As watch lovers, we tend to be drawn to mechanical movements. There is something mysterious about the dozens of springs, wheels, pinions, jewels, screws, and plates that conspire to unwind a mainspring and turn its stored tension into a precise display of the time. I think the allure is in the fact that it is just simple enough to roughly understand and complicated enough for most of us to never fully comprehend. If you feel this way, it is easy to look down your nose at quartz watches.

If you do, you are missing out. There are plenty of reasons to appreciate and even admire quartz watches. Today, I want to look at five quartz watches that prove the snobs wrong. These are by no means the absolute best quartz watches, nor is this a comprehensive list. These are just five of my favorites that look at home in any collection. Jorg went through a similar exercise last July, but he was limited to what is currently available from boutiques. I am shedding those shackles and including discontinued options. Life is complicated enough as it is, right?

Grand Seiko SBGN023 quartz watches

An original quartz GMT: Grand Seiko SBGN023

When thinking of high-end quartz, my mind goes to Grand Seiko first. I came eerily close to buying quartz GS watches multiple times. For some reason, I haven’t followed through (yet). If I were to buy one today, though, it would be the Grand Seiko SBGN023 GMT, which has the brand’s caliber 9F86 inside. This is one of the few quartz movements that I would love to see through a display case back; it is that pretty!

Grand Seiko’s 9F calibers prove that you can approach quartz with the same level of ambition and skill as mechanical watchmaking. From the home-grown quartz crystals to the high torque for driving the heavy handsets and annual accuracy of ±10 seconds per year, it is rather impressive stuff.

The SBGN023 that I picked, specifically, puts it to work in a sporty package. The 40mm steel case features one of Grand Seiko’s instantly recognizable shapes. For me, though, the star of the show is the dial, a very dark brown lacquered one with pronounced decorative ridges. Now, if you follow my writing, you know I am not a huge fan of decorative dials on sports watches. Here, though, the embellishment doesn’t come at the expense of legibility or purity. Here, to me, it adds visual interest rather than clutter. The SBGN023 is a discontinued model, but you can find examples on the secondary market quite easily.

Sinn UX quartz watches

A German entry: Sinn UX

My second entry is from Germany, and it is a bit of a beast. The Sinn UX is about as hardcore as it gets. The folks at Sinn couldn’t make a mechanical version if they wanted to since the UX has an oil-filled case, which is only possible with battery-powered movements. This “Hydro” feature, as they call it, prevents fogging and ensures underwater legibility at all angles. Above water, it makes for a neat visual effect. The dial and hands seem completely flat, almost as if you are looking at an LCD.

SInn UX quartz watches

The temperature-compensated caliber 955.625 inside comes from ETA. It is housed in a 44mm submarine steel case with optional Tegiment hardening. The combination of the rugged case and oil filling allows for a water resistance rating of 500 ATM. The case alone would even survive 1,200 ATM. That is the bottom of the Mariana Trench plus significant redundancy — plenty, I’d argue.

The Sinn UX with a Tegimented case on a Tegimented bracelet is priced at €2,880.

Longines Conquest V.H.P. quartz watches

Accuracy and affordability: Longines Conquest V.H.P.

The third quartz watch that we shouldn’t scoff at comes from Longines. This is the Conquest V.H.P., which stands for “Very High Precision.” How high, precisely? We’re talking about ±5 seconds per year. There is some cool tech going on under the steel case back. For instance, the watch automatically stops if it detects a magnetic field that could throw it off. Once the magnetism no longer registers, the hands jump back to the correct time. Equally, if the movement detects a shock, the hands pause and then reset to the current time. If the shock is so bad that it moves the hands, they still jump back to the correct time afterward. An end-of-life indicator ensures you know when the batteries are about to run dry.

The one thing that has kept me from buying one myself is the design. I feel it is a tad crude and could do with a round or two of refinement. At 43mm, it is also rather large for a do-it-all-style watch. Still, if you like the looks, you will surely find an accurate and reliable companion in the Longines V.H.P.

Interestingly, it seems that the V.H.P. collection is no longer visible on the Longines website. You can still find new models from ADs all over the internet, though. With a retail price of €1,150 on a steel bracelet, it is a lot of watch for the money.

Citizen 0100 AQ6021-51E quartz watches

The king of precision: Citizen 0100 AQ6021-51E

Now, the previous watches on my list were accurate. Citizen, however, brings a gun to a knife fight with its 0100. This is a solar-powered quartz watch with a ridiculous accuracy of ±1 second per year. Citizen accomplished this amazing feat by reshaping the quartz oscillator itself. Rather than being shaped like a tuning fork, the crystal in Citizen’s caliber 0100 has a stadium shape. This makes it less sensitive to the influence of temperature and gravity. However, a temperature-correction system is included as well. Additionally, Citizen individually adjusts this system in every single watch to pair with its specific crystal and its unique deviation.

The natural vibrating frequency of quartz crystals changes as the crystals age, so Citizen pre-aged the crystals for long-term performance. Of course, special effort was made to stop the seconds hand from wobbling or showing backlash. A dedicated spring ensures accurate and steady jumps.

My pick would be reference AQ6021-51E, with its simple black dial. This 37.5mm titanium model features a display case back, which is rare for a quartz watch. There is currently one for sale on Chrono24 from a Japanese dealer for ¥680,000 (roughly €4,330).

No-nonsense quartz: Marathon Pilot’s Navigator

My final entry is the only analog quartz watch that I own, the Marathon Pilot’s Navigator. Its military heritage can be felt not just from its styling but its build too. It is about as rudimentary as they come. The case, in fact, is made out of injection-molded plastic. Additionally, the crystal is acrylic, and the case back is of the snap-on variety.

The idea here is that these are cheap, dependable, and easy to access for a battery swap. Inside ticks the high-torque ETA FØ6. It’s nothing fancy, but it gets the job done. If you want fancy, get the Citizen. However, the Marathon does have an end-of-life indicator, which is crucial in the field. The last thing you need when running a tightly coordinated mission is a dead watch.

These watches were nice and cheap when I got mine. Unfortunately, today you will have to part ways with €540 to get one like this. Frankly, that seems a bit steep for what it is.

Closing thoughts

Describing these five watches makes me wonder why I haven’t added more to my collection. Diving into these reactivated my interest. Specifically, the Grand Seiko and the Citizen are high on my list.

I have limited myself to analog watches only. However, I don’t have to tell you that a ton more fun awaits if you add digital and ana-digi to the equation. In short, if anyone ever claims that quartz watches aren’t “real” watches, we’ll know better. Any collector would be lucky to own any of the above or many other great options out there.

What is your favorite quartz watch? Let us know in the comments below!