Richard Garriott, famous video game designer and adventurer, will become the sixth private space explorer and conduct his space mission aboard the International Space Station in October 2008. As Richard goes out into free space, he will be wearing a Seiko Spring Drive Spacewalk.
Seiko has taken on a challenging task to create a wristwatch that would provide reliable timekeeping and comfort of use not only during a space flight but also during a spacewalk. Seiko watch engineers had first of all to decide on the type of movement for the Spasewalk watch.
Choice of Movement
Seiko specialists did not consider quartz movements as battery-operated instruments that lack special treatment are not used for a spacewalk for safety reasons. Thus, they had to choose between a mechanical movement and Spring Drive.
The mechanism to be incorporated by the Spacewalk must guarantee the maximum safety and accuracy, even when the watch is exposed to an extreme range of temperature from - 20 degrees Celsius to + 70.
The ability of the watch to provide accuracy at extreme temperatures is of the greatest importance, but no mechanical watch can maintain its accuracy in such conditions - the traditional escapement responsible for regulating the time in all mechanical watches is characterized by the inherent instability in the extreme conditions. That is why Spring Drive has become the best solution the Seiko specialists could find. Instead of a traditional regulator, Spring Drive incorporates a Tri-synchro Regulator, a completely new regulator that uses and generates mechanical, electrical and electromagnetic power, less affected by extreme temperatures.
The Spacewalk watch is equipped with the Spring Drive Chronograph Caliber 5R86. The mechanism provides the following functions: hours, minutes and seconds, calendar, GMT , 72-hour power reserve, and 12-hour chronograph.
The elaboration of the Seiko Spring Drive Spacewalk took the Seiko team three years and required a number of innovative developments in every aspect of the brand's watchmaking skills. The team's work resulted in the generation of new skills, materials and ideas that are sure to be used in the development of future generations of Seiko watches.
The timepiece has been constructed with Richard Garriott's space mission in mind. Seiko engineers build a light, air-tight, strong, easy-to-read and easy-to-use watch to provide supreme safety and accuracy.
Below are the Unique Characteristics of the Spacewalk watch:
1. Air-tight case
The watch case needs to be completely air-tight to allow the timepiece operate in the vacuum of free space. Seiko based the creation of the Spacewalk watch on its rich experience in the field of divers watches able to resist pressures up to 1,000 meters. Spacewalk incorporates special features to guarantee air-tightness in the vacuum of free space. In particular, Seiko engineers developed a new type of gasket, having applied a rubberized material.
Instruments to be used in space must be extremely light and strong. The case of the Seiko watch was crafted in high -intensity titanium, the material 40 percent lighter than stainless steel. The 100-meter waterproof construction weighs just 92.5 grams.
Seiko engineers had to make the case not only light but also as large as possible. To offer great readability, they designed the case to have minimum volume but maximum dial opening size. They built the case, 53.0 x 48.7 mm in diameter, 15.2 mm thick, with recessed sides, having come up with a new engineering solution, using a Seiko-in-house CNC (computer numerical control) machine. The innovative process allowed to reduce the volume of the case material by 30 percent. Altogether, the Spacewalk watch has the case characterized by the optimum balance of strength, lightness and wide dial opening.
The Seiko Spring Drive Spacewalk watch features a new layout, with the chronograph dials placed at the top. The timepiece has the specifically designed hands and hour markers covered by the additional layers of Seiko's Lumibrite material. The dial has become at least three times brighter than a traditional luminous watch.
4. Extreme comfort of use
The Seiko watch has been designed with over-sized buttons that can be easily pressed even when wearing thick space gloves. The buttons are placed at the top of the case for easier access.
5. Glide motion hands
Seiko Spring Drive is created as a perfect reflection of the true, continuous nature of time, measuring time with no ticking. Every part of the movement is involved into the perfect, uninterrupted motion.
Seiko is deeply grateful to Richard Garriott and to the Space Adventures Company for the opportunity to contribute to this thrilling mission by bringing the beauty of glide motion closer to the stars.
6. Optimum design of the bracelet
Seiko has not decided yet on the final specification of the bracelet. The company has cooperated with the Russian Federal Space Agency to come up with the optimum design.
Seiko will produce the Spring Drive Spacewalk watch in a limited number of only 100 pieces. Richard Garriott will take three pieces to accompany him on his mission, while the rest of the space-proof watches will be distributed worldwide in December 2008.
Richard Garriott's space mission will last for about a week. The SOYUZ TMA-13 spacecraft with Richard aboard will blast off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on October 12, 2008.
It is noteworthy that Richard is not only a talented video-game designer and courageous adventurer but also the son of a NASA astronaut. His father, Dr. Owen Garriott, performed two space flights, having spent 70 days in space accompanied by Seiko watches on both of these flights. Richard has inherited his father's trust in timepieces of the brand.
During the mission, Richard will conduct some scientific experiments and his father, who will act as his mission scientist, is now working on the development of the program. One experiment will be related to the growth of protein crystals in space, an important step in the research of cures for some Earth diseases. Richard will also highlight the future commercial possibilities of manned space flight.
Richard may boast a remarkable experience of an adventurer, having trekked across Antarctica in search of meteorites, tracked mountain gorillas in Rwanda, and led a research mission investigating the hydrothermal vents deep on the Atlantic Ocean sea floor.
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