Morgenwerk Satellite Precision Watch Is More Accurate Than Your Mobile Phone

Morgenwerk Satellite Precision Watch Is More Accurate Than Your Mobile Phone

I met the chaps behind new watch brand Morgenwerk in Hong Kong of all places, though this is not an Asian watch brand. Morgenwerk comes from the people responsible for a small brand called Neolog out of Germany. What they showed me was damn impressive, and is officially THE watch my inner gadget lover craves this year - it is also affordable. There is a lot to say about the simply named Satellite Precision (SP) collection of watches, I will begin by mentioning a very cool feature which will make these timepieces more accurate than your mobile phones or computers. In fact, the SP collection as a whole is full of redundant features to promote accuracy - in a refreshingly obsessive style.

What do you get when you combine a thermo-compensated quartz movement with GPS satellite synching and a newly developed "self learning" movement that compensates for its own errors? Probably the most accurate timepiece in the world. You see, mobile phones have basic internal clocks that use inexpensive electronic quartz movements which can deviate by 15-30 seconds per month. They remain more accurate because they sync with a signal from the carrier on a regular basis - that is assuming the signal itself is accurate and available. Computers often work the same way by synching with an external source to remain on time.

The thermo-compensated quartz movement in Satellite Precision watches is accurate to about 10 seconds a year without any external intervention. I don't have enough time to discuss the nature of thermo-compensated movements in this article - but they make adjustments for variations in temperature that can effect the timing results of quartz movements. These Morgenwerk, and a few other high-end watches from brands such as Breitling, have them inside. Step two for accuracy in the SP collection is satellite synchronization. This feature allows the watches to receive signals from GPS satellites to not only remain accurate, but to update the watch with the timezone that you are currently in - no matter which one of the 39 global timezones you may find yourself. The system looks for data from up to six satellites at a time and then chooses three with the strongest signals to sync with. It takes about 8-90 seconds to sync. Between the thermo-compensated base movement and the satellite synchronization, the timepieces are no less than (plus/minus) accurate to three seconds a month. But it doesn't stop there.

Morgenwerk's icing on their titanium cake is a new AI system which "learns" the rate of error each time the watch syncs ups with a satellite. Basically, the watch recognizes how "off" it tends to be and compensates itself mathematically. So here is an example of how accurate it can get after synching up several times (and learning). Assuming you sync with a satellite just once a month, you are going to expect accuracy of no less than 0.8 seconds off per month in a Morgenwerk Satellite Precision watch. That is pretty damn cool, and very accurate.

"GPS watches" as they are often called, have become more popular over the last few years starting with some niche sport pieces. These often bulky timepieces also come with very short battery lives of less than a full day. In the last year Japanese brands Seiko and Citizen released their own watches that synchronize with satellites. Quite cool, the Citizen Eco-Drive Satellite Wave (hands-on here), and Seiko Astron GPS (hands-on here), were not only limited in their production, but also quite expensive. The German Morgenwerk Mark 1, Mark 2, and Mark 3 watches are priced less than these Japanese watches, and have some additional features. I will however remind you that Seiko and Citizen satellite watches do feature light-power generation and are worth learning about if this style of watch interests you.

Morgenwerk SP watches will need a recharge from time to time, but there is a lot of good news in the power department. While you won't need to replace the batteries of an SP watch, you will need to recharge the timepiece using an external unit. The good news is that with weekly satellite syncs, the watch will go 2-3 months between charges. There is also a power saving mode that extends the battery life up to 15 months without having it sync up with the sky.

Here is where it gets really cool - the external charging base. Each SP watch comes with a puck-shaped charger that does a few things. To put the watch in the dock you pull out part of the side (cool), and the charger can be hooked up with USB to a computer or AC adapter for juice. There is more. As you can see, the charger even has a solar panel on it... and a battery inside. While solar power generation isn't quick, you can place the charger in the sun if you are away from a power source and it will either directly charge the watch or a battery in the charger which can store enough energy to fully charge the battery inside of the timepiece twice over. This my friends is what happens when German engineering gets involved with a device such as this.

OK, now you get a basic idea of the Satellite Precision watch concept and how they work. Let's talk about the watches themselves. For me, I would sum them up by saying that they are like a cross between Casio ProTrek and Porsche Design timepieces. That means a mixture of good looking modern design and lots of accessible functionality. There are going to be three versions of the Morgenwerk Satellite Precision watch at launch called the M1, M2, and M3 models (aka Mark 1, Mark 2, and Mark 3). The models will range in size as well as functionality, and have dials that contain either Arabic hour numerals or baton-style hour numerals.

The Mark 1 will be the most simple Morgenwerk Satellite Precision watch in a 43.8mm wide (14mm thick) case that you can get in either steel or titanium. The dial is purely analog, but it does tell more than just the time. Using the pushers on the case you can see the date, as well as an indicator of what timezone you are currently located in. You can also see whether or not you are located in a place with daylight savings time in effect. The high-contrast dial is functional without being too boring. It is legible with a design that seems to mix military styling with Bauhaus aesthetics. Again, so Germanic and I love it.

While the Morgenwerk watch cases are metal, there are panels on the bottom and top lug structures which receive the satellite signals. Worried about the durability of these panels, Morgenwerk assured me that they are very hard and coated to be scratch resistant. They seemed to consider so many fine details, it didn't surprise me that they ensured the panels would be secure as well. I also want to note that the watches you see before you are pre-production prototypes. That means little details and finishes on the final versions will be updated and upgraded.

According to Morgenwerk, the Satellite Precision watches are water resistant to 50 meters - which is pretty good given the charging ports and other features. While it might be a while before there is a diving model, these are certainly watches meant to be worn and relied upon in the field. The way the design seems to gloss over the extreme nerd appeal is impressive. I've always said that for me, something like a Casio ProTrek is the ideal watch, assuming that I never want to impress anyone. With the SP watches you can have a gadget watch without looking like a nerd. That is actually sort of important in this industry.

The Morgenwerk Satellite Precision M2 is very similar to the M1 but in a larger 46mm wide case that is 15mm thick and only available in titanium. You'll notice various finishes on the cases that offer either a darker black or more natural titanium finish. When the final watches come out we will know more about all the finishing options available. It is also worth noting that the dials use SuperLumiNova as lume for the hands and hour markers, and an AR coated sapphire crystal is used over the dial.

Things start to get much more interesting with the Morgenwerk Satellite Precision M3 models. These are analog/digital watches that include a negative LCD panel (light indicators on a dark screen) behind the analog dial. Here is where Morgenwerk really competes with brands like Casio, Tissot, and Breitling in terms of functionality. The Mark 3 watches contain extra sensors to also include a compass, thermometer, barometer, and altimeter function into the timepiece. You'll use a combination of the hands and digital display to read all that information. The M3 also has a full calendar (with an attractive display), chronograph, alarm, and weather forecasting tool. Plus, the various models and information displays are attractive and rather user-friendly to operate.

The Morgenwerk M3 is the largest of the three watches at 48mm wide and 16mm thick. Having said that, the pieces are still rather wearable given the titanium case material and overall design. When the final versions come out we will see all the strap options, as well as model variations available. I am pretty darn excited.

If the Morgenwerk Satellite Precision collection is successful it will certainly be a disruptive product in the watch industry marrying good design and a ton of functionality. Especially for the price... Morgenwerk's intended starting price for the M1 is $1,100, going up to $1,900 for a top-of-the-line M3 model - and each is said to be an individually numbered limited edition. That is still under $2,000 for their best watch, and these pack a lot of value. The price range will no doubt attract collectors, but what about more casual watch enthusiasts?

The over $1,000 price point is still hard to breach for the mass market, but Morgenwerk will likely position the Satellite Precision collection as a high-end "go anywhere" sports and adventure watch. There are also going to be a lot professional-use agencies which might find the piece interesting. Morgenwerk is further banking on the fact that satellite controlled watches will soon outshine watches that are controlled by radio signals from atomic clocks (which have a much more limited service area). Morgenwerk's official website will launch at the beginning of 2013, with the first watches scheduled to ship around the spring time of 2013. We can't wait.


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43 comments
Sebhelyesfarku
Sebhelyesfarku

The Omega Megaquartz 2'400 was (is) accurate to 1sec per month already in 1974 without satellite reciever, atomic clock radio and whatnot. What an evolution of quartz watches in 40 years LOL

Rushwarp
Rushwarp

I am extremely late to this discussion, but could not help myself  ;0-) Ariel, you state the watch has an internal accuracy of 10 seconds a year... Then you go on to say that with the 'training' device, it will improve.....To 0.8 seconds a year.


So that means 10 seconds a year, compared to 9.6 seconds a year- with effort.


I do love these kinds of techie watches, however I get a result of about 4 seconds per year with my Grand Seiko quartz already. So if it is accuracy we are discussing, then the whole GPS accuracy effort seems pointless to me, except for the automation of the timezone.

citywatches
citywatches

WOW! What a classic model, Very eye catching watch.

somethingnottaken
somethingnottaken

The M2 and M3 are too big for my wrist. A watch with the M3 feature set in an M1 sized case would be nice. Even a small LCD panel for displaying date, timezone and daylight savings time yes/no would make the M1 more compelling.

kvo141
kvo141

Very interesting. I first noticed a 'Satellite Precision' watch in the Hong Kong Watch and Clock Fair post here: http://www.ablogtowatch.com/the-heart-and-the-hand-of-watch-making-at-the-hong-kong-watch-clock-fair/

It was presented under the Neolog brand: http://www.ablogtowatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Hong-Kong-Watch-Clock-Fair-21.jpg

I'm not completely sure right now, but I think when I looked up the expected price, it was much less back then. Did Neolog guys decide to make a new 'premium' brand with the same (most likely Chinese) product?

The MSRP are ridiculous to say the least, but let's not forget about the practices of brands such as Invicta and Stuhrling, with their inflated MSRP and mad discounts. It may just be that Morgenwerk are planning to head in the same direction with these. I hope they do.

vmarks
vmarks

Where is the contact information for Morgenwerk? If I wanted to buy, how would I go about this?

Maximilien
Maximilien

The problem for me is that this is a watch and brand trying to bridge gaps... And that's dangerous. On the one hand, I love super accurate, self-correcting gadgety aspect, however not for $1k+, when a new Casio ProTrek does pretty much the same (and more) for less than $300 to $500. On the other hand you get what appears like a stylish mechanical, as Ariel said, Porshe Design-like, German-made timepiece ... But it's really not a timepiece and for that price point ($1k to $2k) you can get a Sinn 856 or other Sinn models that won't be as accurate, however, will be super solid, chock full of high tech (sulphate capsules, high water resist, tegimented steel, ...) brilliant Bauhaus design and of true horological pedigree.

nateb123
nateb123

Amazed that people are actually impressed by this.  The value is crap.  This watch just screams "Made on the cheap in China".  The movement is obviously Chinese, the dial is cheap as a dial gets (looks like a $100 Kenneth Cole), and the strap is trash.  Plus anything that boasts about unimpressive features like "Solid Steel" are best avoided.

Get a Citizen A-T or Pro Trek with Multiband (hell, you could get both!) and save your money.  This isn't just poor quality, this is a scam.  I'm honestly shocked something like this is even on ABLW.  Have some standards.

WelcomedRain
WelcomedRain

Okay... I'm confused. You said, "The thermo-compensated quartz movement in Satellite Precision watches is accurate to about 10 seconds a year without any external intervention." but then you say, "Between the thermo-compensated base movement and the satellite synchronization, the timepieces are no less than (plus/minus) accurate to three seconds a month."; but if the thermo-compensating quartz movement is accurate to ten seconds per year... that would mean that without any other intervention, the watch would be accurate to plus/minus 0.833 seconds per month... much more accurate than your referenced plus/minus three seconds a month. Am I missing something?

Ulysses31
Ulysses31

Nice looking dials, I dare say actually quite stylish.  Where these fall down is in the charging system.  I think a German engineer worth his salt would laugh at such an obvious detail as placing a solar panel on the charging unit.  If these watches had an integrated solar cell in the dial, they would have been real competition for the Citizen/Seiko models, but in their current form you are trading one inconvenience for another.  The Seiko has a +-15s/m movement but the regular satellite synching makes this a completely moot point.  In practical use you probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference in accuracy between the Morgenwerk and the Seiko/Citizen even with a timing machine unless you were expecting the entire GPS network to fail and remain down for months on end.  On cost alone the Morgenwerk (a no name brand, let's be honest here) has an advantage but I wouldn't want to charge it every few months.  The set-and-forget convenience of an atomic-accurate timepiece is somewhat ruined by having to charge the thing every now and then

shinytoys
shinytoys

I love these watches, and the accuracy redundancy has me smiling big time. But A.A. that's between 1K AND 2k of coolness. Am I losing touch with what is considered affordable these days. The Skyhawk AT Blue Angel Titanium seems like the bargain of the year. I have to get with the times...

SuperStrapper
SuperStrapper

Cool. UI'm ready to check one out in the flesh.

That said, no self-respecting functional field-ready ABC would have less than 100M of water resistance. I understand the limitations with the opening panels, etc - but that simply has to be improved if you want to sell a bunch of these. I would never replace my Protrek with this based on that feature alone. As mentioned, this also does not look like it could take much of a beating either, which is also important.

Borys Bozzor Pawliw
Borys Bozzor Pawliw

I am just waiting for the Casio Protrek version of this...the ultimate banger watch.

Eric S
Eric S

Agree with you, Ariel, there is little not to like about these watches! I hope they make it here to Japan! I will surely buy one if possible! 

DG Cayse
DG Cayse

I like them. Excellent of use and forwarding of technology. Bravo!

Now if they can do a 300 meter WR with shock-proofing...well that would be the deal maker...lol!

MarkCarson
MarkCarson

High tech (and functional) without looking geeky. I love it. And the aggressive pricing helps too. Eager to see more when they are in production.

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  1. […] that uses GPS for timekeeping and nothing else. I only know the ana-digi "Morgenwerk": Morgenwerk Satellite Precision Watch Is More Accurate Than Your Mobile Phone | aBlogtoWatch Their homepage is still "under construction" however so I don't even know if any of those […]