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Always"watching"

The Return of High-End Quartz

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A short article by Charlie Bruton, titled as above in my own thread-head, has appeared in the latest (June 2019) GQ Magazine, and on reading it I remembered a question I have been asking myself about servicing and repairing watches of this type. Before I ask this question, I will just give the flavour of the GQ article. Essentially, the resurgence of high-end quartz is a given fact in this article, and then the author looks at why this should be the case. He mentions design factors, such as the slimness of quartz watches compared to their mechanical equivalents, and also the advantage of reliability, and incredible accuracy in some quartz models, with the term "High-accuracy quartz (HAQ) now being used for the most accurate quartz watches now becoming available.

My own feelings about high-end quartz watches are mixed, and I am not sure I could easily be persuaded to prefer a quartz watch to a mechanical example when it comes to buying luxury high-end watches. One reason for my reluctance brings me to the question I wish to pose here. Can high-end quartz watches be serviced in the same way that mechanical watches can; is the life of the watch movement essentially a single time period after which the module has to be completely replaced?

I presume that as the price of quartz models rises, there comes a stage where it is uneconomic to merely replace the module and after that stage has been reached, the quartz movements in the most expensive quartz watches can be serviced rather than replaced, especially analogue movements where there are still moving parts and sometimes multiple jewel bearings.

I would appreciate members' knowledge and thoughts on this apparent dilemma. I may be missing something in asking my question, and I would like to know more.:)

 

 

An example of a new High-end quartz model is this Cartier Santos-Dumont introduced earlier this year. The watch can be had in two case sizes - 27.5mm wide or 31.4mm wide -and the watch is a mere 7mm thick. Cartier has used what they call a "high autonomy" movement which promises a 6-year battery life, and prices for the larger version range upwards from $3,900 for steel up to $11,800 for the 18 carat rose gold version. Note that the standard Santos starts at $6,250 (pics from hodinkee.imgix.net):

H20A6523.jpg?ixlib=rails-1.1.0&auto=form

H20A6550.jpg?ixlib=rails-1.1.0&fit=crop&

 

 

The 27.5mm steel Santos-Dumont on the wrist, and the watch from the back (pics from hodinkee.imgix.net):

H20A6510.jpg?ixlib=rails-1.1.0&auto=form

H20A6534.jpg?ixlib=rails-1.1.0&auto=form

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As my adventure in watch collecting continues, my tastes also continue to change. Recently a huge change for me was an appreciation and taste for quartz watches. The bang for buck they offer is unbeatable, especially considering the the accuracy and pick-up-and-goability of them. Personally the whole high-end thing just isn't my style, even a low-end quartz is at least twice as accurate than a high-end automatic, but still, I really appreciate what a quartz can achieve so simply.

That Cartier is gorgeous!

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Though I am well short of matching your knowledge on watches, I’m inclined to agree with your hesitation to buy a high end quartz. Finding spare parts must be an issue in years to come whereas any parts for a mechanical movement can be fabricated. 

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Finding parts for high end Quartz Watches when they get older can be an absolute nightmare, and as stated above a mechanical Watch movement part can be manufactured if needed.

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When I dipped my toe back into watches,I bought a Brietling colt quartz.Never bothered me in the slightest,decided I was not going down the mechanical rabbit hole again.So much for that :bash: No won’t power it seems.

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Remember when reading GQ; this is a good look,

46-Stefano-Pilati-GQ-13Dec17_b.jpg

26-Luke-Day-GQ-13Dec17_getty_b.jpg

24-Mark-Ronson-GQ-13Dec17_getty_b.jpg

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Although I have a number of Quartz watches, I'm firmly in the 'prefer' mechanical now.

I had the repair problem with my Tissot TS/X2 (1980's) which was going about 5 secs per day - sent it off to Tissot and they said they couldn't do anything - but luckily there was an independent watch maker to where I was working at the time and he managed to put a new crystal in it for me - so now its 0.2 secs/day.

However, I'm someone who will wear a watch for a months then rotate - I actually find it quite annoying that I have 6 watches all running wasting their battery. I'd prefer it I took them off, they stopped - and then I'd just wind them when I want to use them.

So, at one point I've gone from thinking that mechanical were silly when you could buy a cheaper, more accurate and more reliable Quartz - to much more preferring mechanical ones.

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1 minute ago, WRENCH said:

Remember when reading GQ; this is a good look,

46-Stefano-Pilati-GQ-13Dec17_b.jpg

26-Luke-Day-GQ-13Dec17_getty_b.jpg

24-Mark-Ronson-GQ-13Dec17_getty_b.jpg

Strewth,glad I don’t read it.

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3 minutes ago, WRENCH said:

Remember when reading GQ; this is a good look

24-Mark-Ronson-GQ-13Dec17_getty_b.jpg

I had trousers in the bottom pic for years.

I was 11, and my mum insisted on buying my school trousers I'd 'grow into'. Ahead of my time, me.

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@Always"watching" forgive me, but I am always suspicious of articles in fashion magazines. Only my opinion of course, but I do believe they are "industry" driven, and part of a consumerist culture frequented by people, who outside of their own contrived world of "super fashion", would be considered to have escaped from somewhere.

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3 hours ago, Always"watching" said:

Can high-end quartz watches be serviced in the same way that mechanical watches can; is the life of the watch movement essentially a single time period after which the module has to be completely replaced?

I presume that as the price of quartz models rises, there comes a stage where it is uneconomic to merely replace the module and after that stage has been reached, the quartz movements in the most expensive quartz watches can be serviced rather than replaced, especially analogue movements where there are still moving parts and sometimes multiple jewel bearings.

Cartier have an ethos with their watches in that they "don't obsess with what's inside" so with their time pieces , the case, dial and band are taking the lions share of their effort-to-market. So your point is very key, with their quartz movements as a proportion of the overall "effort" , would they still be in the place whereby their movements for quartz are just replaceable ? 

Many watch "connoisseurs" look down on some Cartier examples because of the movements, but curiously I still think they hold a rather unique place in the current watch world. A world where an IWC watch may be overpriced because of a perceived basic movement base whereas Cartier can justify it !?

maybe , maybe not .... Great thread !

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5 hours ago, Always"watching" said:

and prices for the larger version range upwards from $3,900 for steel up to $11,800 for the 18 carat rose gold version. Note that the standard Santos starts at $6,250 (pics from hodinkee.imgix.net

If I pay over £300 for a quartz I think it's too much (though I have done it).  Beyond that you are IMO paying for the name, and jewelry value, maybe special designs to maintain accuracy in extreme conditions.  I believe ETA and Ronda develop movements that are backwards compatible ie I can no longer get the movement for my Squale, but the replacement model will fit, and is thermocompensated.  Some can be repaired, seldom cost effective, I think mainly the mechaquartz like the RAF issued Seiko's. People repair them.

Jon

 

Edited by Jet Jetski
No glasses
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I can see where the value is in a mechanical high end watch. I struggle to see how they justify top end in a watch that has, ultimately, a throwaway quartz movement.

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A few things to add:

1. Any mechanical watch under £1k basically has a throwaway movement, because the cost to service is so high compared to simply replacing the movement. For example, Seiko charge £84 for a service on a standard three-hand movement (and that's cheap for a Seiko compared to some other places). You can pick up an NH35/36 movement brand new for under £30 with postage on eBay.

2. A Seiko 9F movement is designed to run without servicing for 50 years -- who needs spare parts? Aside from the absolute bottom end, almost any quartz movement will probably outlast you.

3. Quartz movements from the early years (70s and 80s) were largely metal, and they just keep going. I have an Atronic with a Tissot movement in it. Cost me £12 last year, dates to 70s, still beats all my mechanical watches for accuracy by a country mile. Quite a few have jewels and can be serviced. I think we're going to see a resurgence in these.

4. Lifetime cost of ownership on a quartz is much lower

5. I'm with you on the price disparity -- I'd assume the majority of work that goes into a mechanical watch is spent on the movement. Switching it for a quartz should reduce that significantly, but they usually don't charge less.

6. Mechanicals hold their value better.

 

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Thanks everyone for making this a lively and interesting thread. I must just defend myself, dear Steve @WRENCH, for my using an article in GQ Magazine to form a base for my thread-head, which was essentially a question I have been pondering about high-end quartz watches. Please understand that I share your suspicions about fashion magazines, and I can tell you that I cringe many times when reading GQ Magazine, for a number of reasons including those that you sensibly put forward in your post above. Yes, I do subscribe to GQ Magazine, and Yes, I do sometimes material in GQ in writing some topics - the point being that in addition to containing a lot of mumbo-jumbo fashion (and other) "advice" for wealthy certain-age men, there are also nuggets of gold for a researcher like myself, and not all the information provided in GQ is inaccurate or pointless for us watch devotees.:biggrin:

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I have a lot of HAQs. I wouldn't say I have any HEQs, though, as my focus is on supreme accuracy rather than precious metals and five-figure price tags. That being said, the finishing on Grand Seikos is legendary and when I put my GS quartz (SBGV009) under a 30x loupe beside a Rolex Oyster Perpetual, the difference between the Japanese model and the mass-produced Swiss watch is truly extraordinary. A lot of time and craftsmanship goes into watches like that. My 'The Citizen' (AQ1000-58B) is almost as good. And the movements inside are every bit as impressive as the external finishing. These movements are largely hand made with hundreds of parts and undergo the most stringent testing. Some might even call such watches 'high end', though over on my more regular forum there seems to be an understanding that 'high end' starts at £10k.

And besides the accuracy of better than 10 SPY, HAQs often also offer other advantages over mechanical watches in the same price bracket, including perpetual calendars and such like. For me, accuracy is everything. It is, after all, the original horological promise - a true and dependable time-keeper. That the pursuit of accuracy was largely abandoned by the mechanical makers when quartz hit the scene, and that so much of the Swiss industry's marketing efforts have since been focused on selling the dream of Man Jewellery, does not mean we have all lost sight of what a watch is meant to do. That's why quartz, at all levels from cheap beater to high accuracy super chronometer, has by far the larger market share. The resurgence of the more expensive quartz lines perhaps shows a growing confidence amongst mechanical manufacturers who now see their decades-long marketing campaign bearing fruit in the form of all the myths surrounding mechanical watches and Swiss provenance being firmly established as fact in watch-buying lore. Perhaps now they feel it is time to have another serious stab at breaking into the hugely valuable quartz market that has largely been the preserve of lower end brands in recent times.

As for serviceability, I have an Omega HAQ from 1975 for which no spare parts exist. STS are still happy to work on it whenever I send it in for service or repair. If a critical part should fail then of course the watch will be consigned to the dustbin, but for the most part things that go wrong are mechanical in nature and these always seem to be easy enough for STS to fix.

 

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On 07/05/2019 at 17:49, KAS118 said:

I actually find it quite annoying that I have 6 watches all running wasting their battery. I'd prefer it I took them off, they stopped - and then I'd just wind them when I want to use them

Pull the crown out.

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1 hour ago, Jet Jetski said:

Pull the crown out.

I do, but although that significantly reduces the power used its still is using some :(

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Personally I'm not a fan of quartz movement watches and only have one in my collection.  I recall the rush to quartz accuracy and the embracing of technology during the Space Age 1970s. 

Back then apart from chronometer grade movements most mechanical watches kept time to +/- 20 secs a day. As a result the new quartz watches were a revelation to many, as much had been the introduction of automatic movements.   Nowadays much has changed and a well adjusted mechanical watch can rival a cheap end quartz for accuracy. 

So I'd rather pay to have some real cogs and a piece of horological engineering on my wrist rather than a few bits of plastic and metal driven by a cell and a 32 kHz crystal which may or may not be that stable. 

 

 

 

Edited by ong
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I have looked at the 27.5 m steel and its really really nice ill just wait till its £1500 then i might buy it 

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On 09/05/2019 at 11:14, ong said:

a few bits of plastic and metal driven by a cell and a 32 kHz crystal which may or may not be that stable .... Ugh!

A man after my own heart!  Give me gold, two allotropes of carbon, a 3-pronged crystal, 262kHz and a sweep second hand!  Wait - how do I service this thing?  I will borrow a socket set off @WRENCH

61186480_136766744061238_121241695495913

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12 minutes ago, Jet Jetski said:

A man after my own heart!  Give me gold, two allotropes of carbon, a 3-pronged crystal, 262kHz and a sweep second hand!  Wait - how do I service this thing?  I will borrow a socket set off @WRENCH

61186480_136766744061238_121241695495913

 

On 09/05/2019 at 11:14, ong said:

Personally I'm not a fan of quartz movement watches and only have one in my collection.  I recall the rush to quartz accuracy and the embracing of technology during the Space Age 1970s. 

Back then apart from chronometer grade movements most mechanical watches kept time to +/- 20 secs a day. As a result the new quartz watches were a revelation to many, as much had been the introduction of automatic movements.   Nowadays much has changed and a well adjusted mechanical watch can rival a cheap end quartz for accuracy. 

So I'd rather pay to have some real cogs and a piece of horological engineering on my wrist rather than a few bits of plastic and metal driven by a cell and a 32 kHz crystal which may or may not be that stable. 

 

 

 

Yes, its a very good point, can you service a 1980's 90's seiko quartz chronograph for example? With all its plastic gears etc? I doubt it, I think having pulled a t42 to bits the other week and seen whats in them, that they are a throw away part and were always intended to be so. When mechanicals ruled so did repair and lets face it during the 70's the throw away world really got underway. Compile this with the fact you cant get the movements now and it means a lot of 70's 80's and 90's quartz are heading for scrap. I think @kevkojak has found this too. Its a shame because a lot of what could become iconic watches from that period are going to be left dead. It does seem luck of the draw though, I've just bought the 7t34 7a10 which is a 4 dial chrono with date dial, 4 button and a crown job, so theres a lot of complexity there in plastic. And at 30 its as sweet as a nut, the pushers are lovely and smooth with just the right pressure to them, the crown same ans the winding and setting feels super slick with no play...no heres the rub...it said in the advert i bought it from ''fully serviced'' so maybe if they dont get to the stage of total failure and servicing is kept upto, then a plastic seiko movement from 30 years ago won't die...however maybe because they are so fiddly complex to service and only a hundred quids worth, it results in dead ones. 

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3 minutes ago, Nigelp said:

you cant get the movements now

I have found that some new improved Eta movements are backwards compatible - my Squale has an Eta 251.262, 27 jewels; and I think it is on the way out (the quick-set method is weird, and I appear to have 3 positions on the pull-out stem lol); but the newer 251.264 is thermo-compensated (you can get COSC versions) and is a direct replacement, I am told.  The rub is all the different date window and dial orientations, but fingers crossed they make a full range.

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4 minutes ago, Jet Jetski said:

I have found that some new improved Eta movements are backwards compatible - my Squale has an Eta 251.262, 27 jewels; and I think it is on the way out (the quick-set method is weird, and I appear to have 3 positions on the pull-out stem lol); but the newer 251.264 is thermo-compensated (you can get COSC versions) and is a direct replacement, I am told.  The rub is all the different date window and dial orientations, but fingers crossed they make a full range.

sounds good in that case, an harder to keep going bunch might be the classic LCD's that came in in the mid 70's, they seem to be of very minor interest amongst watch fans, given that in their day they were the thing to have, i guess they have just either gone out of fashion, or maybe its the fact most are broken and impossible to fix? Some of the Seiko split time lcd chronographs from the late 70's are amazing things. But most have bitten the dust. I've got a 1979 A127 thats fine apart from the light...but for how long who knows. I dont use its functions too much as i think that may wear the diodes out and put more pressure in the liquid crystal, resulting in the thing popping? Some of the 'Bond' ones are sought after but most others even with the same features are overlooked bargain basement and a good one can be great to own. In effect, these LCD's from the mid to late 70's in complex chornograph form were about as high end as quartz has ever achieved. The omegas were pretty stunning things and are. for the full 70's effect, they've got to be gold!

Image result for 1970's omega lcd

the seikos were up there with them no doubt. Probably and being Japanese and electronic dare i say it...more reliable than their Swiss counterparts?

Image result for seiko 1979 lcd chronograph james bond

This is my A127. From 1979. Which is a split time lap timer aswell as count down chronograph! A complex little computer in reality and exactly 30 and still doing what it did when Maggie walked into number 10...now look at the wallies we've got to choose from.

Suprisingly lcd is still with us but only in low end and only by the Japanese. Ive a feeling that only the Japanese can do the micro electronics well enough and cheap enough. I dont think the Swiss can.

Take this LCD seiko 30 years old. It cant have been serviced and its spot on. c9921798cb42154f87007a53e8a92850.jpg3c406e0bf7d0de7782d4c2a573cda054.jpge9cd8e9cadaaaacf874514efd01b231b.jpgf5351c14a8e6f71bc16fb2cafa6d7d7d.jpg

Sent from my SM-J320FN using Tapatalk

 

just to put its age into context. 

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