Guide to High Accuracy Quartz (HAQ) Watches

Share this story:
Advertisement

For the most part, quartz watches, from a $40 Casio at Target to an Omega Aqua Terra quartz, run at about plus or minus 15 seconds a month. For some people that’s plenty accurate. For certain type of watch enthusiast demands far greater levels of accuracy.

Welcome to the world of high accuracy quartz or high end quartz, generally categorized as watches that are specified to plus or minus 10 seconds a year. Thermo-compensation allows these watches to maintain a stable rate in spite of temperature changes. At a very fundamental level, by passing a current through a tuning fork shaped crystal, vibrations are generated powering the watch. By regulating motor pulses in accordance to ambient temperature shifts, a higher degree of accuracy is achieved.

As a Worn&Wound reader, you are probably more than OK with about a variance of 10 seconds a day with your mechanical watches. Of course, many of us are fine with even being minutes off of the exact atomic clock time. Even trains don’t leave stops exactly on time. As much as we romanticize the old-world art of mechanical watch movements, there’s something just plain cool about the other end of the spectrum–a watch that allows for such extreme precision.

A practical use of a HAQ watch is for knowing you are on time for work-related events. Even if you are late out the door, you can grab your quartz dress watch and know that you are not late for a conference call with your colleagues on the other side of the globe.

For the purposes of this guide, we’ll leave out watches that are synched to radio tower signals as well as non-standard battery powered quartz watches such as Citizen’s Eco-Drive line. This is a guide to traditional lithium battery-powered watches that can attain an astounding level of accuracy. I’m also capping the price point, as this is Worn&Wound, so I won’t be covering Breitling’s Super Quartz series, which start at around the $4,000 mark. This is a snapshot of options should high accuracy quartz pique your interest.

Of course we begin by talking about Japanese offerings because Japan is known as the birthplace of quartz watches.

Citizen

The Citizen CTQ57-0953 Chronomaster, nicknamed simply “The Citizen,” is the king of high accuracy watches and is unofficially said to be the most accurate watch ever made, with its A660 movement claiming a rating of plus or minus five seconds a year. It features 37mm case width, a coated titanium case and bracelet, independently adjustable hour hand and a perpetual calendar (good until 2100). It’s a Japan-only model, which can be ordered from Higuchi Inc.  It retails for around $2,300 (depending on how the exchange rate is) and is what HAQ fans dream of feature wise. You basically don’t have to adjust this watch much during your ownership period.

ctq57-0953

Grand Seiko

On the other side of the Japanese HAQ is other brand Seiko, the creator of the first production quartz watch in 1969. Let’s start off with the fact that the watch company grows its own crystals (which serve as oscillators for the electrical current) to use with their 9F series quartz movements.

The 9F series (originating in 1993) uses a twin pulse control motor, which allows larger hands to be powered without compromise in battery life, the movement has a sealed cabin to protect from debris contamination during battery changes, and it boasts an accuracy of +/- 10 seconds a year.

sbgt035_c_1024x1024

The 9F quartz has an anti-backlash mechanism to eliminate the wobble when the second hand stops. It also has an auto-adjust mechanism, which helps the second hand hit the dial markers spot on.

One of my favorite models is the SBGX063, which stands out with a complex champagne dial, dauphine hands and 37mm case. At around 10mm in thickness, the size and proportions make this line a smart fit for the office, taking you from a suited new business pitch to Happy Hour. This case also comes in dial variations of black, white and blue.

sbgx063_a_1024x1024

The anti-magnetic sports model SBGX093, which is like a Milgauss for the Japanese watch lover, possesses a resistance to magnetism at 40,000 A/m and a 38.8mm case. What’s nice about the quartz Grand Seiko models is that they are, on average, 3mm thinner than their automatic counterparts. The SBGX093 and its white dialed cousin, the SBGX091 have a distinctive chunky case shape, just a bit of lume on the hands and dial, and a screwdown crown with 100 meters of water resistance.

Domestic Grand Seiko authorized dealers include Arizona Fine Time, Timeless Luxury Watches and Topper Jewelers. Reputable Japanese Domestic Market dealers like Higuchi and Chino generally offer lower prices.

Bulova

Bulova is a company that has set the standard for highly accurate quartz watches that feature, for real, a sweeping seconds hand to satisfy the collector whose only reason to shun quartz is the lack of a smooth moving second hand.

For the diver HAQ watch, my choice is the Accutron II Snorkel model (along with the company’s Precisionist line) use a 262 kHz UHF (Ultra High Frequency) quartz movement. Bulova  is credited with world’s first watch with an electronic tuning fork (but not battery powered) and hands that were powered by an electronic gear train in 1960. This innovation set the stage for the quartz watch.

bulova_accutron_snorkel_ii

This model offers vintage diver styling, a 43mm case, a substantial Milanese mesh bracelet, along with 200 meters of water resistance for $260 on Amazon.

Tissot

The Tissot PR 100 COSC quartz watch uses an ETA F06.411 “Precidrive” movement to achieve its status as a HAQ watch. Listed at $575 (available for $455), the model comes in three looks, with the black-dialed stainless-steel version looking the most elegant with the leather crocodile band.  The 9mm thick, 39mm case makes it very versatile, able to serve as a casual watch that can handle dressier occasions.

PR_100_COSC_Chronometer_55579697

Certina

For my chronograph HAQ selection, I’ll go with Certina’s DS-2 Chronograph, which uses an ETA Precidrive movement to achieve its plus or minus 20 seconds a year rating. A well-proportioned 41mm case uses green accents, including the seconds hand, 12-hour and 30-minute sub-dial hands being green, along with the split seconds indicator and chapter ring. Certina uses an integrated circuit to measure the quartz crystal’s temperature and keep its accuracy to COSC standards.

ds-2-chronograph

Li's first watch was a $105 Seiko 5 dress watch. That purchase started his obsession, though he has since moved a bit more upmarket. Today, Li is a fanatic for Seiko divers, both vintage and new, with a special appreciation for the Seiko Marinemaster 300m.
  • TrevorXM

    Nice intro article to an area of watches I don’t pay much attention to. I was surprised to see that there are actually quartz watches that address the two things I really dislike about quartz watches — a stuttering second hand and inaccuracy on hitting the markers on the dial. The Grand Seiko auto adjust function seems like something that should be standard on any quality quartz watch, in my opinion. There’s just something psychologically wrong about paying a good sum of money for a watch where the hands can’t even land on the dial markers. I also dislike the stuttering zombie hands of quartz watches (even if they would land on the markers where they’re supposed to) and am impressed that Bulova makes a sweeping hand. But I remember reading once that the reason you don’t get a sweeping hand quartz is because of the massive battery drain. I looked around and see that it’s about a year on them, isn’t it?

    • the

      They have two series of high accuracy watches with sweeping seconds hand, the accutron 2 and the precisionist. The first one is the basic line, a little less accurate (but more accurate than the standard quartz) and should have about two years of battery life; the precisionist have a one year battery life, using a slightly different configuration of quartz crystals, and obviously have more accuracy. I know that the precisionist use a bigger than average coin type battery, and probably it is also the case of the accutron 2. A little power hungry, but a really cool and unique movement!

      • Tom

        I have an Accutron II and a Precisionist that both use the same P102.10 movement, with the same battery. The Accutron II’s movement, however, is described as being a ‘modified’ version of the Precisionist’s. Lower accuracy and longer battery life but from essentially the same movement. Not sure what they’ve changed to achieve this as it seems to be the same tri-pronged, high frequency XO with combined torsional and flexural modes in both watches.

      • Steveal

        Strange to having bragging rights to “10 seconds a year” but have to change the battery every year – possibly at a watchmaker?
        It may be easier to change the battery every 5 years and adjust the watch a few times each year?

        • Joe

          A Grand Seiko quartz will go 3 to 5 years without a battery change. Which you can easily learn to do on your own for the cost of a 5 dollar battery as long as you have a case back wrench. I would send mine in every 10 or so years just to have the waterproofing/gaskets replaced as Seiko makes it difficult to order the proper O-ring gaskets.

  • malingerer

    Re Accutron II Snorkel, having owned this watch I can only say you get what you pay for (e.g. the sweeping second hand on a quartz is cool, but the build quality definitely leaves something to be desired. The included strap is not even of average quality).

    • Tom

      I agree. I have both an Accutron II and a Precisionist and not only do they fail to live up to their 10 SPY claim, but the build quality is really rather poor. They are cheap, though. My Grand Seiko is ten times the watch but is priced beyond what most people would be willing to pay for a quartz.

      • Sevenmack

        I have to disagree. The build quality in my two Precisionists compare well with Citizen’s and Seiko’s main lines. Certainly the Precisionist line ia no Grand Seiko. But you are also not paying Grand Seiko prices. I recommend them to any watch collector.

  • Roman K.

    Just met someone today with Seiko and he said he hasn’t change the battery in 30 years. Is that possible?

    • Tom

      Not possible. Battery life is never really going to be more than a few years. Even if it was a Seiko AGS / Kinetic with a rotor charging the battery / capacitor, they were introduced only 28 years ago. Your friend may, of course, have a mechanical Seiko.

      • Roman K.

        The second hand was ticking and looked like quartz, he said his wife gave it to him close to 40 years ago, and he said he only changed the battery once after 30 years. I’ll try to take a picture of a watch next time I see him.

        • Tom

          Well, Seiko have been selling quartz watches since 1969, so the age of the watch is certainly possible, but the longevity of the battery is not. The stated battery life of Seikos from the 1970s was between 1 and 5 years (depending on the model). If he has been sending it in for servicing at regular intervals then the service centre or watchmaker is likely to have changed the battery and I suppose it is possible that the owner was unaware of the change.

        • Nelson

          which model? Without any complication, the battery lifetime can be longer. The battery lifetime of solar watches can be 10-15 years. I think the solar tech has been around for 40 years but i’ m not sure that a solar watch that was produced 40 years ago can have 15 year battery lifetime.

          • Tom

            Solar powered watches have been around for over 40 years, but Seiko’s first solar offering was released only in 1978 and it was a digital watch, so couldn’t be the one that the OP saw ticking.

          • Nelson

            yes, it is impossible. I just thought if the movement is quartz, It would not require services that often. I don’t even think affordable quartz watches need to be serviced. It’s only a Seiko, I don’t want to spend money for servicing a Seiko quartz watch. Assuming that the watch has been serviced three times (perhaps,I’m wrong), it is still extraordinary for a watch that was produced 40 years ago to have around 10 year battery lifetime. I think the owner is already old and may forget how many times he has changed the battery. I just want to know which model? worth the money spent for servicing? a solar watch?

          • James Malenfant

            A battery is $5, and does not last 10 years. All Seiko watches are serviceable. It depends on the condition. I have never had a,quartz watch fail. Just battery replacement.

          • James Malenfant

            The battery in my precionist is supposed to last 3 years. My Spaceview battery lasts about 14 months. And the Marine Star, and Accutron York lasts about a year.

        • James Malenfant

          Then he is lying. Lol. No battery lasts for 30 years.

    • Stefan Vorkoetter

      A watch battery wouldn’t last 30 years even if you left it in its original package.

  • Tom

    Just a quick correction: the Certina DS-2 is rated to 10 SPY, not 20.

  • Tom

    A few watches could be added to this list. First, there’s the very affordable Seiko Dolce (SACM171) with the same 10 SPY movement as used in Credor and early Grand Seiko quartz watches. And from niche brands you have DeHavilland making a 10 SPY pilot watch, and Hoptroff and Morgenwerk both offering watches rated to 1 SPY or better (all with in-house movements).

  • Никита

    Nice review, but service interval should be mentioned imo.

  • Kodachromeguy

    The Seiko and Citizen are superb technology, but both strike me as very conservative and somewhat dull. The Bulova and Certina are more interesting. Why doesn’t Seiko put their 9F in a dive or field watch? I am sure there would be an audience. Wear the dive watch for the weekend, put it in a drawer, and next weekend it is right on time within a few milliseconds.

    • Andrea Alfieri

      I own the SNGX065 (the blue faced one) and trust me, whet at first might strike you as dull/conservative, you will perceive as perfect in the long run.
      It’s a super powerful design, kind like a rolex sub.

    • jokeren

      There is Grand Seiko quartz dive watches. SBGX115 and SBGX115.

      • Frank A

        jokeren, you named the same model twice. Did you mean to add “SBGX117”?

        • jokeren

          Yes I ment SBGX117

    • Miguel Barrameda

      the real question is
      since now that Citizen owns Bulova
      why not update their masterpiece
      combine the utilitarian use of the wonderful ecodrive and the impeccable accuracy of the accutron precisionist movement
      price it at under 500 bucks
      they will have an incredible giant slayer

  • Andrea Alfieri

    Long overdue article, well done!

  • Ariel Demian

    The Certina DS-2 is simply stunning!

  • peter_byford

    At one time highly accurate quartz watches were known generically as HEQ …High End Quartz.
    HAQ ??? I think this article grossly underestimates just how accurate mechanical watches CAN be.
    Omega, Rolex, IWC are quite capable of +/- 1 ( one ) second a day. Even quartz watches at the very low price band can keep great time. I have a budget designer drop chronograph made in Italy , cost equivalent of $50 that keeps time compared to atomic reference to 1 second a month…………Quoted accuracy ratings by the manufacturer can be nowhere near that achieved in wear, in the real world. The Omega Marine Chronometer has slipped down the Top Ten list of the most accurate watches ever made, but owners have reported better timekeeping performance than any of the watches featured in this article. Accuracy of about 1 second a year has been reported by several owners. Read this :-

    “After 63 days of rigorous testing, the mean variation rate was no more than 2 thousandths of a second per day ! ”

    http://chronomaddox.com/omega_megaquartz_2400.html

    A German kept a log of the timekeeping of his Omega, & over a period of 20 years, accounting for battery changes, said it gained only 18 seconds. QED

  • J_Lind

    Not quite 20 years ago Seiko introduced the 8F series of HAQ movements in the late 1990’s, albeit without thermal compensation. The base calibers and most common ones were the 8F32 and 8F56. Similar in concept to the much more recent Bulova Precisionist, the 8F family operates at 196 kHz which is 6X the standard 32 kHz. They’re rated at +/- 20 sec/yr (when new) and most do much better than that if worn 10-16 hours daily. Two additional features put it a step beyond the newer Bulova. The entire 8F family has a perpetual calendar, including the leap year cycle. The other significant feature is 10 year battery life for the men’s watches (if a recently manufactured battery is used). A smaller diameter matching family of 4F movements for women’s watches has a smaller battery and it’s rated to 5 years. The 8F3x and 4F3x are 3-hand with date and a variant with day and date. There is also a matching set of 8F5x and 4F5x movements with a 24-hr GMT complication. Unlike most GMT, the 12-hour hand is set independently, after first setting the 24-hr hand. The date (and day if fitted) roll forward and back with the 12-hour hand as it’s moved back and forth across midnight. All of the 8F variants were discontinued at some time before 2010. Even though the men’s were rated to ten years (the high torque diver eight years), battery changes were significantly different compared to a standard quartz watch. Not only was it a more complex procedure to properly reprogram the perpetual calendar, it was also very easy to destroy the movement’s paper thin circuit board or the coil if the old battery wasn’t removed very carefully, precisely following Seiko’s service instructions. Restarting the movement as it doesn’t start up on its own, and reprogramming the perpetual calendar if necessary is an awkward process and this cannot be done using the crown. It must be done using small electrical contacts on the back of the movement. Nevertheless, the concept of a HAQ with perpetual calendar and long life battery was admirable. The GMT variants were a bonus as you didn’t have to stop the watch for resetting to a new time zone or daylight saving time. A Kinetic or Solar powered version of the movement would have been even better. IMHO the battery change complexity combined with Seiko’s solar atomic Ignition watch in 2004 resulted in the early demise of the 8F movement family. I keep hoping we’ll see a HAQ variant of a kinetic or solar perpetual and a GMT complication would be a bonus.

    John

  • James Malenfant

    I worked at a pawn shop in college. I saw a lot of watches, and nothing was quite like Bulova. I had several. For the money they can’t be beat. Even the boxes are cool. When I saw the Spaceview, I had to have one. I bought one of the originals, and it came with all the boxes, papers, and price tags. ($135 in 1961) and in 14k, on Ebay. $1296. In flawless condition. I also have a Precisionist. The Champlain model. I found a factory refurbished one, again in flawless condition, for $165. Boxes, tags, etc. (Also free shipping and no tax. ) This watch is so cool, and weighs a pound. Retail. $800. There is another that I want, the 98b225. The second hand does sweep like the Spaceview. Seiko watches all look the same. You could not give me a Rolex, and if you did, I would sell it and buy a collection of Bulovas. Remember, always save the tags and boxes. I do not leave the house without my phone, and a Bulova on my wrist. Get the gist? Lol. Have a great day!

  • Italplan

    I think there is a great void in this presentation: Longines! They made the history of electronic timing since 1954 and of wist watch making with the ultra-quartz in 1969 , then in yhe 1980s and 1990 with two version of their Conquest VHP perpetual calendar titanium watch with 10 seconds per year accurancy. In 2017 they came back with what, in my opinion is the best line of estremely accurate analog watches , the Longines Conquest VHP , presented at Basel 2017. They boast not only tech specs which are top class (5 seconds of accurancy in real life situations, hands resistant to magnetism and shocks ets) but come in two models , three hands and chronographs, two sizes , and four colors each . The silver color is in my opinion the best of all.

  • Joe

    The accuracy of the Swiss COSC chronometer quartz movements don’t even come close to the Citizen Chronomaster or Seiko 9F quartz. They should not be considered in the same league. The only exception is the Breitling Super Quartz. The Precisionist movement is apparently 15 seconds a year. Pretty impressive at the price point we are looking at…. lagging behind Citizen Chronomaster and Grand Seiko. But Citizen and GS offer much more — superlative fit and finish that flies under the radar.

Article / Guides

Valentine’s Day Gift Guide: Red Watches

By
Well…here it comes again. Love it or hate it, Valentine’s …