NOW, this cannot be stressed enough; the Astron GPS Solar collection which Seiko unveiled in 2012 is not quartz-fired despite it being christened with the “Astron” name. Surely, the connection is easy to make as the Astron, or the Quartz-Astron, goes down in history (or likely ignominy in the view of certain Swiss brands) as the instigator of the quartz crisis. The Astron GPS Solar pieces of 2012, however, were exactly that: solar-powered watches that take their timing cues from GPS signals.
In the last six years Seiko has expanded the Astron GPS Solar line to include chronograph, dual time, world time and big date versions, with each one getting their own respective calibre (or a variant of it). Now, Seiko has announced that a new one — the calibre 5X — will power the latest six-piece ensemble coming in two sizes; references SSH001, SSH003, SSH006, SSH007, SSH009 and SSH011. Four will be available beginning in December, including one limited to only 2,000 examples. The other two will be released in February 2019.
The watchmaker says the calibre 5X is not only quicker to connect to GPS signals (as well as more stable when it does), but also more intuitive to use. The new calibre needs only three seconds, for example, to advance its settings by 14 hours from Tokyo time to New York time because a new system can move the hour, minute and second hands independently from one another. It can also automatically switch to Daylight Saving Time, or from home time to local time (and vice versa) instantly.
Like the previous Astron GPS Solar calibres, the 5X takes the local time zone by connecting to the GPS satellite network by simply pressing a button. To guarantee the time is always correct, it connects twice daily to the GPS network. The first happens when the watch detects sunlight, the next at a time the user has set it should. The result is an accuracy rate equivalent to that of an atomic clock, or losing only a second in 100,000 years.
Of course, this rate is possible assuming there is always a GPS signal to pick up. If there is none though, the watch promises to still gain or lose no more than 15 seconds in a month.
Oh, and according to Seiko, the watch does not need its battery changed because it is constantly charged by solar power. But, certainly, this depends on how many cycles a rechargeable battery can manage before it dies.
In any case, included in the new Astron GPS Solar pieces’ list of functions are dual time with AM/PM indication, perpetual calendar, time transfer, GPS signal reception readout, world time for 39 time zones and a power save mode. These are housed in titanium cases that are smaller than those made for previous Astron GPS Solar models — 42.9 millimeters across and 12.2 millimeters thick for the SSH001, SSH003, SSH006 and SSH007; and 43.5 millimeters across and 13.3 millimeters thick for the SSH009 and SSH011. Some of the pieces get ceramic bezels or sapphire crystals, some get both. Some have titanium bracelets, others get titanium and ceramic bracelets. The SSH006 has a rose gold-tone titanium case and a silicone strap. All have a new buckle system that allows for micro adjustments, as well as Grand Seiko’s signature Zaratsu-technique polished hands.
Which only means they are quite the spectacle.