In 1969, Seiko unveiled the Astron, the world’s first quartz watch. More accurate than any mechanical timepiece, the Astron marked the beginning of the “quartz crisis,” condemning centuries of Swiss mechnical watchmaking into oblivion . . .
Seiko produced 100 examples of the first Astron, selling for $1250 ($8742.76 in today’s money). At the time, Seiko was the world’s largest producer of mechanical watches. They ditched the Astron (due to “minor defects”), improved quartz technology, lowered the price, made endless variations and cleaned Switzerland’s clock.
In 2012, Seiko revived the Astron name for the first watch to run on light power (not just solar) and the first watch to connect to the GPS network to maintain accuracy and adjust to time zone changes. The recently revamped Seiko Astron lineup encompasses 36 different models, priced from $1600 to $2500.
New for 2020: the 1969 Quartz Astron 50th Anniversary Limited Edition. As you can see, the “re-imagined” retro-vintage Astron loses the previous incarnation’s G-SHOCK gestalt to tempt well-heeled buyers with a quartz watch that mimics the original’s golden vibe.
Like the 1969 watch, the remimagined LE sits in an 8K yellow gold hand-carved case with a new-for-2020 vertical hairline pattern. It has the same hands and thin, multi-faceted indexes as the original. This time, Seiko’s limiting production to 50 numbered pieces (as proclaimed on the caseback).
To make the watch slimmer than the original, to achieve a timepiece that’s 12.8mm thick, Seiko perfected a new caliber: the 3X22. It’s the world’s thinnest light-powered GPS movement – which both is and isn’t saying a lot. Amazon sells an 8mm thick Seiko solar (no GPS) for $84.95.
Just like Seiko’s other Astrons, the 50th Anniversary model checks-in with satellites up to twice a day. The process assures accuracy of one second every 100,000 years (when the Astron might need adjustment). That’s assuming the U.S. Space Force doesn’t get into a hot war in the next 100,000 years. If it does, if the 50th Astron can’t see a bird, accuracy drops to ± 15 seconds per month.
The 40mm Seiko 50th Anniversary Astron Limited Edition costs $36,000 ($5147.11 in 1969 money). How times have changed, eh? Then again, the latest Swiss watch export stats tell us the Smart Watch crisis is pulling the rug from the under-$3k watch market. High end horology is the traditional watch’s last redoubt.
That’s a boat load of cash for a quartz watch – any quartz watch. But collectors gotta collect, and all 100 examples of the $16,800 non-GPS, non-solar Citizen Caliber 0100 (accurate to ±1 second per year) sold out. Expect the same here.
Model: Seiko Astron The 1969 Quartz Astron 50th Anniversary Limited Edition
Price: $36,000 available from select Seiko boutiques
Movement: GPS solar Seiko caliber 3X22
Accuracy: ± 15 seconds per month (without receiving a GPS signal at temperatures between 5°C and 35°C )
Case: 18k yellow gold, screw-down
Crystal: Box-shaped sapphire with anti-reflective coating on inner surface
Band: Crocodile leather
Clasp: Three-fold 18k gold clasp with push button release
Water resistance: 10 bar
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