An analog watch is any watch with a traditional handset and dial. Smartwatches and other digital watches with digital displays to show the time are the opposite. Analog watches are the oldest type of watch and are still used to this day.
Although some consider them obsolete, many watch enthusiasts, including myself, prefer the physical and tactile feel of an analog watch. The history behind them, the craftsmanship that goes into them, and seeing the second-hand tick are all part of the enjoyment watch lovers get from owning one.
In this article, we’re going to take a deeper dive into analog watches, how they work, and some amazing analog watches on the market you should be aware of. Let’s get into it!
What Is an Analog Watch?
An analog watch has a traditional watch dial and hands that indicate the hour, minute and sometimes second of a particular point in time. The second hand can either tick, or sweep, depending on if it’s a quartz or mechanical analog watch (more about this later).
How Do Analog Watches Work?
Analog watches use many different mechanisms to function. “Analog” for the most part, actually refers to the way the watch looks (traditional clock face, hands, etc.) rather than the mechanism it uses.
Quartz, mechanical and automatic watches can all fall under “Analog watches.”
Quartz watches are proven to have the most precision out of these different types. The predictable and precise vibration of the quartz crystal enables the watch to keep time with astonishing accuracy.
Mechanical watches require winding to load the spring with potential energy. As the spring slowly unloads this energy, it turns the gears, resulting in the movement of the hands.
Automatic watches use metal weights or rotors to transfer energy to a spring. This energy is transferred from the movement of the wearer’s wrist. If the watch is not worn for a long time, it may require winding.
All three types of watches can be analog watches, and they all work very differently. Again, the most important thing to note is that an analog watch refers to the way the watch looks, rather than how it functions.
Analog vs. Digital Watches
In contrast to analog watches that have a physical dial, of which the hour and minute markers, and even the brand’s logo are usually embedded on, digital watches typically have a digital reading of the time on a screen.
All watches with a mechanical or automatic movement are considered analog watches, but the inverse is not always true. Analog watches may also use quartz, or even other, more uncommon movements, like Grand Seiko’s Spring Drive, or the Bulova Precisionist movement, which don’t truly fit into either category but are still both used in analog watches.
Digital watches, on the other hand, are always battery-powered and, depending on the model, are either charged or use replaceable batteries. They most often don’t have a traditional hand and dial, unless it’s a hybrid watch, like the G-SHOCK CasiOAK, which combines both an analog and digital display.
Digital watches will tend to be more accurate as they usually have a quartz crystal. On the other hand, mechanical and automatic analog watches are not as accurate as digital watches.
This is not a big deal for most owners as the difference is minimal. However, digital watches will more likely be the better option in work that requires precision and accuracy.
Digital watches tend to have many more features than the average analog watch. They will typically be able to display the time, day, and date, as well as possess an alarm and a stopwatch.
Analog watches with these features exist but are quite costly, as they’re much more complicated and expensive to manufacture.
In terms of features, smartwatches are lightyears ahead of analog watches, however, analog watches have a certain tangible feel, a “soul” that smartwatches lack.
Why Get an Analog Watch Over a Digital Watch?
Now, given that digital watches are generally more affordable, more accurate, have more features, and are easier to use, why get an analog watch at all?
The traditional face of the analog watch gives it a stylish, classic look. In contrast, digital watches that display time on an LCD screen tend to appear more modern and arguably less beautiful.
Watch collectors will also undoubtedly appreciate the history, complexity, artistry, and craftsmanship represented by the analog watch. An analog watch doubles as an elegant accessory on certain occasions, such as a wedding or formal dinner, while a digital watch may not be appropriate for such occasions.
Analog watches also tend to have a higher resale value than digital watches, and this is significantly higher when it is associated with luxury brands that have become status symbols, such as Rolex.
In short, it is difficult to compare the two types of watches since it comes down to personal taste and the intended use of the watch.
If one is in need of a highly accurate watch that can withstand harsh conditions, they may be better off getting a digital watch. On the other hand, if you would like a timeless, sophisticated piece and have a generous budget, you may prefer an analog watch.
Analog vs. Automatic Watches
Most automatic watches are considered analog watches because they have a traditional dial and hand display. Therefore, it is difficult to compare the two. The difference between the two is that an analog watch is an umbrella term referring to watches with traditional displays, while an automatic watch is a type of analog watch.
Analog vs. Smartwatches
Analog watches are considered to have a more timeless style than smartwatches. They are also built to last longer. Smartwatches, on the other hand, are a more functional piece of modern technology that is closer to having a smartphone on your wrist than a traditional watch.
Analog watches are essentially micromachines, while smartwatches are minicomputers. Smartwatches have a touch screen, can connect to phones, and do all sorts of things, such as answering calls and responding to messages.
Analog watches do not need upgrading, while smartwatches are constantly upgraded with new features and better security. This means that if one uses a smartwatch, they may have to purchase a new one more often.
When comparing the two, one can conclude that it comes down, once again, to personal preferences and the intended use of the watch. For style and aesthetics, analog watches are ideal. For functionality, a smartwatch is best.
Features of an Analog Watch
Analog watches are the “fundamental” or original watches.
The following are some of the features that are unique to analog watches:
- Analog Dial – As mentioned before, this is a traditional watch display that displays the time by using moving hands as opposed to digital numbers.
- Sub-dial – This is a smaller, additional analog display on the main dial, which can indicate the seconds or an additional watch complication. Sub-dials are mostly included on watches with stopwatch complications, such as chronographs.
- Hands – The hands are the “sticks” on a watch that rotate around the dial to point at the current hour, minutes, and seconds, so you can read the time.
Are All Analog Watches Quartz?
No, not all analog watches utilize quartz. Some analog watches are mechanical, while others are automatic, and some quartz.
Are Analog Watches Still Used?
Analog watches are still widely used today. In fact, just about every luxury watch you can think of is most likely an analog watch. Rolex doesn’t offer a single non-analog watch in their entire lineup.
Do Analog Watches Have Batteries?
Some analog watches have batteries, but not all. Quartz analog watches, in particular, usually have batteries.
Automatic and mechanical analog watches, on the other hand, do not use batteries to run. Instead, they’re powered by winding them.
Analog Watch Brands
Many different brands produce analog watches to this day. Although this is by no means an exhaustive list, the brands below are just some of our favorites.
Seiko is a Japanese brand that has made its mark in watchmaking history, with several key innovations progressing the watch industry forward. Seiko is known for inventing the quartz movement and for many of its watches that have played a significant role in history.
Still, to this day, they make a variety of analog watches, including the new Seiko 5 Sports lineup, the perfect entry-point for someone new to watches.
Rolex is a brand that likely needs no introduction. They’re a Swiss company known for its luxury watches that are now considered a status symbol. One of the most well-known Rolex analog watches is the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Chronograph, designed for racecar drivers.
Timex is a well-established American watch company originally established to produce lower-cost alternatives to more expensive European watches. They offer some fantastic affordable analog watches, such as the Timex Expedition and Weekender, personal favorites.
Despite being an electronics company, Citizen produces some brilliant analog, solar-powered, and eco-drive watches, their own proprietary technology that can run for months on end without needing a battery swap.
Tissot is another Swiss watch brand and a subsidiary of Swatch. It produces high quality mid-range watches and is known for its sports and racing watches. Tissot is a great brand to get an analog Swiss watch at a price point much more affordable than typical Swiss watches.
Known for their cost-effective, bright, and colorful analog watches, Swatch is a brand with tons of heritage and sells some of the most fun watches on the market today.
Pros and Cons of Analog Watches
- Stylish and Timeless accessory
- Greater variety of styles available
- Does not need to be upgraded every couple of years
- More durable due to the use of higher quality and harder materials in their making
- Higher economic value
- Limitations to functionality and the more functional an analog watch is, the higher the price tag
- Inaccuracy and imprecise timekeeping
- Reading time is not as easy as on digital counterparts
- Old analog watches may be difficult to read at night
- Pricier than digital watches
Analog watches are timeless pieces of watchmaking that have ruled the market for over a century. You can tell an analog watch apart from its digital and smartwatch counterparts, as it will have a traditional watch dial and hands that show the second, minute and hour of the day. Digital watches, on the other hand, have a digital screen display that shows the time.
Although digital and smartwatches have some advantages over analog watches, like generally being more accurate, having more features, and cheaper to manufacture, there’s a reason most luxury watches are analog. The way they look and feel on the wrist, and their heirloom quality simply can’t be beat.