Before we get into the finer points of the new, super limited, solid gold Astron, it’s worth rehashing just a bit of Seiko history. In addition to everything else that happened in 1969 (the moon landing, Woodstock, the premiere of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) it was very notably the year that Seiko unveiled the first commercially available quartz watch. The Quartz Astron of 1969 would signal difficult times ahead for many Swiss watchmakers, as the prevalence of the far less expensive and easier to maintain quartz timekeeping technology became mainstream, shifting the power dynamic in the watch world dramatically between Switzerland and Japan. But in 1969, the technology was in no way ubiquitous yet, and Seiko’s first quartz timepiece was something of an exotic (and expensive) curiosity.
In the 50 years since the first quartz watch, timekeeping technology has made plenty of advances. Both quartz and mechanical timekeeping are simply better than they were 50 years ago, and many brands, Seiko in particular, have experimented with new methods of regulating time altogether. That brings us to the modern incarnation of the Astron, which is Seiko’s high-end line of GPS Solar watches that are powered by light and use GPS positioning to maintain, essentially, perfect time by synching up with low earth orbit satellites. The idea here is that at the touch of a button, your solar-powered watch will obtain a perfectly accurate time signal anywhere in the world. So, not only do you no longer need to worry about battery changes, but even setting your watch is virtually automatic.
The limited-edition Astron seen here is an incredible likeness for the original Quartz Astron, although some small changes have been made here and there. The star of the show, of course, is that solid gold case, While the case flanks are highly polished, the top side of the case has a hand-engraved decoration that is not just distinctive, but incredibly opulent. Personally, I love the mixing of traditional handcraft here with high-end technology, which is something Seiko has a knack for getting just right.
Also of note, the movement used in this Astron, Caliber 3X22, is entirely new, and sets a record in thinness for a GPS based solar caliber. Anyone who has had a chance to handle other watches in Seiko’s Astron line understands that the cases tend to be on the large side, so the slimmer profile here is certainly newsworthy, and one hopes we’ll see this movement trickle into more mass-market Astrons soon. The 3X22, when set to connect to a GPS satellite twice per day, is said to be accurate to one second every 100,000 years. That’s not a typo.
It’s completely fitting, maybe even a little poetic, that Seiko would pay tribute to their own horological innovation of 50 years ago with one of their new horological innovations. While the Astron mantle has been passed from quartz to GPS solar, and it’s exciting to think about what an Astron signed watch might look like 50 years from now.
The 1969 Quartz Astron 50th Anniversary Limited Edition will be available at Seiko boutiques in December, in a limited edition of 50. Seiko