It was fifty years ago this week that Seiko debuted the Quartz Astron, the world’s first commercially available quartz wristwatch. At the time, the Astron clocked an incredible accuracy rate of ±5 seconds per month and essentially launched an entirely new branch of watchmaking.
In 2012, Seiko revived the Astron name by attaching it to the Astron GPS Solar, another wristwatch ‘first’ that operated on light power and was also enhanced with the ability to connect to the GPS network and adjust to changes in time zones.
This year, Seiko commemorates both these Astron debuts with the 1969 Quartz Astron 50th Anniversary Limited Edition (above), a new light-powered Astron GPS watch, and dresses the limited edition with a nicely engraved gold case that recalls the original Astron from 1969.
Seiko has cased the new limited edition watch in gold (measuring 40.9mm by 12.8mm) to remind you that the original model was also a gold watch. Like that Astron, the new edition also offers a curved cushion case, wide case lugs and a fairly thin bezel. Like the 1969 watch, the yellow gold case is engraved by hand, though here it projects a distinctive hairline pattern echoed again, though subtly, on the dial (which now features a date at 3 o'clock and 'GPS Solar' just above 6 o'clock). As on the original model the hands and multi-faceted indexes are thin and lined with black.
And while the 1969 Quartz Astron 50th Anniversary Limited Edition includes all the same synchronizing functions required for successful GPS setting and connections, you wouldn’t know it from a dial-side first glance. Seiko has placed the GPS pinpoint-style pushers along the side of the case, while also minimizing the width of the internal bezel set with the various GPS-setting indicators.
Seiko has also wisely minimized the GPS adjustments, with only time adjustment and timekeeping required, and both are accessed via the pinpoint pushers. And, Seiko's latest GPS technology allows for a 12.8mm thick case, considerably thinner than earlier Seiko GPS Astron watches. The watch connects automatically up to twice a day to the GPS network. When the wearer changes time zones, pressing one button moves the hands independently.
The Seiko 1969 Quartz Astron 50th Anniversary Limited Edition is now available as a limited edition of fifty worldwide. Price: $36,000.
Specifications: The Seiko 1969 Quartz Astron 50th Anniversary Limited Edition
Movement: Caliber 3X22 GPS controlled time and time zone adjustment. Perpetual calendar correct to the year 2100. High speed timezone adjustment, signal reception result indication, power save function. Accuracy: ±15 seconds per month (without receiving a GPS signal and at temperatures between 5°C and 35°C)
Case: 40.9mm x 12.8mm yellow gold and clasp, box-shaped sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating, 100-meters of water resistance and magnetic resistance of 4,800 A/m .
Strap: Brown crocodile with three-fold clasp with push button release