Watch Battery Removal

How Long Do Watch Batteries Last? All You Need to Know

Luckily, watch batteries tend to last much longer than those of standard electronics. This is, in no small part, due to the fact that most watches are light on power consumption. That said, how long a watch battery lasts depends on a number of factors, which we’ll discuss in this post.

Choose the right model and take care of your timepiece or time-keeper, and you can even extend its battery’s lifespan.

How Long Do Watch Batteries Last?

Solar Analog Quartz Watch
Solar Analog Quartz Watch with Digital Display

The length of time a watch battery lasts will depend on its type, capacity, and voltage, as well as your watch’s features and age. Typically, a quartz watch’s first battery will last 3-5 years. Any subsequent replacement batteries will usually last less time; around 1-3 years.

While both automatic and mechanical watches typically don’t feature batteries, solar and kinetic watches often do. Kinetic watch capacitors and batteries do need replacement, but not as often as other watch battery types. Typically, a kinetic watch capacitor’s battery can last up to 10 years, and its capacitor longer.

Solar watch batteries can last even more time — up to 50 years, in some cases. However, both solar and kinetic watch batteries rely heavily on movement, winding, or sunlight to stay charged. If not worn, wound, or kept in sunlight, the battery can lose power, requiring replacement sooner.

How Do I Know When It’s Time to Replace a Watch Battery?

Watch with Batteries

Not sure whether or not to replace your watch battery? Unlike other electronics, many standard watches don’t feature a battery indicator. If you’re unsure, there are some tell-tale signs that your watch battery is running out or needs replacement.

Typically:

  • Your analog quartz watch doesn’t keep the correct time, or its second-hand jumps or stays frozen.
  • If it’s a digital watch, the display may flicker, and the watch could seem sluggish when responding to commands.
  • For kinetic watches, you may notice that the watch no longer works, even after wearing it constantly.
  • For solar watches, the piece may not start up, even after charging in the sunlight for extended periods.
  • Mechanical and automatic watches can also stop working. However, since neither typically features a battery, another issue may be the problem.

What Factors Affect How Long a Watch Battery Lasts?

Not all batteries and watches are created equal, and various factors affect how long a watch battery lasts. The battery and watch type, its features, age, and even the ambient temperature, are common examples.

Watch Type

Quartz, mechanical, kinetic, automatic, and solar are the five main types of watches. Neither mechanical nor automatic watches require a battery, instead, relying on natural movement and winding to charge them. Solar watch batteries recharge using the sunlight and kinetic batteries use the movement of the wearer (kinetic energy).

Quartz watches are the most popular replaceable-battery-operated type of watch, available in both analog and digital models. They rely on the electrical charge from a battery to vibrate the internal quartz crystal that accurately keeps the time.

Analog or Digital?

Variety of Watches

Analog watches are the least power-hungry, requiring just the watch’s hand movements to show the time. On the other hand, digital watches, especially those with extra features, often demand a lot more power. That said, digital watches often feature multiple, more powerful, or larger-capacity batteries to compensate.

Additional Features

Fitness Watch

Does your watch feature an alarm, LED screen, fitness monitor, GPS, compass, or any other advanced features? If so, expect the battery to last less time than that of a basic analog or digital watch. How often you use these features will also affect its battery life.

Watch Age

The inner workings and lubrication of a watch wears down and dries out over time. In older watches, it may take more energy for the parts to move. As a result, these watches often require more power to work. This means that each replacement battery lasts less time than the previous one. To improve energy efficiency and accuracy in older heirloom timepieces, you may consider getting a full service done.

Ambient Temperature

Believe it or not, climate and temperature can also have an effect on how long a battery lasts. Extremely cold weather can reduce battery charge, but this may be mitigated by you wearing your watch. After all, it and its batteries will be kept much warmer on your wrist.

Lithium, silver-ion, and alkaline batteries all suffer performance issues in very cold temperatures (0°C/32°F or below). In contrast, warmer (but not too hot in case of rupture) temperatures (30°C/86°F+) can offer improved battery capacity and lifespan.

Battery Type

Lithium Button Batteries
Lithium Button Batteries

Your watch battery lifespan is also affected by the type of battery it is. Many modern watches and smart watches feature permanent rechargeable batteries, which you don’t need to replace. However, most older and more basic watch models still run on removable button-/coin-type batteries. The top three coin or button watch battery types are silver-oxide, alkaline, and lithium batteries.

Battery Capacity

Not only are there various battery types, but also lots of different battery models. As such, it’s important to check exactly which batteries your watch takes to deduce how long it might last. A battery’s voltage, capacity, and active elements all play a part.

The higher a battery’s capacity, the longer it will last, also depending on your watch’s energy demands. Similarly, a battery’s chemical and elemental composition is a crucial factor.

Typically:

  • Alkaline batteries are the most affordable but least powerful, generally being around 1.5V and 15-17 mAh in capacity.
  • Silver-oxide batteries are slightly more powerful, usually around 1.55V and 25-27 mAh in capacity.
  • Lithium batteries are the longest-lasting, being either 2.8V or 3V, and featuring a capacity of between 30 and 225 mAh.

Does Switching a Watch Off Conserve Its Battery?

Are you someone who likes to reduce your power consumption by switching appliances and electronics off? Unfortunately, this strategy may not work with a watch. In many cases, switching electrical appliances, such as watches, on and off frequently can actually drain the battery faster.

Note — to stop watches without an on/off switch, you may pull out the lever, which doesn’t actually switch it off. The only way to truly switch off these types of watches may be to take out the battery; a time-consuming and finicky task, no doubt.

How Can I Extend the Lifespan of My Watch Battery?

Rolex Quartz Watch

A watch battery’s lifespan is generally reliant on the power demands of the watch. However, there are a few things you can do to ensure your battery lasts as long as possible.

To extend the lifespan of a watch’s battery:

  • Keep it warm by wearing it or storing it somewhere cozy in winter or cold climates (below 0°C/32°F).
  • Don’t expose it to very high temperatures (above 50°C/122°F), as doing so can rupture batteries and break watch seals.
  • Send it in for a service if you notice any rattling or broken parts.
  • Make sure not to wet a watch unless it’s rated water-proof or water-resistant.
  • Avoid diving with your watch on if it’s not rated for submersion depths of 100m or more.
  • Keep metal watches out of the sea, as salt water can corrode metallic watch parts.
  • Ensure your replacement batteries are good quality.
  • Get any older timepieces serviced regularly to ensure they’re working efficiently.

Conclusion

As with any electronics, watch battery charge and lifespan are concerns. Now that you know how long watch batteries could last and when to replace them, you can be prepared. Our top tip is to buy a watch that’s compatible with more powerful batteries, but also low on energy demands.

Caitlin Greyling

Caitlin is a staff writer at Durability Matters.

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