On Christmas Day in 1969 Seiko released the Quartz Astron to Japanese consumers. This revolutionary model was the world’s first quartz watch that was released to the public. As you would expect, this new technology had to be explained to customers, outlining the advantages that this innovation provided to them.
The Astron was launched with a list price of 450,000円. This price was very high at the time and, while the Astron came in a solid 18K gold case, it was the new technology that was the main driver of the pricing. By comparison at the same time the most expensive Grand Seiko mechanical in an 18K case was the 61GAW-010 (6146-8000), with a list price of 195,000円. The Astronomical Observatory Chronometer 45GSN-016 (4520-8020) had a list price of 180,000円, and the newly released ultra thin 6800-016 (6800-6000), with a movement under 2mm thick had a price of 300,000円.
To help explain the new technology of the quartz watch to potential customers Seiko produced a dedicated brochure for the model. The brochure explains simply how a quartz watch functions and the technological innovations behind it. Features such as high precision, superior stability, minimal mechanical parts and the stepping movement of the second hand are all explained. The second hand movement on the Astron would have been a very unique sight to customers at the time, as watches with a dead seconds complication were quite rare.
Below is a translation of the Astron promotional brochure, an image of the original page accompanies the English text.
Quartz Oscillator Electronic Watch
Guidance of Sale
At SEIKO, we are ahead of the world
Quartz oscillator electronic watch
Has been released.
Various large-scale standard clocks using quartz have been developed to date, and have been adopted as observatories, broadcasting stations or ship standard clocks in Japan and other countries. SEIKO's "Quartz Astron" has been successfully commercialized by introducing the principle of these large quartz clocks to the watch as it is.
This watch is a marvelous high-precision watch that has greatly updated the accuracy level of conventional watches, making full use of SEIKO's advanced precision processing technology and electronics technology.
Standard retail price 450,000 yen (18K gold case)
* Realization of Amazing High Precision
Variation at normal temperature (+4°C ~ +36°C)
Daily difference ±0.2 seconds
Monthly difference ±5 seconds
Such ultra-high precision is almost impossible to measure without using a special measuring machine.
However, if it is actually used for one month and the error for one month is within 5 seconds, you can know how small the error for one day is, and how high the accuracy is in comparison with the conventional watch.
Technological innovations and improvements have resulted in the commercialization of mechanical watches with extremely high precision, such as 1 minute of monthly difference (2 seconds on average daily difference). Various battery watches are also commercialized, transistor semiconductors and ICs (integrated circuits) are part of the mechanism. However, Seiko Quartz Astron has much higher accuracy than any of these.
* Introduces Superior Stability of Quartz Crystal
When a constant voltage is applied to the crystal, made by cutting and processing the crystal to the special requirements of the product, an extremely stable vibration is maintained.
A large standard clock that applies this principle has been developed to date, and is used as a standard clock for observatories in Japan and other countries, numerous broadcast stations, or ships.
Until now, research has been advanced in various countries to make the principle of this large-sized quartz watch smaller, lower the power and keep the most precise accuracy while attached to the arm. We have succeeded in commercializing the quartz watch.
The 8,192 Hz (electrical vibration) signal emitted from the quartz oscillator of Seiko Quartz Astron is counted and divided into one signal per second through the IC, and the ultra-small step motor developed by Seiko works strongly, the correct time is ticked in seconds.
* Complete Electronics by Realization of a Watch IC
Seiko Quartz Astron has no mechanical parts in its internal structure except for the time indication mechanism, etc., and is an innovative product that is electronic and has a completely different structure from conventional watches. In mechanical clocks, the ability to keep the energy of the mainspring as constant as possible, the fact that friction resistance is as small as possible, and the insensitivity to temperature and posture changes are important factors for improving accuracy. Such mechanical problems are totally irrelevant in the Seiko Quartz Astron by the adoption of an IC, so the stable high vibration of the crystal becomes the correct "time" and faithfully reproduced on the dial.
* Development of Step Motor and Unique One Second Hand Movement
The appearance of the Seiko Quartz Astron is characterized by its unique one-second hand movement.
The watch experiences a variety of conditions under the movement of the person using it, and different conditions when it is removed from the wrist. A watch that is not influenced as much as possible by these influences is an accurate watch.
With the Seiko Quartz Astron, this precision is pursued to a higher degree, and as a result, the signal per second sent accurately from the oscillating part through the dividing part is converted into the motion of the needle in an instant.
We develop and use stepper motors that operate reliably. This stepper motor is fixed in place with strong force except when a signal is given. Therefore, under normal use, there is little or no variation.
Unique Structure and Excellent Features
Seiko Quartz Astron consists of the following five blocks.
A. In order to make the high vibration (8,192 Hz) of the oscillating part more stable and maintain the high accuracy, the crystal oscillating component is enclosed in the vacuum capsule of a special shock resistant structure.
High vibration is hardly affected by external influences such as posture change.
B. The accurate vibration (electrical signal) of 8,192 Hz generated from the divider oscillator is divided by the divider IC up to one signal per second and sent to the converter.
C. The converter converts a signal once per second into mechanical rotational motion by means of a step motor at the converter.
D. The pointing mechanism second hand moves one scale per second by the operation of the step motor, and this motion is transmitted to the minute hand and hour hand via the pointing mechanism to indicate the correct "hour" on the dial.
E. A small silver battery stably supplies energy for operating the crystal unit in the oscillation unit, the IC in the division unit, and the step motor in the conversion unit for over a year.
Accurate time setting
When the crown is pulled out, the reset switch works, the second hand stops at an odd scale, and the electronic circuit waits for start.
Pushing the crown releases the reset switch and at the same time the second hand starts correctly. When setting the time, pull out the second hand at 59 seconds and stop the crown, and press the crown simultaneously with the hourly clock, and the second hand instantaneously shifts to 0 seconds. It is extremely easy to set the time exactly.
|1. Caliber No.||3500 (35QA)|
|2. Movement Dimensions||Diameter 30mm
Thickness (battery unit) 6.10mm
|3. Drive method||Crystal oscillation, step motor type by drive circuit|
|4. Crystal frequency||8,192 Hz (vibration)|
|5. Accuracy at normal temperature
(+4°C ~ +36℃)
|Daily ±0.2 seconds
Monthly ±5 seconds
|6. Battery life||1 year or more|
|7. IC (Integrated Circuit)||Oscillator - 1
Divider - 1
About After Sales Service
Seiko Quartz Astron does not use mechanical parts in its internal structure except for the time indication mechanism.
Seiko's proprietary quartz crystal, IC for watches, step motor, etc. are electronic components that are completely different from conventional mechanical watches. Because of this, the repair and adjustment require special tools, inspection equipment and special techniques, so we will carry out all after-sales service.
For details of the contents of the warranty and how to handle it, please refer to the information on “Warranty Information” on pages 22 to 23 of the SEIKO Sales January issue of exclusive high-quality watches.
The brochure has a few interesting details included in it. In the specifications section the model number is listed as 35QA but the Quartz Astron is commonly referred to as the 35SQ, this model number can be seen in the 1970 Seiko Special Luxury Catalog and numerous other official Seiko documents. It is possible that the model name was updated at the start of 1970, the same time as the date model, the 35SQC, was introduced.
The warranty details in the brochure make reference to the January 1970 Seiko Sales issue, the relevant pages do not mention the Astron but do include details for a number of the high end Seiko models of the time such as the Grand Seiko VFA, Astronomical Observatory Chronometer and UTD. It states that due to the specialised level of adjustment and the dedicated jigs and equipment required for repair, the service of Special Luxury models is carried out directly by Seiko. Due to the service requirements for the new quartz model it is understandable that Seiko would also directly handle any repair and adjustment of this model.
The description of the hacking functionality for the watch is also interesting where the watch will always stop on an odd second when hacked. If the watch is hacked at 59 seconds the hand will instantly jump to 0 when the crown is returned making it easier to perfectly set the time.
I have scanned in the complete original brochure and this is available to download by clicking on the image below.