10 Quartz Watches Even Hardcore Watch Nerds Will Love

Just because it’s battery powered doesn’t mean it ain’t cool

June 15, 2023 5:11 am
three watches

If we’ve indoctrinated you into the Cult of the Mechanical — we apologize. Sincerely. But it’s not our fault, really — mechanical watches are, nine times out of 10, just more interesting than their quartz counterparts. (Or, at least they’re more interesting, ahem, mechanically speaking — that is, with respect to their movements.) But there are exceptions to this rule, and even if there weren’t exceptions, there are times when life simply calls for a quartz watch over a mechanical one.

Don’t believe us? Here are a few times I wouldn’t necessarily want to be wearing a mechanical watch:

  • While traveling in a less-than-safe environment. I wouldn’t want to draw attention to myself, and I’d probably help the situation along by wearing a relatively inexpensive quartz watch.
  • While in basic training in the military. Ever tried timing the 30 seconds you’re given to do a task that actually takes 90 seconds with anything other than a battery-powered LCD watch? (Hint: It doesn’t work.)
  • When handing over a watch to my 5-year-old nephew so he can learn to tell the time. (You think I’m handing this precocious little rascal a Patek?! [You think I own a Patek?!]

Of course, the great majority of quartz watches are also much more affordable than mechanical watches, so if you’re simply looking to save some dough, this also plays into the equation. Plus, because they’re relatively inexpensive to produce, there are just so damn many out there, and so many cool ones to choose from.

There’s also a ton of garbage, frankly. So with that in mind, we’d like to present you with what we believe to be some of the best options in battery-powered quartz watches. Don’t agree with our choices? Well fine, then! Consider these a starting point, and look through the brands’ catalogs to find something else that suits your fancy. But first, some battery-powered history…

How Does a Quartz Watch Work?

A quartz watch, unlike a mechanical watch that translates energy from a wound spring into an impulse that drives the hands around the dial, is powered by a battery. It’s called “quartz” technology because there’s actually a little quartz crystal within the movement — this crystal oscillator beats at a very specific frequency, which means it’s great for timekeeping, and much more accurate than a mechanical movement. When an electric impulse from the battery is passed through the quartz oscillator, the crystal oscillates. A circuit “counts” these regular oscillations and generates electrical impulses of (generally) one per second, which can either drive a step motor that turns gears to move watch hands, or power an LCD display. When this inexpensive yet advanced technology proliferated in the 1970s and 1980s, it fairly quickly put entire mechanical watchmaking companies out of business. This time period later became known as the “Quartz Crisis” — though luxury mechanical watchmaking has since made a strong comeback and exists alongside quartz and digital technology. 

Awesome Quartz Watches

a black g-shock watch


Remember my earlier comment about basic training? Well, there’s a reason why soldiers in militaries all around the world rely on this watch — or one just like it from G-SHOCK — to handle time-telling duties: The DW-6900 has 200m of water resistance, an electroluminescent backlight with Afterglow, a buzzer that can be set up to sound in time with various functions, a 1/100th-second stopwatch, a countdown timer, a multi-function alarm, a full-auto calendar, and much more. With its rubber strap, you can beat the living hell out of it, and if you truly manage to somehow bust it up — well, a replacement can be had just about anywhere for under $100. 

  • Diameter: 46mm
  • Water Resistance: 200m
  • Special Features: multiple alarms; backlight; calendar; more
  • Price: $55
a white watch with black-colored wrist

Q Timex Three Time Zone Chronograph

Where can you find a three-time zone, quartz-powered travel watch? Generally, you have to look for digital timepieces for this sort of functionality, but Timex recently dropped a bomb that should serve many people well as they zip across the globe on business or keep track of loved ones in other states or countries: The Q Timex Three Time Zone Chronograph is a 40mm chrono with a 12-hour bezel, an independently adjustable 12-hour hand, and a 24-hour subdial at 12 o’clock. Using these three features, it’s possible to track three separate time zones as well as time events. Not bad for under $300, wouldn’t you say? 

  • Diameter: 40mm
  • Water Resistance: 50m
  • Special Features: chronograph; multiple time zones
  • Price: $219
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a blue-faced watch with a white wrist
Worn & Wound

Vero X ADPT Workhorse Limited Edition

Now here’s a quartz watch that’s both well considered and affordable. A special take on Vero’s Workhorse designed in collaboration with Worn & Wound, it’s colorful yet utilitarian, bold yet comfortable, quirky yet fun. Housed in a 44.5mm stainless steel with aqua and white-colored Cerakote finish, it features a “destro” configuration with crown and pushers on the left side of the case; a 2 o’clock crown to control an internal, rotating bezel; and a fun, aqua-colored dial with dual-register chronograph display. Behind the scenes is the Miyota 62S1 quartz chrono movement, whose chronograph seconds hand appears to sweep given its 1/4th-second ticking. 

  • Diameter: 44.5mm
  • Water Resistance: 120m
  • Special Features: lefty “destro” configuration; 1/4th-second chronograph seconds hand
  • Price: $499
a silver watch with a digital clock.

Hamilton American Classic PSR Digital Quartz 

1970’s quartz-powered Hamilton Pulsar was the world’s first watch using an LED screen. The tech was so groundbreaking that the watch even appeared on James Bond’s wrist in 1973’s Live and Let Die — no small feat, considering Q Branch’s budget! The PSR is Hamilton’s contemporary take on this classic timepiece, complete with a stainless steel case, matching steel bracelet, hybrid LCD/OLED display, and 100m of water resistance. Also available in a limited-edition gold PVD version as well as a cool black PVD iteration, it’s the steel version that best combines utility and versatility into a design that looks just as cool today as it did five decades ago.

  • Diameter: 40.8mm
  • Water Resistance: 100m
  • Special Features: modern take on world’s first LED watch 
  • Price: $745

Marathon Navigator Stainless Steel 

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Marathon’s Navigator in stainless steel is not only one of best modern recreations of a vintage military watch — it’s also one of the toughest, one of the best looking, and one of the best values. Marathon’s military watch bona fides run deep, and the Navigator doesn’t disappoint: Housed in a 41mm asymmetric case, it’s got a bi-directional 12-hour bezel for tracking a second time zone, a dial with tritium gas tubes for serious illumination, a useful date window at 4:30, and a black nylon “DEFSTAN” strap. Powered by a high-torque quartz movement from ETA, its battery can easily be changed via a handy hatch on the caseback.

  • Diameter: 41mm
  • Water Resistance: 100m
  • Special Features: 12-hour bezel for tracking second time zone; tritium tube illumination
  • Price: $830

Bulova Lunar Pilot 43.5

A slightly downsized version of a beloved timepiece, the Bulova Lunar Pilot 43.5 recreates a famous (hand-wound) watch that accompanied American astronaut Dave Scott — a member of the Apollo 15 mission in 1971 — on the Moon after the crystal popped off his Speedmaster. This modern version features, rather than the original’s hand-wound Valjoux 72 movement, a super cool, ultra-high frequency quartz caliber that beats at 262 Hz. A descendant of the brand’s famous Accutron movements that were used extensively by NASA, this high-beat tech represents some of the more impressive applications of battery-powered timekeeping. 

  • Diameter: 43.5mm
  • Water Resistance: 50m
  • Special Features: ultra-high frequency quartz movement 
  • Price: $895
clock with black wrist and white face
Exquisite Timepieces/Junghans

Junghans Max Bill Mega Solar 059/2023.04

This classy update to a vintage Bauhaus design is a fine example of the unobtrusive use of quartz; indeed, it’s only a close look at the seconds hand that would betray this handsome dress watch as anything other than a hand-wound masterpiece. Then again, this contemporary version isn’t housed in a 34mm steel case, but an upsized, 38mm titanium housing that takes the original Max Bill design and gives it a modern twist. (Then again again, with its plexiglass crystal — rather than sapphire — it has some serious neo-vintage cred…) You know what? This is just a dope watch, no matter how you look at it! 

  • Diameter: 38mm
  • Water Resistance: 30m
  • Special Features: titanium case; sleek Bauhaus looks for days
  • Price: $1,050
a black watch
TAG Heuer

TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 200 Solargraph 

One of the coolest quartz watches of the past few years, TAG Heuer’s Solargraph is part of the Aquaracer dive watch category. Available in several finishes (including a Grade 2 titanium model with a matching bracelet), we think the forged carbon version with its wildly cool, lumed bezel is the bee’s knees. Matched to a black rubber strap with a matching push-button clasp, it’s housed in a 40mm case with a matching black dial and date window, all of which is powered by the Calibre TH50-00 — which, you guessed it, recharges via ambient light. Water resistant to 200m, this is a serious diver that takes advantage of everything quartz tech has to offer. 

  • Diameter: 40mm
  • Water Resistance: 200m
  • Special Features: recharges via ambient light; unique bezel
  • Price: $3,050
a black and light blue watch
TAG Heuer

Grand Seiko Elegance Collection SBGX353

Looking for evidence that quartz technology is for more than simple “beater” watches or weekend warriors? Look no further than the simply stunning SBGX353 from Grand Seiko’s Elegance Collection. The brand’s 9F quartz movement delivers an unbelievable 10 seconds per year of accuracy, while the striking, pale blue dial is inspired by the snows of central Japan, with diamond cut, five-faceted indices housed in a 34mm stainless steel case that’s perfectly sized for both men and women. Paired with a dark blue crocodile leather strap, this is the sort of quartz masterpiece that you’ll wan to show off to your nerdiest of watch nerd friends. 

  • Diameter: 34mm
  • Water Resistance: Splash proof
  • Special Features: ultra-precise movement with +/- 10 seconds/year accuracy
  • Price: $3,800

Breitling Emergency 

Here’s one for the watch nerd, the adventurer and the guy or gal who’s doing some serious, high-speed shit: the Emergency isn’t just an ana-digi watch with a compass bezel, dual LCD screens and a SuperQuartz chronograph movement — it’s the first watch in the world to feature a dual-frequency distress beacon. Yup, you read that right: pull out the antenna from the bottom of the case, and you’ll activate an alert signal that will bring down search and rescue teams onto your position. (Just be REALLY sure you’re in dire straits before you yank the thing — do it by accident, and it’ll cost you a pretty penny to settle up for the false alarm.) 

  • Diameter: 51mm
  • Water Resistance: 50m
  • Special Features: dual-frequency distress beacon — sweet!
  • Price: $15,725

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