Monday, March 5, 2012

Basel 2012: Seiko Astron GPS Solar SAST003 SAST009



Presenting the new Seiko Astron GPS-Solar model SAST003

Big news coming out of Tokyo this morning...... SEIKO has released their first ever GPS-Solar watch under the coveted "Astron" name. You may recall that Seiko's first quartz watch released in 1969 was named the "Astron" and ever since the name has been closely associated with the company's foray into the lucrative and game changing world of quartz timekeeping. The Astron has seen a few limited edition releases, namely in the year 2000 and most recently, in 2010, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the first commercially available quartz watch. While the last 2010 "Astron" rendition was powered by the Grand Seiko caliber 9F62 thermo compensated quartz movement (Rated to 10 seconds a year accuracy), the Astron of 2012 is a slightly different animal.... Here we have GPS/Satellite atomic time synchronization and solar charging which removes the requirement for frequent battery changes.




While more details about the GPS technology and low power consumption components is forthcoming in the dawn of BaselWorld 2012, it appears that Seiko has produced a far more commercially viable "Luxury" GPS watch, with cutting edge technology, Bright Titanium cases. bracelets, super clear coated sapphire crystals, lower power consumption and more accessible pricing (I will get to that in a moment).

Citizen made huge waves in the industry last year with the release of the limited edition Appleseed Eco-Drive Satellite Wave watch, and while that piece boasts incredible design and materials (Like the use of ceramics in the case), the style was clearly not for everyone and its limited worldwide release of 990 pieces meant scarcity and a high admission price (Around $4,000 USD).

I feel that Seiko may have done well by waiting an additional year and make a product that seems to be truly ready for the real world in a more affordable package. Time will tell as the new Astron GPS-Solar models will be released worldwide (Not only in Japan) not until the fall.

Initial price estimates put the entry level models with Bright Titanium cases and rubber straps at around 152,000 YEN retail ($1,865 USD at the time of this article) to just about 210,000 YEN ($2,575 USD) for the models with full Bright titanium case and bracelet (Like the SAST003 pictured above).

Here is the entry level SAST009 and flagship SAST003 :



Here is a very cool introduction video to the Astron GPS-Solar:


Here is the press release from SEIKO:

- TOKYO, Japan, March 5, 2012 -

The watch that understands all the 39 official time zones.
At last, the search for totally precise time, everywhere on the planet, is over. By developing our own, patented, low-energy-consumption GPS receiver, Seiko has been able to create a watch that can receive GPS signals and identify time zone, time and date data using the global network of GPS satellites. It recognizes all the 39 time zones on earth. This breakthrough timepiece is called Seiko Astron. Like its celebrated 1969 predecessor which was the World's First quartz watch, the new Seiko Astron developed under the supervision of Seiko Epson Corporation, ushers in a new age of timekeeping technology. Seiko Astron will be released simultaneously in all markets of the world this autumn. Could this be the most intelligent watch ever built ?

Accurate time, anywhere on earth.
Once a day, Seiko Astron receives the time signal automatically and, on demand, connects to four or more of the GPS satellites that orbit the earth, thus pinpointing its position and identifying the time zone and the exact time. The hands adjust automatically to the correct local time with Atomic Clock precision. The new Seiko Astron is solar powered, so never needs a battery change, and it also has a perpetual calendar, so the date will always be as accurate as the time.

A complete collection, with innovation in every detail
Seiko Astron is not just a watch. It's already a collection. There are three models in high-intensity titanium, which is stronger than stainless steel but has only 60% of its weight, and two in stainless steel. All have ceramic bezels, the same functions and high specifications, including a dual time sub-dial, in-flight mode indicator and sapphire crystal with Super-Clear Coating*.

The elegance and legibility of the dials disguise the richness of the information that can be displayed. In addition to the traditional date and dual time displays, the status of the GPS signal is indicated by the second hand and indicator at 10 o'clock position when the appropriate button is pressed. At a glance, you see whether a GPS signal has been received, and from how many satellites and whether Daylight Saving Time is activated.

The secret is in energy management
Why now and why Seiko? To combine Seiko's solar technology with GPS required years of painstaking and ground-breaking R&D by Seiko Epson Corporation, which has resulted in no less than 100 patent applications. Only Seiko's advanced energy-efficiency technology could invent the miniature GPS receiver that requires so little energy to receive GPS signals from four or more satellites. Only Seiko's unrivalled skills in micro-engineering could package this technology into a watch that is just 47 mm in diameter and weighs about 135 grams (with high intensity titanium case and bracelet). And only Seiko's advanced IC circuitry expertise could make it possible for the watch to divide the world into one million 'squares' and allocate a time zone to each.

Convenient, simple and easy to wear.
Seiko Astron may be intelligent, but to wear it is a simple joy. When you step off a plane, just press the button and the time and time zone adjust automatically. It takes six seconds or a little more for the time to self-correct (to better than one second every 100,000 years!) and 30 seconds or a little more for the time zone, and the adjustment takes place whether you are stationary or on the move. So, if you can see the sky, you will know the time. The adjustment to or from Daylight Saving Time or Summer Time is also a one-touch operation, and the date is also always exact; Seiko Astron's perpetual calendar is correct until February, 2100. The ease of use is further enhanced by Seiko's solar technology which ensures that maintenance is never an issue. The watch takes power from all kinds of light and never needs a battery change.
Never before has time management been so simple. Wherever you travel, the new Seiko Astron will keep you on time. Effortlessly.

*sapphire crystal with Super-Clear Coating.
Our proprietary newly-developed anti-reflective coating, applied on both the front and back of the glass.
It prevents 99% of light reflection and allows the dial to be easily legible, even in bright light.

Specifications:

Seiko Astron GPS Solar
Caliber 7X52
Hour, minute and second hands
Date calendar
Perpetual calendar correct to February 2100
Signal reception result indication
World time function (39 Time Zones)
Daylight Saving Time function
Power saving function
Accuracy: +/-15 seconds per month
(without receiving a time signal and in temperatures between 5°C and 35°C)
Case:High-intensity titanium with black hard coating with ceramic bezel (SAST007)
High-intensity titanium with ceramic bezel (SAST003/005)
Stainless Steel with ceramic bezel (SAST009)
Stainless Steel with black hard coating with ceramic bezel (SAST011)
Case diameter:47.0 mm, thickness: 16.5 mm (Huge!)
Band:High-intensity titanium with black hard coating with three-fold clasp with push button release (SAST007)
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)
Glass:Sapphire crystal with Super-Clear Coating
Water resistance:10 bar
Magnetic resistance:4,800 A/m
Recommended retail price in Japan:JPY 152,250 - 210,000
For further information: Public Relations & Advertising Dept.
Seiko Watch Corporation
Tel: +81-3-6739-2151 Fax: +81-3-6739-2071
eMail: seiko-pr@seiko-watch.co.jp

Original press release is here.

Dedicated web site for the GPS Seiko Astron is here.
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