Seiko Quartz Wristwatch

Description
The Seiko Quartz Astron 35 SQ was the first quartz wristwatch on the market. The first commercially available quartz watch went on sale in Tokyo on Christmas Day in 1969. With a limited production run of only about 100 pieces, these watches had analog dials and sold for 450,000 yen ($1250), roughly the same price as a Toyota Corolla. The watches were manufactured in Suwa City, Japan, by the firm Suwa Seikosha (now Seiko Epson) and were marketed by the parent company K. Hattori & Co., Ltd.
The case and band on the Smithsonian example are a reproduction of those that originally came with Seiko’s 1969 wristwatch. Inside is an original module that contains a hybrid circuit (a combination of circuits on a single substrate, an intermediate step between discrete circuits and integrated circuits), a quartz oscillator with a frequency of 8,192 cycles per second and a miniature stepping motor for moving the hands. Seiko claimed the new watches were accurate to within plus or minus 5 seconds a month, a minute a year.
At the time of the Astron’s introduction, Seiko produced more mechanical watches than any other firm in the world. But company officials had been experimenting with quartz timekeeping since the late 1950s. Beginning in 1959, a team of engineers, under Tsuneya Nakamura, started to develop a quartz wristwatch. Their first quartz timekeepers were battery-powered chronometers, one of which was used in the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 1964. By 1967, Seiko engineers had miniaturized the timekeeper to produce a wristwatch prototype. To develop manufacturing techniques required another two years.
The Astron was the first public indicator that the wristwatch was about to be completely reinvented, with all-new electronic components. When battery-driven quartz wristwatches like the Astron first hit the market, it seemed unlikely that the new-fangled gadgets would sell. But electronic watches won over the buying public in a few short years.
Reference:
Stephens, Carlene and Maggie Dennis. “Engineering Time: Inventing the Electronic Wristwatch,” British Journal for the History of Science 33 (2000): pp. 477-497.
Object Name
wristwatch, first quartz analog watch
date made
1969
1998
manufacturer
Seiko Corporation
Measurements
overall - watch: 9 1/8 in x 1 5/8 in x 1/2 in; 23.1775 cm x 4.1275 cm x 1.27 cm
overall - case: 3 in x 5 in x 5 in; 7.62 cm x 12.7 cm x 12.7 cm
place made
Japan
ID Number
1998.0248.01
catalog number
1998.0248.01
accession number
1998.0248
See more items in
Work and Industry: Mechanisms
Measuring & Mapping
Time and Navigation
Exhibition
Time and Navigation, National Air and Space Museum
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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