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Seiko Astron Solar GPS Watch Review

Seiko Astron Solar GPS Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

During my travels over the last year or so, I have seen the Seiko Astron watch pop up a lot. As many know it is the name Seiko has offered to their new “Solar GPS” collection and is borrowed from the first event quartz watch released by Seiko in 1969. The Astron is especially popular in advertisements at airports, where various models in the collection are promoted to just the type of people Seiko is looking to attract with this high-end quartz satellite-controlled timepiece. In 2012, aBlogtoWatch offered the first hands-on look at the new Seiko Astron Solar GPS watch here, and now we finally bring you a review based on a lot of real-world travel experience with the Seiko Astron Solar GPS.

We’ve written about the evolving Seiko Astron collection on aBlogtoWatch for a while now, and you probably know that for 2014, the famed Japanese watch maker added a new Seiko Astron Chronograph version, that actually sports a smaller case. Nevertheless, the core functionality of the Astron is going to be similar, and I think it is important to discuss what it is like to live and travel with a GPS-powered timepiece. In fact, in this review I hope to answer two questions; first, how does the Seiko Astron Solar GPS watch fit into the competition of satellite-controlled watches from competitors Citizen and Casio… and does a GPS watch live up to its promise of being a go-anywhere travel watch?

Seiko Astron Solar GPS Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

My first adventure with the Seiko Astron (this happens to be the ref. SAST025) was wearing it while traveling to Hawaii. Why Hawaii? Well, in addition to it being a rather decent place to go, it is a location in the United States not covered by the radio signals emitted from the atomic clock in Colorado. What watches like the Astron seek to do is offer global coverage to those looking for a watch that will update itself with the correct time. The alternative are “atomic clock controlled” watches that receive signals from one of the six or so atomic clocks around the globe (depending on where you are). However, if you aren’t in a place that receives signals from those clocks, your watch is simply as accurate as any other quartz watch, which is about 15 or seconds per a month.

While the base Japanese quartz caliber 7X52 movement in the Astron is only as accurate as most other decently made quartz movements, this watch can update itself with the most accurate time available. That is because it can receive not radio signals, but satellite signals from the many GPS satellites revolving around the earth–that themselves are updated by atomic clocks. So, the key here is that the watch regularly updates itself to be not only accurate, but also accurate given the location you are in the world.

Seiko Astron Solar GPS Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Seiko Astron Solar GPS Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

This is a key area of importance because not all GPS watches are able to update your time and location. Citizen’s GPS watches (such as the new Satellite Wave F100) for example are able to get the correct time, but aren’t able to tell you where you are in the world. It is really a design decision and there are trade-offs such as size, battery power etc…. Having said that, as a “Seiko Solar” watch, the Astron gets power from light, so battery changes aren’t required–which is really helpful, given that it purpose is to be ever-reliable. Overall, there are two main benefits to the Astron that people may take for granted but not all GPS watches have: First, the ability to update the watch’s time and location, and second, the ability for it to automatically update the time.

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The Seiko Astron Solar GPS watch receives satellite signals much like older “atomic clock watches” received radio signals–insofar that you more-or-less need to be outside, and with the Astron, also have line-of-sight to the sky. That means if you are indoors or in a covered area you very may well have reception issues. In fact, with atomic clock watches, I’ve suffered for years with reception issues, especially in big cities. So much so, that when I first learned of the Astron and similar GPS watches, I was highly skeptical of their ability to consistently connect with satellites. It wasn’t until I was able to review one that I found out…

Seiko Astron Solar GPS Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

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  • Oelholm

    As an “adventure watch”, how rugged is this? I fail to envision an adventure-setting where I’d not rather have a recently synchronised G-Shock.

  • gadgety

    I love the look of depth of the dial. A new model was introduced at Baselworld 2014, 33% smaller, but it doesn’t quite have the same depth. It would be nice with comparison between the Baselworld edition of the Astron GPS Solar and the Citizen Eco-Drive Satellite F100 that you wrote about here: http://ablogtowatch.com/citizen-eco-drive-satellite-wave-f100-gps-watch-hands/.

  • I think I like the chrono better. And, why is the strap installed backwards?

    Enjoy your time in Hawai’i – smells like an Individual Design follow-up?

  • thefinalmonster

    Why no automatic DST?? I thought that was the biggest advantage of GPS time….

  • Grinnie Jax

    Oelholm From my point of view, Astron has such a thick metal case and sapphire crystal that it can easily compete with most G-Shocks. The overall feel from is that it’s an extremely rugged watch.

  • Tourbillion87

    I would love to test out the sync feature of this Astron in my house. When I bought my G-Shock Rangeman I thought I have to leave the watch off my wrist, close to a window at night to get synched. To my surprise it was successuly updating every night while being on my wrist, in bed “away from the window”. Although I don’t have tall buildings obstructing my place as I live out in the suburbs. Still would be a fun experiment. This Seiko would be a very nice dressy alternative to my Rangeman. The 47mm size does not bother me at all. It makes for a bigger dial so you can enjoy the 3D dial and prominently elevated hands. The cost is hard to justify. My Rangeman is 6x – 7x cheaper and sufficiently tackles all my “adventure” and “travel” needs. Plus I can launch it of an 80ft cliff, watch it bounce around on rocks and it wouldn’t even phase it! Astron is a “grown up”  watch though. No tossing that baby.

    Thanks for a great read!

  • stevej1951

    I have one of these and have one problem with it as a travel watch (that’s what I bought it for). You get into the airport 10 timezones away, and you can’t get it to reset because you’re in a big steel building. You go outside and get a cab. You still can’t reset it because it’s in a steel box (the cab). I got mine to reset by sticking my arm out the window of the cab.

  • SuperStrapper Well we get backlogged to my time in Hawaii was about six months ago at this point 🙂 Though of course I saw Mark Carson from Individual Design

  • NoleenELT

    stevej1951 FYI I also own this watch, and you can easily manually change time zones without GPS signal. True, it may or may not be exactly synced to GPS signal if it has not synced recently, but it should be within a second or so.

  • thefinalmonster GPS only reports the DST for the US.  In other countries, if they have DST, the effective dates may vary.  As a Japanese travel watch, if it were reset to the US DST while one is abroad would be silly.

  • pjroos

    I have the Astron SAST 003 and I love this watch. It looks great and sophisticated and it is packed with technologies that appeal to me. GPS time syncing with one satellite works inside my house provided I stand close to the window and for location awareness, which requires 4 satellites at a minimum, you need to find a free spot outside. I tried it while driving in my car and it picked up 6-8 satellites and found the right time zone like a charm. I have several watches but this one is my favorite piece because of its looks, feel (very light for the titanium version) and 3D like dial. 
    I have only 7″ wrists but it still looks great despite it size.

    It just needs to see a speck of sunlight and it illuminates brilliantly, more so than any of my other watches. Compared to a watch with an atomic receiver, syncing with one satellite works within 5-10 seconds while syncing my Citizen atomic time keeping watch takes anywhere between 1-3 minutes. Neither is a problem but this is just to illustrate the difference. What I like about the SAST 003 model is that the bezel is less busy compared to for instance the SAST 021 but that’s just personal taste and both are awesome time pieces.. I never thought I’d spend so much on a watch and after 1 month I still can’t believe I pulled the trigger on it it remains my most priced and appreciated possession and even my wife loves this watch and thinks it stands out and gives you a ‘smart’ appearance. Don’t take my word for it, hold one of these watches in your hand and see for yourself.

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