(Almost) the start of Seiko quartz watch history

Thread: (Almost) the start of Seiko quartz watch history

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  1. #1
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    (Almost) the start of Seiko quartz watch history

    As you all know, Seiko quartz history started with the Quartz Astron in 1969. The Quartz Astron was first shown in Basel 1969 but had been on sale in Japan already a few months before the fair. A few more quartz watches were introduced at Basel this year but the Astron was undoubtedly the first quartz watch to go on sale in the spring of 1969. It was only produced in 100 pieces and cost JPY 450,000, more than a Toyota Corolla.

    As usual, Seiko development runs in two parallell streams, with the Suwa factory producing the 35 series and the Daini factory developing the 36 series which was the worlds first CMOS based caliber. Sources differ here a bit and Epson (which is the same as the Suwa factory) states that the CMOS was really developed for the 38 series.

    These initial developments turned out to be very expensive and complicated to produced so they were soon replaced by much more reliable versions which were also easier to produce. For Suwa, the 38 series replaced the 35 series in 1971 (or more accurately the 35SQ series, which was a development of the initial Astron and had increased the frequency from 8 kHz to 16 kHz)and for Daini, the 39 series replaced the 36 series in 1972.

    While the 38 series was an evolution of the 35 series, it was really the first quartz watch that was available to the general public at a (comparatively affordable price). The 3823 caliber, also known as the 38 SQW was introduced in October 1971 at a price of JPY 150,000. This was about two months salary for a Japanese university teacher at that time. The most expensive mechanical Seiko watch in 1971, a 61 GS VFA cost JPY 100,000 and a high end mechanical watch, the Chronometer grade KS Special cost JPY 35,000. The price for the 3823 was later reduced to a much more affordable JPY 135,000.

    The 3823 VFA (Which stands for very fine adjusted and was used on a few high high end Seiko watches in the late 60s and early 70s. The top designation was later replaced by the "Superior".) The 3823 has the same Seiko leading 5s per month rating as the Astron and a few of the 36 series watches. This was beaten by the 2s per month rating of the 3883 Superior in 1973 which only got a year at the top when the 1s 4883 Superior came along.

    As Seikos (by far) most expensive watch at the time, Seiko did not spare any expense in the details of the watch. The 3823 has the individually assembled minute markers which later became famous on the Superior. It also uses the very thin hands that were common on the high end Seikos of the period.





    The 3823 has its own version of the 7000 case, with a more lozenge-shaped case and a rounded appearance. This case is also very unusual for other Seiko watches. Seiko might have been looking for a modern space-like design to emphasize the novelty of the Quartz watch. Citizen used a similar case in its X8 Electric in 1968.



    I think this 3823 has the original bracelet as it matches catalogue pictures I have seen but the bracelet is strangely devoid of any visible Seiko markings. The 3823 also has the assymetrical caseback with the separate battery lid which was common on all of the early Seiko quartz watches.



    The 3823 also came in a blue dial version. Picture is fron the Hokkaido Watch Museum page here: http://homepage3.nifty.com/dr-usapyon/museum/SEIKO.html



    Strangely enough, it is hard to find a picture of the 3823 caliber. The picture below is a 3863, which is a lower grade caliber in the same series. The 3823 has a very similar layout except that it also states that it is adjusted for temperature. The picture is from Nakahiro great quartz caliber picture page.

    http://nakahiro.parfait.ne.jp/shasinkan/20.html




    / martin

    Sources:

    A Journey in Time, Seiko (pg 53ff has a very interesting article on Seikos early quartz development)
    http://www.seiko.nl/download/A_Journey_In_Time.pdf

    Arochans Seiko pages
    http://arochan.hp.infoseek.co.jp/1964up.htm

  2. #2
    Member M4tt's Avatar
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    Re: (Almost) the start of Seiko quartz watch history

    I have to say you are certainly hitting the ground running. It's nice to see someone marshalling so much information and putting it to practical use. Congratulations and thanks in equal measure!

    Matt
    Luck happens when preparation meets opportunity. Seneca

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    Member Eeeb's Avatar
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    Re: (Almost) the start of Seiko quartz watch history

    Interesting post. I've seen some of this before on various web pages but this compilation is quite nice!

    Interesting that you can often find on various national sites information that you can't seem to find elsewhere. The .au sites for seiko used to have some great caches of manuals that the .jp site never had. The .hk site for eta had manuals long before the .ch site. Only the .nl site seems to have a pdf of "A Journey In Time"... good catch!
    "Forever is composed of nows." - Emily Dickinson

    "The watch has to be surrounded by a history.
    You need more than just a great design. You need to create an atmosphere around the product.
    Who is the company behind it? Why are they using this material?
    People need to be able to identify the watch with themselves. It's based on emotion." - Ralph Furter

    ...that's just my opinion and I've been wrong before and will be again and might be now!

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    Member Bruce Reding's Avatar
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    Re: (Almost) the start of Seiko quartz watch history

    Quote Originally Posted by M4tt View Post
    I have to say you are certainly hitting the ground running. It's nice to see someone marshalling so much information and putting it to practical use. Congratulations and thanks in equal measure!

    Matt
    I second this wholeheartedly! I am definitely becoming interested in adding some Seikos to my collection.

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    Member bompi's Avatar
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    Re: (Almost) the start of Seiko quartz watch history

    Very interesting ! Thanks to this forum (and posts like this one) I'm now fond of quartz watches and Seiko's in particular. Thumbs up !

  7. #6
    rex
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    Re: (Almost) the start of Seiko quartz watch history

    That was some good stuff, and thanks for sharing.

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    Re: (Almost) the start of Seiko quartz watch history

    Great post Martin. I have two of these watches, one with the white dial and the other with the blue dial. Same case and bracelet. One was produced in June 1971 the other in September 1971. The only difference is that the dial does not have the VFA below the quartz logo. The watches look legit (movement lettering on the dial and caseback) though I (my watchmaker) haven't taken the caseback off. Perhaps these watches did not have the hand adjustment at the factory?

  9. #8
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    Re: (Almost) the start of Seiko quartz watch history

    Hi Garfre,

    I have seen a few examples of the non-VFA type. Usually Seiko would not nave two different quality grades of the same watch without having a different caliber number. As the non-VFA version seem more common outside of Japan, the easy conclusion would be that this is an export version even if I do not have any indication that this watch was sold outside of Japan.

    / martin

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    Re: (Almost) the start of Seiko quartz watch history

    Martin, lending support to your theory is that I won both on ebay (the white dial yesterday) rather than JY.

  11. #10
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    Re: (Almost) the start of Seiko quartz watch history

    Congrats on the white 3823. Amazingly low price. If I did not have one already, I would have bought it at twice that price.

    / martin

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