There aren't a lot of people who need a watch that can survive the airless void of space, but Richard Garriott happens to be one of them. He's headed for the International Space Station and some extra-vehicular activity (spacewalking). Garriott could have just chosen to wear the vacuum-rated Omega Speedmaster, or maybe a Fortis Cosmonaut, but instead he turned to one of my favorite watchmakers: Seiko.
Seiko has a long tradition of creating limited-edition watches for explorers in extreme environments. They've made some extraordinary watches, and routinely use the lessons learned in later production models. For example, they made Landmasters for trips to both poles (the GMT hand goes counter-clockwise for the Landmaster South Pole!), an amazing shrouded diver for commercial divers, a ceramic and titanium masterpiece for Mt. Everest, and even a watch specifically designed for hikers of Japan's mountains. As most of these are limited editions, they are tragically hard to find, and rarely even seen.
- Spring Drive 5R86 movement for accuracy under the extreme temperature swings of space (-20° to +70° Celsius, or about -4° to 160° Fahrenheit).
- Titanium case with the sides etched out by a new CNC (computer numerical control) machine that Seiko built in order to help get the weight down to only 92.5 grams.
- Completely air-tight case capable of surviving direct exposure to space.
- Oversized buttons for use while wearing space gloves.
- Domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating.
- Waterproof to 100m, or 330ft (in case of a water landing, I guess).
- 12-hour chronograph.
- GMT hand for 24-hour UTC time (which is used in both space and aviation).
- New luminescent material that Seiko says is three times as bright as a typical luminescent watch.
- A special dial and hand design for maximum readability.
- 53mm by 15.2mm which is huge.
- Limited edition of just 100 watches (price not yet announced).
They made some interesting design decisions on this one, and I'm smitten by the results. The dial is ultra-readable, with unobtrusive chrono hands, a subtle but still readable "there if you need it" blue skeletonized GMT hand, and bold white hour and minute hands reminiscent of the 6S37 Flightmaster. The power reserve subdial is subdued, and the date window is symmetric with the 9 o'clock marker. Blue makes a low-key accent, carefully placed to be non intrusive. The sculpted case and top-mounted buttons and crown (referred to as a "bullhead" design) make for a stunning and unique timepiece.
The Seiko Spring Drive Spacewalk is to space what the new Rolex Sea-Dweller DEEPSEA is to the ocean. Even at 53mm, I'd happily wear it. It's gorgeous, functional, and built like a titanium tank. Let's hope Seiko introduces a production model soon.
Update (June 15): Richard Garriott gives us an update on how the Seiko Spacewalk is performing so far during training.
By Paul Hubbard