Milestones:Electronic Quartz Wristwatch, 1969

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Electronic Quartz Wristwatch, 1969

Electronic Quartz wristwatch Japan.jpg

IEEE Tokyo Section, Dedication: 25 November 2004 

After ten years of research and development at Suwa Seikosha, a manufacturing company of Seiko Group, a team of engineers headed by Tsuneya Nakamura produced the first quartz wristwatch to be sold to the public. The Seiko Quartz-Astron 35SQ was introduced in Tokyo on December 25, 1969. Crucial elements included a quartz crystal oscillator, a hybrid integrated circuit, and a miniature stepping motor to turn the hands. It was accurate to within five seconds per month.

The principle of quartz timekeeping had been known since Warren Marrison developed his first quartz clock in the 1920s. Research toward its practical utilization took place in Switzerland, the United States and Japan, the major task for scientists and engineers being how to miniaturize the mechanism. Among them, the development of the quartz wristwatch by the Seiko group was a pioneering work, and the following are key historic events.

1. Research engineers at Seikosha factory, Suwa City, Japan, had conceived the idea of applying quartz technology to develop a new type of chronometer, and they succeeded to manufacture a practical quartz timepiece in1958 for use at a broadcasting station (CBC, Chubu Broadcasting Corporation) in Nagoya, Japan. However, it was still the size of a filing cabinet and it was obviously impossible to carry it.

2. In 1959, Suwa Seikosha embarked on a quartz timepiece development mission called the "59A Project". This led to the creation of the marine chronometer, a clock that became Seiko's first entry in the Neuchatel Observatory Chronometer Competition in 1963.

3. In February 1964, a commercial version of the clock, called the crystal chronometer, was produced and it was successfully used when Seiko served as the official timing for the Tokyo Olympics that year. Subsequently other small quartz clocks were developed for the driving rooms (cockpits) of the Japanese Bullet Trains, Tokaido Shinkansen, which is also an IEEE Milestone.

4. In 1967, Suwa Seikosha developed a prototype of quartz wristwatch and entered the Neuchatel Observatory competition for the first time with quartz wristwatch.

5. Eventually Suwa Seikosha took a totally new approach from consumers stand point of view to develop quartz watches. After the extensive effort of engineering team and production factory, they finally succeeded in developing a practical quartz wristwatch type 35SQ (product name: SEIKO Quartz Astron) and it was first sold by K. Hattori & Co., Ltd. (present-day Seiko Corporation) on Christmas Day 1969. Within one week of the introduction, 100 18-karat gold watches had been sold, at a retail price of $1,250.

This quartz watch is accurate to plus or minus five seconds a month, or one minute per year. Its quartz crystal oscillates at a rate of 8,192 cycles per second, replaces the hairspring, the balance wheel, and the escapement in a mechanical watch. The watch’s movement has an electronic divider with an integrated circuit. It is powered by a miniature battery, which is made of silver, will last more than a year. Seiko's production and commercialization of this consumer type wristwatch stimulated the succeeding developments of both an improved and an advanced types of watches and clocks accelerating the transition from a mechanical to an electronic world, bringing a new age when everyone can hold an exact time conveniently. This was really the innovation in daily life of public and also innovation in manufacturing industry.
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