Quartz was long considered something of a four-letter word in watch geekery due to its association with mass production — as opposed to the illustrious “soul” and “craftsmanship” of a mechanical watch. But a good number of mechanical watches use mass-produced movements from third-party suppliers, too, so these are things we probably shouldn’t get too caught up in anyway. Here's the thing, though: quartz watches are fantastic for a lot of reasons — even superior in many respects.
Aside from battery changes, they don’t require much servicing and they’ll be more accurate than even the most expensive mechanical watches. Further, more watch brands have recently been making quartz watches with enthusiasts in mind. Best of all is that aside from some particularly special high-end quartz watches, you can find some incredible timepieces under $1,000 — many of them far, far below that.
Best cheap quartz watch: G-Shock was founded on the principle of building super tough, functional and accessible watches, and naturally, quartz was the only real way to achieve that. The 5600 series has been around since the 1980s, and it’s emblematic of the brand’s ethos and the original design. There are less expensive versions, paying a little more for Tough Solar (solar charging) is worth it. It'll take a hit harder than just about any other watch, and it won't set you back much in almost any version you go for.
Features: Stopwatch, alarm, backlight
There’s no better representative of the stylish, low-cost analog quartz watch than a classic Timex. The Q Timex Reissue series is a modern interpretation of a quartz watch the brand made in the late 70's with the word "Quartz" proudly emblazoned on its dial. In its current form it features a color options including this all-black treatment with a 12-hour bezel. The watch retains the classic look of an old-school dive watch with a killer retro bracelet and offers a hell of a lot of style for the money.
Features: Rotating bezel
Many watch enthusiasts like to romanticize the use of mechanical watches in the military, but the truth is that armed forces everywhere were making the jump to quartz as soon as they possibly could because it's simply more practical. The G10, for instance, came into use by the British Armed Forces in 1980. Cabot Watch Company (CWC) still makes the G10 today to the same standards, which is to say you still get a very simple, durable and no-nonsense timepiece.
Features: Lume, battery hatch for quick replacement
The Speedmaster wasn’t the only watch worn on the moon — during the Apollo 15 mission, Commander David Scott wore a custom-made Bulova chronograph on the surface of the moon in place of his NASA-issued Speedy. While that watch was mechanical, the homage featured here uses a chronograph version of Bulova’s Precisionist high-frequency quartz movement. Rather than the seconds hand ticking once every second like a standard quartz watch, it smoothly sweeps across the watch’s dial.
Features: Chronograph, PVD black case
Another sound example of the value for money the Prospex lineup provides, Seiko’s "Arnie" dive watch features serious looks and a combination of analog and digital (ana-digi) displays. It's not only absurdly badass (as evidenced by appearing on the wrist of one Arnold Schwarzenegger in multiple '80s action movies) but it's also solar-charging and packed with functionality.
Features: Solar charging, chronograph, second time zone
Built to U.S. Military standards, the Marathon MSAR (Medium Search and Rescue) is a tough watch in a small package. Coming in at only 36mm, it’s small by today’s standards, but still a super tough and submersible to 300 meters. It also features tritium gas tubes for luminescence, which is a nice, bright and colorful touch.
Features: Tritium lume, diving bezel
Size: 36mm (also comes in 41mm and 46mm versions)
Most innovative quartz watch: Even amongst HAQ (High Accruacy Quartz) watches, Longines’ Conquest VHP (Very High Precision) is one of the most precise analog watches in the world, guaranteed accurate to about five seconds per year. How does the VHP do it? Longines added tons of interesting tech to the movement, like a “gear position detection” system that checks the gear’s exact position and corrects the display if it is inconsistent with the quartz’s time base. The watch can also readjust itself after a shock or in the presence of a magnetic field.
Features: Perpetual calendar, HQA accuracy
Many brands like Casio and Citizen have supplemented their quartz watches with atomic timekeeping via radio signals, but Junghans was there first in 1990 with the introduction of the MEGA 1. Now the German watchmaker is putting the technology inside its iconic Max Bill design, giving the Bauhaus classic the ability to adjust its time to radio time signals. What’s more, a perpetual calendar keeps the date accurate until the year 2400, and solar charging means it's as worry-free as possible.
Features: Radio-controlled timekeeping, perpetual calendar
You can always count on Sinn to deliver glorious overkill for its tool watches, and the brand doesn’t disappoint even when it’s working with quartz. The Hydro UX is a quartz take on the brand’s U1 diver, which means it’s rocking a case made from submarine-grade stainless steel (really). What truly sets the watch apart, though, is that the entire thing is filled with oil (again, really). The oil essentially makes the watch legible from every possible angle (even when underwater), and because a mechanical movement and a bunch of oil wouldn’t co-operate, Sinn turned to the thermo-compensated ETA 955.652 quartz movement.
Features: Thermo-compensation, oil-filled case, diving bezel
Water-resistance: 5,000m (really)
First released in 1993, Grand Seiko’s 9F caliber remains one of the most advanced quartz movements ever made. Thermo-compensated, accurate to within ten seconds a year and sealed so that, apart from battery changes, the watch doesn’t need service for 50 years. There are other impressive little details, such as a spring to prevent backlash and a high-speed motor that changes the date in 1/2000 of a second. This is a wonderfully over-engineered movement that matches the exquisite finishing on the case and dial that Grand Seiko is known for, and this version in the Sport collection features the bonus of a GMT function.
Features: GMT, HQA accuracy, quick date