The quartz watch was a revolutionary watch that delivered convenient and extremely accurate timekeeping to everyone. But Seiko’s quest for accuracy did not end there. One major innovation in the 2000s, 30 years after the birth of the Quartz Astron, was the emergence of the radio clock, which corrected its time automatically by picking up standard radio waves broadcasting the official standard time. These clocks, which worked by using the standard waves based on atomic clocks, offered excellent accuracy. But there were only five countries in the world that had time signal stations broadcasting standard time radio waves. This meant that it was impossible to obtain the accurate time in places not reached by the radio waves. Seiko’s idea was to resolve this problem by catching the wave signals transmitted by GPS satellites.
Seiko Epson was responsible for producing the GPS signal antenna and circuits. Of course, it was essential to miniaturize these components before they could be incorporated inside a watch. And because it took 100 to 300 times more power to pick up GPS signals compared to standard time radio waves, improvements to power-saving capabilities were also essential. The new watch therefore had to clear the same kinds of difficult technical hurdles as the Quartz Astron. These challenges were eventually overcome and the Seiko Astron was released in 2012.
The first-generation 7X series had somewhat bulky proportions, with a diameter of 47mm, but the 8X series, released in 2014, managed to reduce this by approximately 30%. In the 5X Series, released in 2018, along with the downsizing of the caliber, the overall size was reduced to almost the same as that of a standard watch and the speed of the signal receiver was increased to reduce the time needed to pick up a GPS signal to as little as 3 seconds. The miniaturization process was taken even further by the 3X series in 2019, which reduced the case to the same compact size as a “regular” watch by further miniaturization of the antenna. With the release of this iteration, the impact of the “GPS Solar” elements of the watch were reduced to practically zero, both in terms of the appearance of the watch and its dimensions.
The GPS Seiko Astron truly deserves to be called Seiko’s second revolution. Following on from the original Quartz Astron, which made accurate time available for everyone, the GPS Astron made super-high accuracy part of daily life for everyone. The watch was a fitting addition to the historic lineup of watches that have worn the Astron name. Having overcome a series of difficult challenges on its road to completion, the watch certainly lives up to the company’s motto of remaining always “one step ahead of the rest.”