When Seiko introduced the Astron Quartz watch on Christmas Day 1969, it heralded the start of what became known as the quartz crisis, a time when the Swiss watch industry was knocked back on its heels and was left desperately clinging to the ropes. Although the Swiss were the first to develop a quartz wristwatch in the shape of the Bulova Accutron, they made the strategic decision not to fully embrace the so called quartz revolution. It was a decision that by 1983 had seen the Swiss watch industry shrink to just 600 workers in its entirety. A far cry from its heyday when at one point everyone in Switzerland would have known someone involved in the industry.
Now Seiko believe they have just launched the next BIG THING. It’s called the Seiko Astron GPS Solar. Will it trigger another revolution? Well, it may not turn the Swiss watch industry upside down, but it will give you accurate time anywhere in the world. So successful was the first GPS watch, Seiko now introduce the Seiko Astron collection, a series of six additional Astron models. They each feature a futuristic domed sapphire glass designed to be reminiscent of the curvature of planet earth and the stratosphere that is all around us.
The SEIKO Astron is extremely clever. It corrects itself automatically each day taking the time signal from the nearest GPS satellite circling planet earth. On command it will then connect to four or more of the GPS satellites that orbit the earth, configuring the watch to the correct time in the correct time zone. Without having to adjust the watch yourself, the watch identifies the exact local time as you travel the globe. The Astron works anywhere, be it in the depths of the ocean or sand-duning a Toyota Land Cruiser along the Arabian peninsula.
To combine SEIKO’s battery free solar technology with GPS took years of groundbreaking research, resulting in 100 patent applications being filed. Using an ultra-low consumption GPS module, SEIKO’s micro engineers managed to pack all the required technology to connect with 39 satellites around the globe into a 47mm watch. To achieve maximum strength and lightness the watch is made from high intensity titanium.
SEIKO’s incredible IC circuitry within the watch divides the world into one million ‘squares’ and allocates each with a time zone.
The design of the watch has been developed in such a way that the light from the luminous paint under the sapphire glass can be likened to earth’s atmosphere, creating an illusion that the watch is like Earth moving through space.
The Astron collection comprises three other models in high-intensity titanium and two in stainless steel. Each of the watches have the same functions and specifications. The watch comes complete with an extra high-strength silicon strap said to be four times stronger than any previous strap of the same material.
Featuring both date and dual time displays, the GPS status can be instantly checked. Press the button and the GPS signal is indicated by the second hand and indicator at 10 o’clock. You can instantly tell when a GPS signal has been received, and from how many satellites. You can also quickly ascertain whether or not Daylight Saving Time has been activated.
With accuracy of one second to every 100,000 years , it takes under ten seconds for the time to self-correct and then 30 seconds or so for the time zone to be identified, and adjusts even if you are on the move. Daylight Saving Time or Summer mode can also be achieved with just the pres of a button.
Seiko Astron’s perpetual calendar is correct until February, 2100. The watch is a joy to look at too as the atomic time signal from UTC is shown as if viewing the globe from above the north pole. The city codes and their offset times align with the world map. The city codes and feature a bold easily legible font along the edge of the dial ring through the curved sapphire glass.
The limited edition version of the watch is 2,500 pieces. And the asking price for such ingenious technology? Expect to pay around £2,100.