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recommendations Watches

GPS or radio?

I like restraint in watch design – clarity, legibility, smaller cases that wear more comfortably. I also value accurate timekeeping. There have been some recent releases that hit that intersection nicely, so why not share in case others are interested?

Via Plus9Time, the Seiko Astron SSJ003J1:

Photo credit: Seiko

Seems to be selling for about $1800 with availability in September 2021. At nearly 2k, that’s edging into Grand Seiko quartz prices; quite a big step up from the more mature models with radio control. For example, the Seiko SBTM313:

Photo credit: Seiko

or the SBTM305, with a dial closer to that of the Astron:

Photo credit: Seiko

Solar powered, similar in size and style, but radio set (5 band) versus GPS. Sakura has them for just under $450. 1/4th the price!

From the competition, Citizen has multiple offerings. I like the Attesa line, in particular the CB1120s:

Photo credit: Citizen

That’s the reference CB1120-50F, a 37mm titanium beauty, also available with baton markers and/or white dial for about $450.

Photo credit: Citizen

That’s the AT6070-57L. Nice, and I like the day-date for everyday. Maybe 600$.

I bought the CB1120-50F above and have had it about six months; it’s stellar. Best radio reception I’ve ever seen, beautifully made and just a wonderful, zero-attention watch. It’s easy to recommend. The SBTM series is a pretty direct competitor and I find the green-dial 313 rather attractive.

At 500 bucks, you’re talking expensive quartz, with competition rampant including the Apple Watch. The 2k for the Astron is mighty hard to swallow, given the super niche differences in usefulness – the difference is being able to get time sync in places without radio reception. Australia/NZ, polar areas, South America. If you live there, probably worth it. If you live in Europe, North America, UK or Japan, why bother? Radio sync, in my experience with maybe 15 watches, gets you within 0.5 seconds and sometimes closer – as mentioned the Attesa is best-ever and dead synced to NTP, radio and GPS references.

I should also note that the CB1120s have non-standard lugs, meaning you’re basically stuck with the bracelet, which is usually a thing I consider a deal breaker; in this case I loved the watch so much I bought one anyway.

On an unrelated note, I wrote this post on my iPad, not too bad as an authoring experience so I should be able to post more often.

By Paul Hubbard

Computer engineer from San Diego. Obsessed with hardware, software, timekeeping and elegance.

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