Baselworld 2012 : Seiko Astron GPS Solar watch

Billed as the ‘watch that understands time zones’, Seiko has created their first solar powered GPS watch, using a patented low-energy receiver that picks up GPS signals and identifies the time zone, time and date using at least four GPS satellites, covering all 39 time zones. The watch updates automatically once a day and also on demand. As you can see in the video below, the hands adjust automatically to the correct local time when it picks up your location.

The Astron GPS Solar is named after the company’s 1969 Astron, (see blogpost here), the world’s first quartz watch, as the brand see this development as similarly innovative. A direct descendant, if you will.

In commemoration of the launch, a special titanium piece with a ceramic bezel has been created in a limited edition of 2,500 (Ref SAST001). It is accompanied by an additional extra-strength silicone strap.

 Ref SAST001

There are three other iterations in titanium, and two in stainless steel. All of them will have the same functions and specifications, including a dual time sub-dial, in-flight mode indicator and sapphire crystal with Super-Clear Coating (TM).

In addition to the date and dual time displays, the status of the GPS signal is indicated by the second hand and indicator at 10 o’clock when the appropriate button is pressed. You can identify whether a GPS signal has been received, from how many satellites, and whether Daylight Saving Time is activated.

This amazing new watch has over 100 patent applications linked to its development, notably for a miniature GPS receiver. Not unexpectedly, the amount of technology going into this watch means that it is a decently sized 47mm, putting it firmly in the range of too-big-for-most-people.

As Seiko put it, if you step off a plane, all you have to do is to press a button and the time zone adjustment is automatic, taking approximately six seconds or a little more for the time to self-correct and 30 seconds or so to find the time zone. As if this wasn’t cool enough, there’s also a perpetual calendar (until February 2100, which is plenty of time for most of us).

Movement : Calibre 7X52
Functions : Time, date, perpetual calendar to Feb 2100, world time (39 time zones), daylight saving function.
GPS : GPS controlled time and time zone adjustment, signal reception indication
Accuracy : +/- 15 secs per month (without receiving a time signal and in temperatures between 5C and 35C
Case : 47mm. 16.5mm thick
Case : High-intensity titanium with black hard coating and ceramic bezel (SAST001/007); high-intensity titanium with ceramic bezel (SAST003/005), stainless steel with ceramic bezel (SAST009), stainless steel with black hard coating with ceramic bezel (SAST011)
Strap : high-intensity titanium with black hard coating and three-fold clasp with push button release (SAST001/007), high-intensity titanium with three-fold clasp with push button release (SAST003/005), extra-strength silicon with three-fold clasp with push button release (SAST009/011) Crystal : Sapphire with “Super-Clear” coating
Water resistance : 10 bar
Magnetic resistance : 4,800 A/m

Prices :
Europe will be between 2,000 – 3,300 Euros.

SAST003 – black dial with white indices, ceramic bezel, Bright titanium case and bracelet – JPY199,500 (~USD2450)
SAST005 – black dial with gold indices, ceramic bezel, Bright titanium case and bracelet – JPY199,500 (~USD2450)
SAST007 – black dial with white indices, ceramic bezel, Bright titanium case and bracelet with black hard coating – JPY210,000 (~USD2580)
SAST009 – black dial with blue indices, steel case and silicon strap – JPY152,250 (~USD1870)
SAST011 – black dial with white indices, steel case with black hard coating and silicon strap – JPY157,500 (~USD1930)

Here’s a video  from Seiko about the new GPS Astron.

Functionally it’s pretty cool, but its quite conservative aesthetics belie this. It probably doesn’t look as funky as its technology is, but they are at an accessible price point, and probably sell well because of the solar powered GPS-coolness factor. Unfortunately, I can’t yet seem to find any information about the power reserve and charging details.

Citizen released the Eco-Drive Satellite Wave. Although also solar-powered and GPS linked, the two watches sport a number of major differences – the Satellite Wave only syncs once every three days if it is exposed to sunlight (although the time can, like the Astron, be set by the push of a button), and covers 26 time zones.

[ADDENDUM (27 October 2012) – For an updated ‘hands-on’ review of the Astron GPS, click here.]

Categories: Baselworld 2012, Japanese watches, Limited Editions, Seiko, watches, Watchmaking

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