FEATURE:

The Ultimate Guide to High-Accuracy Quartz Watches


Walk into any horological meetup with a quartz watch on and you’re likely to get the door slammed in your face. I kid, I kid — but only partly. Ever since the mechanical watch industry made its recovery in the face of a specific doom brought on by Japanese watchmakers, many so-called watch enthusiasts (snobs might be the more appropriate nom de guerre) have outright refused to let a battery-operated watch end up on their wrists. Is that fair? Depends — of course anybody that calls themselves a timepiece enthusiast most likely fell in love with mechanical watches, but that doesn’t necessarily mean quartz watches should be left out in the cold. Over the past decade-plus, there have been some fascinating developments in the quartz sphere that have led to a new field of watches called HAQ (High Accuracy Quartz) that make precision the primary objective. An easy guideline to remember is that any quartz watch that boasts a plus or minus rate of ten seconds per year can be deemed HAQ. While this field is still dominated in full by our friends out of Japan, a few Swiss brands have tossed their hat into the ring and are trying to figure out the next stage in precision timekeeping. For the sake of this article, we’ll be defining HAQ as one that has an inherent regulator rather than something that relies on an outside force liken an atomic clock or GPS to maintain accuracy.

Longines VHP

Longines’ recent foray into HAQ ended up with the release of the Conquest V.H.P. (Very High Precision) at Baselworld 2017. Rather than jumping into the smartwatch realm like so many other Swiss brands, Longines has doubled down and made one of the most accurate quartz watches ever. As far as we can tell, this is the first Swiss watch to boast ± five seconds per year, which ends up being less than half a second every month. One of the coolest features of this watch is the gear position detection system that allows the watch hands to automatically resync if they’re accidentally displaced by a shock or a magnetic field. It also boasts a perpetual calendar in the date, meaning the timepiece knows the length of each month and when a leap year occurs, so you won’t ever have to mess with the date. The crown also has this funky trick where you can set the watch either by slowly ticking off minute-by-minute or, with a quick turn, the hour hand will jump by the hour so the minute hand stays accurate. At Baselworld 2018, the brand introduced several new VHP models including a new selection of chronographs. Prices start at $1,000.

Bulova Precisionist

Bulova introduced the Accutron II collection within the Precisionist line in 2014.

Most watch enthusiasts know that Bulova introduced the world’s first wristwatch that utilized an electronic tuning fork to regulate the time and an electronic gear train to move the hands with the original Accutron. That was way back in 1960; in 2010, after being purchased by Citizen two years before, the brand set out to reclaim its heritage of offering supremely accurate watches with the Precisionist line. The beauty of the Precisionist is something that nothing else on this list can offer — a smooth seconds hand. Because the watch beats at 262 kHz, which translates to 16 ticks per second, it allows for the buttery-smooth seconds hand that mechanical watch lovers have long hoarded over quartz enthusiasts. These technically don’t meet our guideline of 10 seconds per year, rather they offer a rate of 5 seconds per month, but they’re worth mentioning due to the sheer amount of models available and the accessible price point. In 2014, Bulova tapped into its history to introduce the Accutron II collection within the Precisionist line. Prices start at $350.

Grand Seiko 9F

Grand Seiko SBGV207 featuring the 9F caliber

You can blame Seiko for introducing the first quartz watch into production way back in 1969. Back then, quartz was less of a novelty and more of a revolution, and like any revolutionary tech, quartz watches cost quite a bit of money. While Seiko still sells plenty of quartz nowadays, its latest proprietary invention comes via its higher-end sibling, Grand Seiko with the 9F caliber. This specific caliber uses a thermocompensating movement to measure the temperature hundreds of times per day and then uses the information to adjust the frequency of the quartz’s vibrations to make up for any irregularities. The 9F caliber claims to be accurate plus or minus 10 seconds per year (Grand Seiko’s Spring Drive 9R caliber is also extremely accurate but claims to record plus or minus 15 seconds per month). Prices start at $2,200.

Breitling Superquartz

Breitling Cockpit B50 Night Mission

Breitling’s line of Superquartz watches represents the high-end of this segment of the watch market. For a long time, Breitling was sourcing its high-end, thermocompensated, quartz models from ETA. Starting with the Cockpit B50 released in 2014, however, Breitling began producing its own hyper-accurate quartz models thanks to the patented Superquartz technology. Thermocompensated, COSC-certified, and billed as accurate within 10 seconds per year, the analog-digital Cockpit B50 started a new wave for the brand that was continued with the release of the Exospace B55 and the Colt Skyracer. At release, the Cockpit B50 cost $7,200 but the Colt Skyracer, released in 2017, was priced at approximately $2,000. Be warned: If you’re a fan of Breitling’s HAQ models, now might be the time to pick one up, because as we recently reported, CEO Georges Kern is going to slowly eliminate quartz-powered pieces from the brand’s catalog with few outliers. 

Omega Spacemaster Z-33

Everyone knows the Omega Speedmaster and Seamaster, but how familiar are you with the Spacemaster? First released in 2012, the Omega Spacemaster Z-33 was inspired by the iconic “Pilot Line” case shape originally seen in 1969. It was designed for professional use by pilots which included a flight logbook that could record up to 10 flights, a UTC plus two time zones, either in 12-hours or 24-hours, and alarm, a chronograph, and a countdown timer. This is all thanks to the multi-function, thermocompensated Caliber 5666 that boasts a rate of plus or minus 10 seconds per year. The case is titanium and is priced at $5,900 on either a rubber strap or leather strap or $6,600 on a titanium bracelet.

Citizen Chronomaster

The Citizen Chronomaster AQ1030-57H

Previously only available in Japan, Citizen recently introduced its famous “The Citizen Chronomaster” model to a more global audience. Available in the Japanese brand’s Time Square boutique in New York City, the AQ1010-54A, AQ1030-57H, and AQ1040-53A all use the Caliber A010, which broke the record for most accurate quartz watch at ± 5 seconds per year when it was first introduced in 2011. All three models include perpetual calendar functionality as well. While the watches use thermocompensation to remain accurate, they’re powered by Citizen’s proprietary, solar-powered Eco-Drive technology. Prices start at $2,275 at time of publishing. 

Save

36 Responses to “The Ultimate Guide to High-Accuracy Quartz Watches”

Show all responses
  1. Dieter Graham

    Why would anyone choose anything different! A citizen never looses time and yet still has an up to date state of the art look? I can’t understand that if you want a real upto date time piece you would choose any less! Even a Rolex can’t beat it’s time–keeping! Bye….

    Reply
  2. Its surprising these watches can’t keep up with the HAQ watches of the 70s. The Seiko Superior 4883, 9983’s, etc. And the Citizen 4 Mega’s. I would have thought they would be all at that level.

    Reply
  3. I own the white dial Casio Edifice sport/dress watch. It falls in the arena of the Sarb035 and has a strong flavor of the Aqua Terra Model efv-100d is the 40mm and Model efv-110d is the 38mm. The time module is the 5507. The watch was purchased new for $75 online. Still available as of Sept 1 2020. The watch keeps amazing time according to my atomic chrono app. Hasn’t changed time within a second for the first month I’ve worn it. High accuracy quartz is kind of a silly matter if you can get a cheap quartz to do the same. By the way the case is amazing for the price, the dial is amazing and the crown is screw down. 100m WR. Decent 30 minute lamination, great polish. Thin profile. Can be worn with just about any strap. I consider it my poor mans Omega AT or Seiko Sarb. I get a lot of comments on the watch. It looks like a luxury watch. Worth noting that the seconds hand does line up very well with the indices. You will find this watch is WAY more appealing in person than in photos. Cheers.

    Reply
  4. The Bulova Precisionist movement is truly a marvel in the quartz industry. I just wish Bulova would use it in more of their watches and start designing more classic looking dials for it. Something in the 38-41mm range would be great. Most of the watches I have seen in this line are on the gigantic end, in other words over 44mm. These are too big to be taken seriously. I noticed when they were first released in 2010 there were a few classic designs, but for some reason Bulova got stuck on the large watch trend and every year I keep hoping they will release what I am looking for.

    Reply
  5. I own Bulova Surveyor Chronograph (97C109). I set the watch based on the USNO. Over a 3 month period, the watch was accurate to +/- 1 second over this space of time. Great watch.
    Also, I have a thirty year old Citizen, over the same 90 day test period, the watch was accurate to within +/- 10 seconds. Not bad for a time piece that old.

    Reply
  6. John Raffin

    I think Bulova watches with the 262 kHz movement are underrated. I have the Bulova Mens Chronograph Quartz Watch with Stainless Steel Strap 98B276 it’s spot on accuracy after two months. Why don’t they use the movement in a more high quality case and bracelet.

    Reply
  7. Michael Cassidy

    Just looked over the three new Citizen 0100 watches.
    Starting at $7,000 in titanium, and running to about $19,000 in precious metal, they run + or – 1 second per year.
    Hard to beat!

    Reply
    • Rob Megarrity

      I found a standard Citizen Eco-Drive (Cal E111) for $400 in Titanium. It keeps perfect time (within 0.1 sec after the first month), and it could even be within 1 second per year. Good value.

      Reply
  8. Rob Megarrity

    Interesting article. It’s been my experience that even commonly available quartz watches meethe 10 seconds per year ar criterion. Certainly, I have had a couple of Seiko watches that easily maintained 1 second/month.

    I’m presently monitoring my new Citizen Eco-Drive ($400), and I’m delighted to report that I can’t detect any variation in 35 days of general wear.

    Reply
  9. jimbo

    Recently purchased a Casio Lineage radio controlled watch that auto syncs itself each night to the atomic clock broadcast. I’d wager it’s consistently more accurate than any of these, and can be had for under $200. It also looks better than these.

    Reply
  10. C.S.A.

    Citizen is shipping the Caliber 0100 with accuracy of +/- one second per year beginning in the third quarter of 2019.

    Reply
  11. Sybrwn

    Do you know wich caliber us the first HAQ?
    The Seiko 8J maybe?

    Reply
  12. Tissa Pathiratna

    Seiko Astron solar & citizen satellite wave are more accurate.

    Reply
  13. Seymour Major

    I have a Citizen ECO DRIVE WR100 around 3 years old from brand new.
    What is the timing accuracy witin seconds over say one month to a year?

    Reply
    • Rob Megarrity

      My new Citizen Eco Drive has not deviated at all in more than a month. If I had to put a figure on it, I’d say it’s better than 0.1seconds per month. I’ll see how it goes over the next year.

      Reply
  14. Gerry Dimatos

    Let me first say that I am a Grand Seiko collector owning 6 of their fine timepieces.
    Two of them have the famous 9F Quartz Calibre, and one of them actually is the 25th anniversary model the SBGV238 with the sapphire clear case back exposing the beautifully decorated movement. This watch is rated to +/- 5 seconds a year.
    The magnificent thing about this movement is not just the fact that it is thermocpemsated but just how beautifully finished and decorated it is. It is like no other. Grand Seiko wanted to use the same type of hands on this watch as they do with their automatics and due to the high torque involved the second hand actually has a half step to ensure that the second hand actually strikes exactly on each marker. This ensures no wobble on the second hand and Grand Seiko also created the anti-backlash mechanism to prevent this. Add in the instantaneous date change at midnight (yes there is a motor powering this) and a 50 year service interval and you will see there is no comparison when you compare the detail and lengths Grand Seiko have gone to to create the ultimate quartz movement.
    I also own 5 Rolex watches and set these against my two GS Quartz watches which are always on time.
    If you haven’t discovered Grand Seiko please take a closer look. They are amongst the best finished and most accurate watches in the world regardless of you are looking at Quartz, Spring Drive (just an amazing innovation) or Automatoc High Beat or Stamdard 28,800 bpm.
    From Gerry Dimatos in Australia.

    Reply
  15. Jack Wright

    I am surprised that you have not mentioned the ETA 251.233. I have one of these movements and have had it for 3 years. Loss of 1 sec per year wether I wear it or not.

    Reply
  16. David Brown

    The Precisionist is beautiful, but too dang big. Franky, most modern watches continue to be garishly oversized despite the welcome movement toward smaller case sizes. I love the sweeping motion of innovative Seikos and Bulovas and hope more experiment along this line. Who wouldn’t want a more precise timepiece? (yes, this is a rhetorical question…)
    :p

    Reply
  17. Chris Malburg

    Great article. Hit all the buttons. However, what will the coming 5G technology do to the accuracy of timekeeping when +/- 5 seconds becomes laughable when there’s just 1 millisecond of latency?

    Reply
  18. Jack Wright

    I have an Invicta (don’t laugh yet) It’s a Jason Taylor Specialty Subaqua LE 12958′
    ETA 251.233 COSC certified and thermo-compensated chrono caliber with 27 jewels (which is for example the basis for Breitling 73 caliber used in Breitling Seawolf Chrono watch) with the accuracy within of +/- 10 seconds per year.mY watch runs at 4 secs per year and I’ve had it for 4 years. That ETA movement is no longer produced, I’m guessing to accurate.

    Reply
    • I have a Victa quartz 31490. One of my favorite watches. Amazing watch build for the money. I would never laugh at anyone who buys Invicta. Invicta is a major player in the watch industry.

      Reply
  19. TODD SEGER

    Once again the Swiss fall behind and quit the challenge when the benchmark keeps getting set a little higher… Let me explain. Citizen came first with a challenge to Seiko and the early 9F62 models with the Citizen ChronoMaster and it’s high performance +\- 5 sec a year. Seiko in its dismay over its Japanese competition took its +\- 10 sec a year model 9F62 and more recently 9F82A models and designed the 9F83 at +\- 5 sec a year… The only Swiss Company to achieve this is Longines with the VHP, which I own. In fact, I own all the models in the +\- 5 sec category because I love Accuracy! Now, In the Spirit of competition I applaud Longines for stepping up and not making all of the Swiss makers look like poor losers once again. Just found out that Breitling is dropping all of its Quartz line and going back only to its Automatic’s… Seems to me that the game got extremely real to fast for Breitling. As for Omega, they should stick to Automatic’s and the 1970’s series watches they have always produced. People still buy the Seamaster and Speedmaster with the little twik here and there each year, they are staying afloat. For Omega the attempt at redesigning the 1970’s Seiko Darth Vader Helmet failed miserably. So with that said, I feel it’s either time for the Swiss Watch Makers Society to step up or ship out.

    Reply
    • Graham

      Darn right, Todd! Those Omegas are hideous. After much researching online I have just ordered a Longines V.H.P. GMT (the white one, which looks way classier than the blue or black faced ones) I have small wrists, and as David Brown points out many watch manufacturers just love to make BIG FAT WIDE watches. I would have preferred the Longines to be around the ‘perfect’ 39mm wide, AND for it to be solar powered. I guess we can’t have everything. Quartz rules!!!! esp., if it’s thermocompensated/shockproof etc.. (if you want to be able to tell the actual time). To those snobs who can’t see past the end of their snotty little noses, ditch those grossly overpriced mechanical dinosaurs on your wrists and bring yourselves in to the real world! As for those radio controlled thingy’s, if we have an EMP or you aren’t in a part of the world where you can’t synch them, their owners will just have to rely on the watches internal accuracy.

      Reply
  20. Raymond McCormick

    Great post Logan, even if most commentors didn’t really understand your criteria.

    Reply
  21. BenzGuy

    another suggestion – the Seiko Astron GPS Solar. mine has yet to gain or lose so much as a second and it continues to exactly match the broadcast timing on National Public Radio and the clocks on my desktop computer and my smartphone (all of those sources being set by atomic reference). kudos, Seiko, you’ve done it again!

    Reply
  22. Louis Meluso

    The thermocompensated movements in the Certina DS-2 Precidrive line represent Swiss quality at an affordable price.

    Reply
  23. Humberto Ramirez

    That sweep second hand!….I own two Accutron 2’s and couldn’t discerne a difference from atomic time after 30 days, so I’m comfortable claiming 10 sec diff in a year :) …and you can’t beat the price!

    Reply
    • john wood

      I also bought a Bulova Precisionist but it does not meet the + or- 10 secs. a year criterion. That being said it gains 2 secs. a month which is pretty good for a watch that cost 117 USD.

      Reply
  24. Fraser Petrick

    Quartz vs mechanical: Insofar as I have no one to impress but myself, why do I not just stay with quartz? They’re less expensive and more accurate, so who cares what goes on inside? The inverse-snob in me considered the I’d-never-be-caught-dead-with-a-quartz crowd pompous. However, I, too, have fallen under the spell of the magic involved with all those little gears and wheels and springs and gizmos deep within the guts of a mechanical watch. In fact I’ve reached that fork in the watch road where a hand wound watch with no second hand has a primitive call that’s hard to resist

    Reply
  25. I own a quartz 9F movement Grand Seiko diving watch, which is accurate within ±2 seconds per year. Actually, when I set it twice a year to daylight saving time, it wouldn’t show any detectable deviation from the atomic clock reference, but I play it safe..
    I own some expensive mechanical European wristwatches , which stray about 10 to 20 seconds per day. While the Grand Seiko need battery replacement every 4 years, it doesn’t need any other service for more than 40 years. The reputable European watches need a service every 5 years and it costs as much a brand new expensive watch. So, having a meticulously hand made, beautiful, ultra-accurate, almost service and expense free, makes more sense to me.

    Reply
  26. Robin Henry

    Longines timed the recent Commonwealth Games at the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. Every day on television appeared advertisements for their special Commonwealth Games edition VHP watch. It looked great and I’d be interested to know how many they sold since it was a special with a narrow band of opportunity ie, the games was only on for two weeks.

    Reply
  27. Richard Johnson

    You left out the Thermocompensated quartz diving watches put out by Sinn … the UX and the EZM models. I owned an EZM which was accurate to within 3 seconds per year as measured against the USNO.

    Reply
  28. The first purpose of a watch is to tell the correct time. The most accurate watch I have is a Citizen Eco-Drive Skyhawk Blue Angels Titanium Chronograph that correct it’s self three times early every morning. It is within a second everyday of the year. It also has other functions like not breaking with every little tap or bump. Something my more costly and well know watch brands can’t seem to do.

    Reply
Leave a Reply