Like scary stories told at camp, speak to anyone of a certain age in the Swiss watch industry and they’ll recount the dark days of the so-called Quartz Crisis. However, like everything in life, it’s a matter of perspective — for Seiko, and Japanese watchmaking at large, it wasn’t a crisis at all but rather a Quartz Revolution. And the Astron is the hero of that tale, introduced by Seiko in 1969 as the world’s first quartz wristwatch boasting never-before-seen accuracy. The Astron saga continues in 2023 with four just-released Seiko Astron GPS Solar watches, complete with fresh designs and new movements.
The GPS Solar chapter of the Astron chronicle began in 2012 when Seiko announced the world’s first GPS solar watch with two main superpowers: it connected to the Global Positioning System (GPS) to adjust to the appropriate time zone all while generating necessary energy from light alone. Quite the horological feat.
Fast forward to today (and skipping over a few notable models), Seiko has added a quartet of new-generation Astron GPS Solar watches to its lineup, including three regular production models and one limited edition. The watches feature angular cases, faceted bezels, and integrated bracelets, all crafted from titanium with scratch-resistant super-hard coating. The cases measure 41.2mm in diameter, 48.6mm lug-to-lug, and 12mm-thick, and are water-resistant to 100 meters. The tapered bracelets are furnished with three-fold clasps with push button release and the distance between the lugs is 14mm. The bezels combine hairline finishing on top and polished sides.
The first of the three regular production models is the Astron GPS Solar ref. SSJ013 with a blue dial and naturally-toned titanium case, bezel, and bracelet. Next is the Astron GPS Solar ref. SSJ014 with a rose-gold colored coated bezel and gray dial. Then there’s the Astron GPS Solar ref. SSJ015 with a black-coated case, bezel, and bracelet, in addition to a black dial. All of these models feature a dial decorated with a grid pattern, which according to the brand, echoes the quartz crystals used to create the tuning fork-shaped quartz oscillators of the original 1969 Quartz Astron. On the other hand, the limited-edition Astron GPS Solar ref. SSJ017 (1,500 examples made) includes a horizontally striped dial with alternating gray tones.
Regardless of the color or pattern, all four dials that sit beneath super-clear coated sapphire crystals are home to a subdial at 8 o’clock that indicates the receiving process of GPS satellites. The same subdial also displays the watch’s charging status, leap second data receipt, and in-flight mode. The prominent baton indexes and hands fill up the dial nicely, and as expected from Seiko, are filled with Lumibrite for intense glow-in-the-dark capabilities.
The accuracy of those time-telling hands is kept in check via the GPS network; the Astron GPS Solar can automatically connect to the network up to twice a day (as long as the dial detects sunlight) to maintain a staggering precision rate of one second every 100,000 years. There’s also a framed date window at 6 o’clock, which is in fact a perpetual calendar that will remain correct until the year 2100. If the watch does not detect light, it’ll remember its last successful connection and will try to receive a GPS signal at that same time. Without any GPS signals, the watch will still maintain an accuracy of ±15 seconds per month (as long as temperatures remain between 5°C and 35°C).
The Seiko Astron GPS Solar watches’ impressive functionalities are all thanks to the new Caliber 3X62. The enhanced reception of solar signals of the new movement removed design restraints that were present beforehand, which explains the beautifully pared-down dial aesthetics. In terms of power reserve, the watch will operate for approximately six months when fully charged, and power save mode can last approximately two years.
With their sleek designs, titanium construction, simplified dials, and cutting-edge features, this new Seiko drop unfolds yet another exciting chapter in the Astron’s story. All four Seiko Astron GPS Solar watches will be available at Seiko boutiques and select retail stores worldwide from June 2023. The blue-dialed ref. SSJ013 and limited edition ref. SSJ017 watches are priced at €2,100 Euros, the rose gold-toned bezel ref. SSJ014 is priced at €2,200 Euros, and the all-black ref. SSJ015 is priced at €2,300 Euros. For more information on the new Seiko Astron GPS Solar watches, please visit the brand’s website.