What’s the difference between a mechanical* pendulum wall clock and a quartz pendulum wall clock, and what should you consider before making a choice? The answer depends on what you’re looking for in a clock, and what you want it to do for you. Here are some things to think about. (*mechanical wall clocks are wound by key or by chain).
How Do Prices Compare?
The more parts and labor it takes to make a product, the more expensive that product will be. That’s why mechanical clocks, with so many moving parts and the extra labor needed to assemble them, cost more than quartz clocks. Prices range from about thirty five to fifty percent more for a mechanical clock, compared to the same clock with a quartz movement.
Maintenance or No Maintenance
If you’d rather take the “no fuss” approach to owning a clock, then a maintenance free quartz model might be your best choice. (Photo far left: River City quartz wall clock). Maintaining a quartz clock costs no more than the price of changing batteries every 1-3 years. Duracell brand last the longest. But like any plastic electronic devices, the movement can’t be rebuilt or repaired once it fails. However, you can replace it for about $70 and expect your clock to keep ticking for another 15 to 30 years, depending on the brand and type. That’s a much smaller cost than what you’ll pay for a single professional oiling for a mechanical clock. (Photo left: Rombach and Haas mechanical, chain-wind wall clock).
Mechanical key wound clocks on the other hand, need to have regular cleaning and oiling. If you enjoy servicing your own clock, you can do some of the maintenance yourself with certain types of clock. Check out the details on this in our article: How To Spot Clean And Oil Your Clock.
Fun of Winding
A quartz clock, of course, never needs winding. Batteries are it’s power source and the clock will keep ticking for the life span of the batteries. But a mechanical clock gives you a special kind of satisfaction; when winding it, you can feel the clicking as you turn the key, or as with some weight driven clocks, like cuckoo clocks, as you pull the chain*. When you wind a mechanical clock you’re somehow “connecting” with the workings inside of that clock, even though you’re on the outside of it. Every 8 days is when most mechanical wall clocks need winding; some models require winding every day. This is a pastime most clock owners look forward to . (*Note: chains on quartz wall clocks are not for winding, they are for decorative purposes only).
The Tick Tock Sound: More or Less?
Quartz powered clocks are so quiet that you’ll hardly notice the tick tock sound, unless you’re very close to the clock. With a mechanical clock, the ticking sound will be more noticeable and many clock owners find the sound relaxing and soothing, although some find it distracting, or even annoying. If the loudness or softness of the ticking matters to you, one way or the other, it’s something to keep in mind before choosing a clock.
If you have your heart set on buying a mechanical clock, but you’re sensitive to the ticking sound, there may be a solution. The location of the clock in your home can make all the difference. The further away you are from a clock, the softer the ticking will be. So if you spend a lot of time in a particular area of your home, it’s better to hang the clock in a more suitable location such as a room in which you don’t spend much time.
Most quartz pendulum wall clocks offer control options for the volume, silence mode and chime selection; some of them feature quarter hour chimes, referred to as “4/4”. The music is generated from digital recordings played through a speaker. Key wound clocks produce their sounds through mechanical means such as music boxes, bellows, whistles and hammers that strike gongs or bells. Some clock lovers prefer the authentic, richer tone of the live sound rather than the digital. The photo on the left shows a Christophe mechanical cuckoo clock with a hand made Swiss music box inside. The photo on the right shows a dual chime Hermle quartz wall clock with volume control. (Note: its swinging pendulum can be seen through the glass panel at the bottom of the clock).
If one of your top priorities in a timepiece is accuracy, your best choice might be a quartz clock, since these can be accurate to within fractions of a second per month. Mechanical clocks keep excellent time with minor periodic adjustments. The pendulum on mechanical clocks clocks is what regulates their accuracy. By sliding the pendulum disc up or down, or by turning a threaded adjuster below the disc, you can make your clock go faster or slower. For details see “My clock is running fast or slow” on our FAQ page. The pendulum of a quartz clock is there only to add beauty, charm and movement but it serves no functional purpose. What keeps it swinging is a pulsing magnetic field powered by the batteries.
Which Is A Better Investment?
Mechanical clocks are a better long-term value and are more likely to become collector’s items than quartz clocks. Why? One reason is that centuries of clock making history and development are alive and well inside each clock. These are embodied in the workings of its gears, escapement and all of its intricate mechanics and craftsmanship. History, detail, and human labor are important factors that add to the value and appeal of not just collectibles, but to heirlooms as well. So if you’re looking for a clock that you can pass on to your grandchildren, think mechanical.
So, there you have it. The details above should make it easier to choose the best clock for you–whether that’s a key wound or quartz.
Photo # 1 – Antique cash register –financialramblings.com
Photo # 2 (left) – River City pendulum wall clock #3416C
Photo # 3 (right) – Rombach and Haas pendulum wall clock #7273
Photo # 4 – Maintenance man – seniorsupport.ca
Photo # 5 – Clock and clock key –online-english-lessons.eu
Photo # 6 – Ear from Michelangelo’s David – aperionaudio.typepad.com
Photo # 7 (left) – Christophe Gothic design cuckoo clock
Photo #8 (right) – Hermle Buena Vista quartz pendulum wall clock
Photo # 9 – Dartboard – theboardgamefamily.com
Photo # 10 – Hourglass and money – effectivesoftwaredesign.com