I must confess – in my earlier days of learning about timepieces, I fell victim to the allure of the mechanical watch. Hard. I raved constantly to friends, “It’s not a real watch till it’s made by hand.” The militant-hipster in me loved the idea of the human touch in a watch and balked at the idea of quartz-powered timepieces, deeming them “too artificial.” It’s a completely naive mindset, of course. After a while, you learn that in the grand scheme of things, there is an occasion for every watch – mechanical or otherwise.
Take my recent reservist cycle for example. When you’re knee deep in the jungle and looking to tell the time, chances are a Breguet isn’t going to do much for you. Fortunately, my Casio G-Shock sat on my wrist, telling time like a champ while looking great.
Around me, every other NSman had one version of a Casio or another. It’s not just the G-Shock’s ability to withstand shocks and resist anything you throw at it. It is the reliability.
In a quartz-powered watch, function takes over form. While the traditional mechanical watch is a work of art and beauty, the quartz watch represents ingenuity and actual progress in the science of timekeeping. Since its inception in the ’70s, quartz timepieces have established themselves as the pinnacle of precision. While a COSC-certified mechanical watch keeps itself to an accuracy of +6/-4 seconds a day, the average quartz watch comes in at +/-2 seconds a day.
Because of how precise these movements are, the race for more precision in quartz watches hasn’t quite been improved on much. A rare number of brands have been working on the niche progression of quartz.
A recent breakthrough in this realm has been the Longines Conquest VHP timepiece (pictured above). Its biggest selling point is obviously accuracy so while +/-2 a day is great, the Conquest VHP is promising +/-5 seconds in a year. Longines reworked the system and included temperature compensated crystal oscillators that help to regulate the temperature in order to keep the timepiece as accurate as possible. Other features include a gear position detection system that realigns the hands should they be displaced by a shock or a strong magnetic field, a perpetual calendar, and a five-year battery life. The watch marks Longines’ re-entry into the small world of high-end quartz, having been instrumental in pushing boundaries with partners Asulab back in the late ’70s and ’80s.
The high-end quartz world isn’t large but one of our favourites from this segment was Omega’s Speedmaster Spacemaster Z-33 (above) that debuted a few years back. Because it was so reliable and offered a myriad of alarm functions, the Z-33 was the choice of a few astronauts. The timepiece also used a thermo-compensated quartz movement and featured two LCD screens for ease of reading. Omega’s initial line-up of high-end quartz timepieces actually mirrored Breitling’s own Superquartz movements. Both brands utilised thermo-compensated components and guarantee a +/-10 seconds difference in a year. Unfortunately, Omega has since cut down on its high-end quartz line to one or two novelties every two or three years, concentrating instead on integrating its Master Chronometer mechanical movements.
On the other hand, Breitling recently released the new Colt Skyracer (above) that uses the Breitling 74 SuperQuartz movement. While we love the calibre powering the piece, we think its biggest strength is the crisp modern look – a black, red and white colour scheme. Beyond visual aesthetics, the case material for the Colt Skyracer is in Breitling’s own proprietary Breitlight, making the watch super lightweight and sturdy.
If you’re still balking at the idea of quartz timepieces after this, you’re honestly missing out. If innovation is a driving factor in your love for timepieces, quartz movements are great additions to any serious watch collection.
This article was first featured in the April issue of AUGUSTMAN