watch is the $58,500 Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Squelette at 3.6mm). To build it, Citizen had to reengineer almost all 85 of the internal components to make a movement that’s just 1mm thick. Citizen had to build the case from extra-hard materials like stainless steel treated with the brand’s proprietary Duratect coating, as well as cermet — a hybrid material made of metal and ceramic.

Casio G-Shock MRG-G1000B-A1

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Because the brand damn near owns then entire sub-$200 quartz market, the idea of a $3,000 G-Shock raises a few eyebrows. It’s worth noting that this, their top-of-the-line tough watch, has nearly every feature under the sun (and yes, that includes solar battery recharging): a chronograph feature, a perpetual calendar, a worldtimer, an alarm and a GPS radio receiver that allows the watch to automatically adjust the time based on atomic clock signals from any location in the world. The complicated quartz movement is then surrounded by a titanium case that is both shock resistant and water resistant to 200 meters.

OMEGA Spacemaster Z-33

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There’s reason enough to love the new Spacemaster Z-33: it’s a relative of sorts to Omega’s iconic X-33 space watch, and it’s visually reminiscent of the Omega Fightmaster. But the OMEGA Calibre 5666 multifunction quartz is something particularly impressive. The watch’s chronograph function is displayed on two LED digital displays that can measure the ambient light and adapt to increase legibility; pushing one of the pushers moves the analog hands to 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock to offer an unobstructed view. The digital chronograph is also accompanied by a UTC and dual time zone function, an alarm, and a perpetual calendar. And, if you so happen to be a pilot, you can also log up to ten different flight times.

Breitling Exospace B55

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Breitling has been one of the few Swiss brands to really embrace quartz technology since the Quartz Crisis (it is one of the only manufacturers to get its quartz watches COSC certified) and now it is one of the few to embrace “connected” tech. The Exospace B55 doesn’t run Android Wear like a traditional smartwatch, but instead simply uses Bluetooth to connect to your smartphone. From there, the capabilities of its digital chronograph can be moved to the user’s phone, allowing the watch to record up to 50 intermediate times, work as a lap timer and record times up to almost 60 hours. Whats more, the watch also has an alarm function and a world time function, and it can receive text, call, email and appointment notifications.