To the average person, a watch is just a watch – you know that they’re used to tell time and they’re stylish, but have you ever wondered what’s underneath the hood of that timepiece on your wrist?
And more specifically have you ever wondered how watches work, what’s powering your watch, and whether the same type of battery is powering all the watches around the world? In this article, I’ll take a dive into the question “Are all watch batteries the same?”
Let’s Jump Right In
All watch batteries do not use the same type of battery and, in fact, there are some very distinct differences in the size, width, and thickness of the different watch batteries.
The main difference in the types of watch batteries is their chemistry and typically your watch will have one of 3 main types of chemistry:
- Silver Oxide
How to Identify a Watch Battery Type
Before we go into the internal differences of each type of battery, it’s important when taking the battery out of a watch or when shopping for and new one to know which type you’re looking at. An easy way to do this is by looking at the prefixes or the letters at the beginning of the writing on the battery.
Lithium batteries will be represented by BR or CR, alkaline batteries are represented by LR, L, or AG, and engravings showing SR or SG denote silver oxide batteries. So, in the image above, you know that that is an alkaline battery by the AG shown on the metal.
Now that we know how to identify battery types by their prefixes, what exactly is the difference between these 3 types and should you be worried about what battery is in your watch before buying it? Let’s take a look:
Alkaline batteries are the least expensive of the group and, as such, are seen the most in cheaper watch models. They give a voltage of 1.5 volts and have a capacity ranging between 15 to 17 milliamp hours or mAh.
The issue that arises with alkaline batteries is that they tend to have inconsistencies in the voltage over time. Batteries that are nearing the end of the lifespan are more susceptible to these drops in voltage and slowly begin to have trouble keeping accurate time.
Silver oxide is the most commonly used watch battery out of the three as it is the most cost effective while still being able to provide a stable voltage & good lifespan.
It gives about a 1.55 voltage and because it’s nearly identical to that of an alkaline battery, you can change one out for the other so long as they are the same sized battery. This is true in most cases but isn’t the case 100% of the time so always consult the seller or manufacturer of the battery before making the switch!
The main difference between silver oxide and alkaline batteries is in their capacities. Where alkaline batteries’ capacity hovers around 15 mAh, silver oxide batteries’ capacity stretches all the way up to 27 mAh. This allow these batteries to last almost twice as long.
On top of that, these batteries maintain a constant voltage throughout their lifespan making them ideal for clocks and watches because they require a constant rhythm to maintain accurate time.
Lithium button cells are the strongest of the three coming in at a voltage of 3 on all lithium cells (except 2 volts on the Retina 751), but they are also the most expensive which is why you’ll find them present in far less watch batteries than alkaline or silver oxide.
While alkaline and silver oxide batteries are designed to last 2-3 years, lithium batteries often exceed 5 years inside of a timepiece. Lithium batteries also perform significantly better in colder temperatures than either of the other two.
Does it Matter Which Battery is in My Watch?
For the most part, no it doesn’t. In a practical sense, the type of battery shouldn’t make or break your watch purchase. For instance, if you’re shopping for a watch priced around $30, chances are you’ll get your money’s worth out of an alkaline battery if it burns out at around 2 years.
At the bare minimum, with an alkaline powered watch, you can expect somewhere between 18 months and 2 years of battery life before needing to replace it. If this doesn’t seem like a long enough lifespan for you, the good news is that most watch companies offer a 1-2 year warranty and it’s also relatively cheap to replace a watch battery (~10).
[Pro Tip: To ensure that your watch battery runs as long as it’s supposed to and to possibly extend it even further, be sure to store you watch in room temperature conditions and avoid extremely hot or cold temperatures at much as possible!]
“Well what about alkaline watches telling inaccurate time?”
Good question – as stated before, this tends to happen towards the end of their lifespan. The reason, in practical terms again, why this still shouldn’t be a deal breaker is that watches containing this type of battery are generally not bought to tell accurate time forever.
If your main purpose for buying the watch is for the aesthetic, I wouldn’t let it having an alkaline battery scare me off. Once again, maintenance and replacement on these watches is never going to break the bank.
There are several differences between the 3 main chemistries of watch batteries, but the main difference is their voltage and capacity. Lithium, the most powerful of the 3, has the longest lifespan, but is used least frequently because of how expensive it is and also because a battery as powerful as lithium isn’t necessary to power most watches.
Silver oxide is the most commonly used because it is relatively low in cost, but has the capacity to consistently keep time throughout its entire lifespan without drops in voltage.
Overall, lithium batteries are more powerful, but you wouldn’t notice too much of a difference with a silver oxide battery cell. Also, it’s beneficial to have either a silver oxide or alkaline battery because they can be changed out being that they are of a similar voltage.
All in all, every watch battery will eventually burn out so don’t stress too much about picking the perfect battery – just ensure you’re aware of which type you own so that it may be easier to replace when the time comes.
About Black Tie Watch Co.
Black Tie Watch Co. is an American minimalist watch brand providing modern styles at affordable prices. We began operations in August 2019 out of Houston, TX and have been growing rapidly ever since. As of today, we have shipped our pieces to 27 countries across the world and look to continue to expand our global presence! Our watches all contain silver oxide battery cells to ensure they perform well throughout their entire lifespan. Each watch also comes with a full year warranty so you can shop with confidence ever single time!
If you’d like to check out our selection of modern, minimalist watches, please click here!
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