by Angus Davies, www.escapementmagazine.com
Tomorrow’s technology, delivered today.
As a young boy in the late 1970s, I would spend extended periods luxuriating in a commodious arm chair with oversized headphones affixed to my head, invariably listening to an album by Boney M, interestingly entitled ‘Night Flight to Venus’.
The very name of the album transposed me to a fantasised world of aliens and space ships. The artwork on the album cover included images of the band clad in futuristic garb and it captured my young imagination with dreams of life in space.
At no stage could I have ever envisaged that some 37 years later, I would be wearing a watch powered by the sun and synchronising time with several satellites in space. However, this seemingly fanciful notion is actually a reality, courtesy of Japanese watchmaking experts, Seiko.
In 1969, Seiko released the world’s first quartz watch, named the ‘Seiko Quartz Astron’. This ingenious product rewrote accepted norms of watchmaking with an unprecedented degree of accuracy.
Always at the vanguard of innovation, Seiko released the ‘Astron GPS Solar’ in 2012, a timepiece powered by the sun which automatically adjusted the indicated prevailing time based on the geographic position of the wearer. The idea was inspired and has gone on to be a roaring success with many tens of thousands of watches being sold.
The Astron GPS Solar is supremely accurate and receives signals from at least four or more GPS satellites, pinpointing the location of the wearer. Moreover, the GPS satellites contain atomic clocks, the most accurate form of timekeeper.
At the heart of this timepiece is an integrated, high-sensitivity ring antenna that collaborates with an energy-efficient GPS module which ensures wherever the wearer is in the world the watch will accurately display the time.
The Astron GPS Solar has a parsimonious thirst for energy with the ‘battery-protecting IC’ said to consume approximately 1/12th of the energy of a conventional product.
Once again, similar to the 1969 quartz watch, Seiko has a huge commercial success on its hands. Jura Watches currently holds a limited number of the eye-catching Astron GPS Solar timepieces, reference SAS038, having been granted exclusive distribution for this particular model within the UK.
This model joins the main Astron watch collection, but proffers a high degree of individuality. The unusual glass-box sapphire crystal allows light to flood onto the dial surface, aiding legibility and freely engaging with the faceted hour markers. The unusual profile of the sapphire crystal necessitates 10 hours of painstaking polishing, but the results justify the efforts of Seiko’s patient employees. At no stage is there undue glare owing to the high quality anti-reflective treatment on the inner surface of the sapphire crystal.
The watch is large, measuring 48.1mm in diameter, with a case height of 18.1mm. I found it to proffer an agreeable fit and the scale of the dial accords a large vista on which to express time.
An electronic setting function is integrated into the crown. At first glance the timepiece resembles a chronograph, but the push pieces on the case of this particular model are intended for setting the time zone manually e.g. setting the local time of the destination whilst on board an aeroplane.
By turning the crown counter clockwise, the wearer can adjust the time zone manually. Everything is intuitive to use. This is a user-friendly timepiece, equipped with a perpetual calendar, automatically adjusting the date irrespective of the month length. The date only requires manual adjustment once every 100 years.
The crown, push pieces and crocodile leather strap evince a traditional mien, but make no mistake this is a thoroughly modern watch which only a few years ago would have sounded like fantasy. However, the Seiko Astron GPS Solar is not an object of fiction, but tomorrow’s technology, delivered today.
The Seiko Astron GPS Solar Reference SAS038 is a wonderful exemplar of innovation and with a culture of ingenuity permeating its organisation, who knows, one day, Seiko may well offer night flights to Venus.