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Author Topic:   Seiko's Spring Drive Spacewalk watch
Robert Pearlman
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Posts: 30714
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 04-06-2008 05:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Seiko release
SEIKO Spring Drive Spacewalk: The Quiet Revolution goes into space

In October 2008, Richard Garriott, the video game designer and adventurer, will become the sixth private space explorer. Richard will conduct his space mission aboard the International Space Station, and during his flight, he intends to conduct a spacewalk, which would make him the first private individual to do so. As steps out into free space, he will be wearing a SEIKO Spring Drive watch, specially designed and built for this purpose.

Three years ago, the "Quiet Revolution" of Spring Drive started, and all over the surface of the earth, Spring Drive is increasingly accepted as one of the most important new developments in luxury watch-making. In 2008, the revolution goes into space.

This unique watch, the Spring Drive Spacewalk, is presented for the first time at Baselworld 2008 and takes pride of place in the new SEIKO Stand.

The second generation in space

Richard Garriott is not only a remarkable entrepreneur and adventurer (see biography below) but he is also the son of a NASA astronaut. Richard's father, Dr. Owen Garriott, made two space flights, aboard Skylab in 1973 and aboard STS-9/Spacelab-1 in 1983. In total, Owen spent 70 days in space and he carried SEIKO watches on both of these flights and wore one continuously during his Spacelab mission. His trust in SEIKO was inherited by his son, and so it was natural that Richard should contact SEIKO as soon as his mission was arranged. Richard and SEIKO will be the first "second-generation" space partnership.

Why SEIKO Spring Drive?

The challenge of making a watch that could operate not only during a space flight but also outside on a spacewalk is a daunting one, and is precisely the kind of challenge that brings out the best in SEIKO's engineers. The first decision to be made was on the type of movement to be used. Without special treatment, battery-operated instruments are not appropriate for a spacewalk for safety reasons. Thus, quartz movements were not considered. The choice was therefore between mechanical and Spring Drive. The choice was decided by the need for safety and accuracy. As the watch will be exposed to a range of temperature from minus 20 degrees Celsius to plus 70, accuracy at extreme temperatures was the critical factor, and no mechanical watch can retain its accuracy in these conditions, because of the inherent instability in these conditions of the traditional escapement which regulates the time in all mechanical watches. Instead of a traditional regulator, Spring Drive has a Tri-synchro Regulator, an entirely new regulator that uses and generates mechanical, electrical and electromagnetic power, and is less affected by temperature variations. Thus, Spring Drive was selected as the perfect mechanism for the task.

The Spring Drive Spacewalk

The SEIKO Spring Drive Spacewalk has been custom designed and built with Richard's mission in mind. The mission of SEIKO's engineers was to build a watch that was light, air-tight, strong, easy to read and easy to use, as well as safe and accurate.

  1. The air-tight case
    Because of the vacuum of free space, the watch case needs to be completely air-tight. Based on SEIKO's long experience with Divers watches that can withstand pressures up to 1,000 meters, Spacewalk was designed with special features that will guarantee air-tightness. In addition, to maintain the air-tightness in the huge temperature changes that occur in the vacuum of free space, and especially in cold temperatures, it was necessary to develop a new type of gasket using a rubberized material.

  2. The lightness of High-intensity titanium
    Everything to be taken into space needs to be as light and as strong as possible. High -intensity titanium was chosen as the case material because it is 40% lighter than stainless steel.

  3. The optimum balance of lightness and wide dial-opening
    The next challenge was to make the watch both as light and as large as possible. The case was designed for minimum volume but maximum dial opening size, to ensure quick readability. The solution was to build a case with recessed sides, but this required a new engineering solution, using a CNC machine that SEIKO developed in-house. This process reduced the volume of the case material by 30 %. With this process, a case was created that has the optimum balance of strength, lightness and wide dial opening.

  4. The most readable dial.
    Richard needs to be able to see time and elapsed time at a glance. After many dial designs were tested, a new layout, with the chronograph dials at the top, was selected. The hands and hour markers were designed expressly for this watch, and additional layers of SEIKO's Lumibrite material were used. The dial is now at least three times brighter than a normal luminous watch.

  5. Maximum ease of use
    Richard's hands will be protected, of course, by thick gloves. He therefore needed the buttons to be over-sized so that they can easily be used and they are placed at the top of the case to be more readily accessible.
The harmony of space travel and Spring Drive

In addition to all the technical attributes which make the Spring Drive Spacewalk the prefect watch for the mission, there is a profound harmony between the essence of Spring Drive and the whole arena of space and space exploration. With its glide motion hands, SEIKO Spring Drive is the only watch to reflect the true, continuous nature of time. It measures time without 'ticks', and the perfect, uninterrupted motion of every part of the movement is in perfect harmony with the eternal, continual and precise motion of the planets. There can be nothing more appropriate than the arrival of the "quiet revolution" of Spring Drive into space. SEIKO is deeply grateful to Richard Garriott and to the Space Adventures Company for the opportunity to contribute to this thrilling mission by bringing the beauty of glide motion closer to the stars.

Meeting the challenge and the future

The task of creating this remarkable watch was difficult, and it has involved new developments in every aspect of SEIKO's watchmaking skills. It has taken a dedicated team over three years to create and to test the Spring Drive Spacewalk and new skills, materials and ideas have been generated as a result. SEIKO's history is replete with examples of how watches like Spacewalk later inspire future generations of SEIKO watches. That is the spirit that inspires SEIKO. Perhaps, the SEIKO Spring Drive Spacewalk will be another example. We are going to create just 100 watches. Among them, three pieces will go with Richard on his mission and the remaining watches will be marketed worldwide in December this year.

dsenechal
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posted 04-08-2008 07:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dsenechal   Click Here to Email dsenechal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If anyone's contemplating the purchase of one of these watches, consider that the least expensive 'basic' Seiko Spring Drive watch is $3500. Imagine what one of these would go for...

capcom9
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posted 04-09-2008 05:54 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for capcom9   Click Here to Email capcom9     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Under what guidelines is equipment approved for use on the ISS? Do they not operate according to NASA specification standards?

In this case, a proposed EVA by a tourist (with likely "Cliff Notes" quality training), is being touted by a company that's looking for publicity and is using an advertisement (they call it a press release) to market themselves.

Wrist watches have not been seen during EVA by NASA crews for some years now. It is apparently optional to wear one. Critical timing is handled by crew inside the ISS or shuttle, as well as at JSC, and transmitted to the crew member performing EVA.

The only NASA approved watch for use during EVA is the Omega Speedmaster 3570.50. Even the Russian's, who continue to wear wrist watches during EVA, limit use to the Speedmaster. How is it that a tourist can show up, attempt EVA, and choose his own equipment? Is that how it works at the ISS? The sky's the limit?

Robert Pearlman
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Posts: 30714
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 04-09-2008 08:58 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by capcom9:
How is it that a tourist can show up, attempt EVA, and choose his own equipment? Is that how it works at the ISS? The sky's the limit?
Two years ago, Space Adventures funded a Roscosmos study to develop an EVA opportunity for spaceflight participants.

With regards to the watch, it would have gone through a certification process by the Russians, the same or similar process applicable to all new equipment launched to the ISS by the Russians, whether it was for a tourist or one of their crewmembers.

As an example, as Greg Olsen was the first to fly an iPod, he needed to pay for its certification (which led to ISS, Soyuz and shuttle crew members now being able to use the MP3 player in space).

collocation
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Posts: 370
From: McLean, VA, USA
Registered: Feb 2004

posted 04-09-2008 10:13 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for collocation   Click Here to Email collocation     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Any idea on the approximate cost of this watch when it becomes available?

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 30714
From: Houston, TX
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posted 04-09-2008 10:20 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
According to Seiko's website, marketing will begin in December 2008. The site does not yet list the price, but as Dave points out above, Seiko's Spring Drive line starts at $3,500.

SpaceAholic
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From: Sierra Vista, Arizona
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 04-09-2008 10:32 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by capcom9:
Under what guidelines is equipment approved for use on the ISS?
Implementation of agreed upon standards would be codified within Memorandum of Understandings signed by the joint partners. Anything that has a potential to adversely impact interoperability between the various nodes/systems onboard or interfacing with ISS, as well as operations, health, crew conduct, ect are addressed via the MOU (which is subordinate to the Inter-Governmental Agreement framework) established between the U.S. (as the space station manager) and other international partners.

capcom9
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posted 04-09-2008 07:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for capcom9   Click Here to Email capcom9     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I would certainly understand things if the Russians have certified the watch for EVA. However, if the watch was certified by the Russians, I'm quite certain that Seiko would be promoting that point throughout the press release. So far as I have been able to confirm, the only wrist watch that the Russians (and their former Soviet counterparts) have certified for EVA is the Omega Speedmaster 3570.50. They have also certified Fortis as the "Official" maker of wrist watches for Roscosmos (for internal use only – spacecraft and ISS).

With all the money that Fortis is providing Roscosmos, the Russians would be hard pressed to violate the trust of a 15-year relationship with a major sponsor. Perhaps because the watch is actually not being worn by a Russian cosmonaut, it isn't an issue. Additionally, if they allow its use during EVA, they would be disregarding the existing exclusive EVA certification of Omega; another major sponsor of Roscosmos.

Perhaps Seiko has opened up their coffers to the point where the folks in Moscow just couldn't resist. No bucks, no Buck Rogers?

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 30714
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 07-13-2008 04:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by collocation:
Any idea on the approximate cost of this watch when it becomes available?
Seiko has set the retail price at $25,000 for when the Spacewalk becomes available in December 2008.

328KF
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posted 12-27-2008 05:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for 328KF   Click Here to Email 328KF     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Looks like Yury Lonchakov wore two of these Seikos on last week's EVA. One is clearly visible and you can see the top buttons of the other one on his right wrist.

I wonder if these were additional watches brought up or the two that Garriott wore during the mission and possibly left behind?

All times are CT (US)

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