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Seiko Astron watch uses GPS to set the time anywhere in the world


September 17, 2012

The Seiko Astron is the first solar-powered watch that can set itself using GPS technology (Photo: Seiko)

The Seiko Astron is the first solar-powered watch that can set itself using GPS technology (Photo: Seiko)

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For the truly obsessive-compulsive who panic if their watch is even slightly off, the Seiko Astron GPS watch could be the answer. The world’s first solar-powered watch that can set the time with GPS signals, the Astron is accurate to within one second per 100,000 years and automatically adjusts to any timezone in the world. Seiko announced the release of the Astron back in March and it’s now going on sale worldwide.

Wristwatches that synchronize themselves to radio signals have been around since the mid-1990s and are now commonplace, but they have their limitations. They only work in areas where radio time signals are available, where the watch is designed to tune in on those particular signals, and where reception is good enough for the watches to receive them. This leaves very large areas of the earth, such as in the middle of the ocean, where these watches are no better than regular timepieces.

The Seiko Astron does not suffer from these shortcomings. Named after the world’s first quartz watch, the 1969 Seiko Astron, the updated version adjusts the time and sets itself to all 39 time zones.

Each day, the Astron homes in on the time signals from four GPS satellites and uses them to coordinate the correct time to atomic-clock accuracy in about six seconds. At the press of a button, the Astron can within 30 seconds pinpoint its precise latitude and longitude, calculate which of the 39 timezones it’s in, and adjust its hands automatically. It can even adjust for Daylight Savings Time on command and has a perpetual calendar good until February 2100.

The face of the Seiko Astron has that upmarket analog look, but the hands do double duty by telling the wearer whether a proper GPS signal is being received and by how many satellites. Though the Astron doesn’t suffer from the limitations of radio watches, it still needs open sky to receive use GPS, so such information is necessary for proper operation. The face also acts as a solar panel to keep the watch charged.

Seiko is offering the Astron in three models – one with a titanium case available in a metallic or black finish, one with a stainless steel case, and a special edition with detailing and special serial numbers. All are magnetic resistant and water resistant to 100 meters (328 ft) and have a sapphire crystal with proprietary anti-glare coating.

For all its technological sophistication, the Seiko Astron is more jewelry that an instrument for practical timekeeping. Though it can determine its location, the coordinates are not displayed and the minute and second hands aren’t laid out for best use of its incredible accuracy by those who might want it, such as sailors and aviators. Another significant drawback of the Seiko Astron is the cost. With a suggested retail price of JPY152,250 (US$1,942) - JPY210,000 (US$2,679) this is a watch targeted at people for whom the word “affordable” has little relevance.

Source: Seiko via PopSci

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past. All articles by David Szondy

This is kind watch I've been waiting for. I'm sure a digital counterpart will be available.


what is a watch for? I have a smart phone to tell me what time it is, why would I want to waste $2.7K on something I do not need. and thk, the digital counterpart as you call it will be named Casio

Bill Bennett

I've owned a Casio G-Shock watch for several years that is close to this. It's solar powered, like this one, but it uses the radio signals from WWV to keep it set (a.k.a. an "Atomic Watch").

True, it won't change time automatically when I change time zones, and I rarely find myself out in the middle of the ocean, so it's not a problem picking up a signal. Best of all, it was only about $50 or $60 at the time I bought it, and it still works great.

Jeff King

Bill, a watch is useful for reading the time when you carry your phone in a place that is not so easy to reach (such as a backpack or purse). You can also get the time almost instantaneously and without using both hands to operate the device (just by flipping the wrist) . It's best for riding a bicycle to work or school and checking that you arrive on time. For me, it's not worth 2.7K and definitely NOT a fashion statement.


HYUK! One big CME and this thing would be so much useless metal....

Doc Rock

Yeah, it's kind of pricey, but anyone who thinks that it's out of line for the serious watch fancier is mistaken. I suspect in a couple of years we'll be seeing essentially similar watches costing a few hundred, rather than a few thousand...

David Anderson

make it a kinetic watch but with many capacitors for energy and people will take it more seriously, forget that wimpy solar technology, this will enable it to charge everywhere.


"What is a watch for"

For people who like watches. I don't know why that's hard to comprehend.


Citizens ECO Drive Satellite Wave was the first solar charged GPS synching watch.

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