The watchmaking house Seiko celebrates the 40th anniversary of its Quartz Astron watch, which was destined to become the first quartz timepiece in the world. Starting with December 2009, the brand has planned to conduct a range of special events, dedicated to this special occasion.
The brand has already held a remarkable exhibition of 40 novel designs that took place in Tokyo, in the upscale district of Omotesando from December 1st through December 6th. It presented the showpieces encouraged by the Quartz Astron watch. This milestone will be followed by the launch of innovative quartz timepieces to take place at Baselworld 2010. The watches in question are distinguished by the impeccable functionality and sophisticated design.
The story began in 1959 with a “Project 59A”, which was carried out within Research & Development laboratory, located in Suwa Seikosha, one of the Seiko Group’s watch companies.
The scientists had already discovered that an electrical current, passing across a quartz crystal, made the crystal vibrate at a fast and very accurate speed. The target was to find out how to apply this effect in reality. In 1927, it was Warren Morrison, a technician in Bell Laboratories in the USA, who demonstrated, that it was possible to measure the precise time by means of utilizing the “piezo-electric” effect.
In late 1959, Seiko succeeded in creating a quartz clock, which was applied in Japan by a radio and TV station. This clock, however, featured the incredible dimensions of 2.1m x 3 m, the height and width indicated respectively. Thus, the creation of a timepiece, employing the same technology, was quite a venturesome task for the Project 59A engineers. However, it was successfully completed.
By 1962, the Seiko watch company had manufactured a quartz marine chronometer, intended for Japan’s shipping industry. This model was already reduced in size, but it still weighed 30 kilos.
The next step forward was made by the brand in 1963, when it produced a portable quartz timer, meant for sport applications. The weight of this QC-951 device constituted just three kilos and it happened to be the first creation of the kind, utilized as a back-up timer in the course of the longer athletics competitions at the Tokyo Olympics, which took place in 1964.
A genuine breakthrough, the QC-951 quartz timer still represented a daunting challenge of miniaturization. The exterior volume of the device mentioned totaled to 1760 cubic centimeters and had to be reduced to 3.74 centimeters, a size of the viable timepiece movement.
Thus, the next giant leap was the release of an open-style stepping motor, which enabled the considerable size reduction. For this very device to employ a miniature battery, the brand’s major specialists had also to reduce the power requirement of the quartz movement. To this end, Seiko’s engineers conceived innovative IC’s and a C-MOS IC shortly afterwards.
The Seiko Quartz Astron watch was offered with a case, sculptured in 18 carat gold.
As a limited series of 100 pieces, it was put up for the sale, which took place in Tokyo, on December 25th, 1969. This model proved to be a groundbreaking phenomenon for the entire world of horology, since Seiko presented a one-of-a-kind quartz movement, which provided the unprecedented exactitude. The watch was accurate to five seconds a month, a value, which exceeded 100 times that of any existing timepiece.
Later on, in 1973, the Seiko Company issued the world’s first LCD quartz timekeeper, equipped with a six-digit display. In 1975, the brand released a dynamic LCD quartz watch, which brought high precision to the chronograph. In 1983, Seiko manufactured an analogue quartz chronograph and in 1988 it produced A.G.S., currently known as Kinetic, which included the best features of automatic and electronic watchmaking.