First revealed in March 2012, Seiko Astron GPS Solar is finally available on most markets around the world. Although the collection is presented in four versions (two of them in titanium and two in much more massive stainless steel), the most interesting among them is, of course, this SAST001/007 (no, it has nothing to do with James Bond) model in hard-coated titanium, which is going to be limited to only 2500 pieces.
If you happened to live under the proverbial rock all this time, I’ll take a moment to recite some info that disseminated by Seiko regarding this new timekeeper.
As the name implies, the new Astron GPS is the first analog wristwatch that uses the orbital network of GPS satellites as the primary source of time and place information.
While an old-school radio-controlled watch relies heavily on time signals distributed by atomic clocks around some parts of the world (and not always readily available in other), the Astron GPS only needs a piece of clear sky above your head to sync with up to nine GPS satellites hovering over your current position.
As long as the watch gets its actual coordinates, it runs the data against one million ‘squares’ inside its memory banks that are associated with each of 39 time zones and adjusts its display accordingly, even taking into consideration Daylight Saving Time.
The feat was made possible thanks to a highly efficient (and also compact) GPS module that consumes five times less power than the GPS module in your iPhone would need to find all the navigation satellites that hover above your head. The module, by the way, is powered by a pair of lithium-ion batteries that are constantly recharged by a tiny solar cell that also serves as the timekeeper’s dial.
Another ingenious solution is the unique ring-shaped antenna, which is hidden under the nicely shaped ceramic bezel that matches in color the black coating of the titanium case.
Of course, there is a price. However compact the navigation module and the power pack are, they still require much more room than a normal quartz mechanism with its tiny accumulator. That’s why the Astron GPS is almost as thick as a chronograph powered by a self-winding caliber. Luckily, sporting an impressive diameter of 47 millimeters, the Astron GPS Solar looks proportionate, although I would strongly recommend you to go and try it on your wrist before buying it if you happen to be a skinny person.
The only problem that I see with this approach is that a number of countries (including Russia, its satellites and the United States) can’t make up their minds regarding the DST, so owners of Astron GPS may feel uncomfortable if a country or two decides to change their standard time. Well, there is still a chance that the firmware could be changed during routine servicing.
According to the Japanese brand, the watch is available right now at a price of €3300. While the MSRP doesn’t look especially affordable, it is still competitive if you take into account how much a quartz-powered Breitling with a lot less impressive list of functions would set you back if you ever opted for one instead of this dark titanium-and-ceramic beauty.
Seiko Astron GPS Solar World Timer in Black Titanium (Ref. SAST001/007) specification
Movement: Quartz, Caliber 7X52, solar-powered, Made in Japan
Power reserve: Virtually unlimited if exposed to light on a regular basis
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date (perpetual calendar), world time, 39 time zones, DST (Daylight Saving Time)
Case and Crown: Hardened titanium
Bezel: Black ceramic
Size: 47.00 mm
Case height: 16.50 mm
Hour markers: Luminous
Hands: Luminous, open-worked
Water resistance: 100 meters
Strap: “High-intensity” titanium with a black hard coating with three-fold clasp with a push-button release
Crystal: Sapphire, Super-Clear Coating