In terms of fond personal memories of recognisable musical motifs, the chorus of opening military snare drums of the movie Aliens is perhaps second only to trumpet fanfare of 20th Century Fox opening to Star Wars. Little did I realise that I would leave the theatre an awestruck 7 year old with two other indelible memories – the Colonial Marines M41A Pulse Rifle and something that would lay the seeds for burgeoning horological interest – the Seiko Giugiaro Design Chronographs as worn by heroes Ripley and Bishop.
A History of Seiko Giugiaro Design Chronographs
In terms of watchmaking, there are many distinctive and highly desirable collectibles – the Speedmaster, the Daytona, the El Primero and thankfully, for the salaried employee, the more wallet friendly 7A28 Seiko chronographs otherwise known to fans as the Seiko Giugiaro Design Chronographs. As I was 7 years old at the time, I cannot speak to their desirability during that specific period, but what I do know is that having grown up in a very digital Casio age, these odd asymmetric watches with pointer hands, big buttons and subdials were a complete anathema to me. As I matured in taste as a watch collector, research into the special history of the Seiko Giugiaro Design Chronograph became a small bit of geekery alongside the trivia related to the Pulse Rifle and other assorted props from the movie and here’s what I gleaned: Beyond the aesthetic milestone, the Seiko Giugiaro Design Chronograph enjoys some serious watchmaking provenance.
Launched in 1983, the original Giugiaro Seiko 7A28 quartz movement was actually the word’s first analog quartz chronograph. Even if its movie provenance wasn’t enough, the knowledge that this was the first quartz analog chronograph as opposed to the traditional Casio quartz digital chronographs you might have been more familiar with of the era, makes the Seiko Giugiaro chronograph one of the most affordable watch collectibles to date. For the time, its quartz regulated heart not withstanding, it was a metal jewelled movement with gears and stepper motors driving each hand – a hybrid calibre known as “mecha-quartz”. Similar mecha-quartz hybrid chronographs were also independently developed by Swiss watchmakers like Jaeger-LeCoultre and Frederic Piguet (before it was absorbed into Blancpain) and used in their thin chronographs.
Enter the Seiko SCED Series
At the time, James Cameron’s vision of the Aliens future was retro-futurist and so it made sense that he used the uniquely designed Seiko Giugiaro chronographs but when the Seiko re-introduced the collection in 2013 under the SCED series to celebrate its 30th anniversary, I had hoped there would be at least some technology updates for the watches that could be more reflective of the sci-fi heritage, couldn’t they use solar tech? Or GPS tech? Something indicative of a watch which might actually have been worn in our space-faring future? More egregiously the original models equipped with the 7A28 were meant to be “permanent”, serviceable movements while the re-issues used the 7T12 movement which eschewed the metal plates and components for plastic. It terms of features, the original 7A28 were 1/10th of a second timing monsters with split-second capability , the new 7T12 only times 1/5th of a second without split seconds.
Thus, while the 2013 Seiko SCED series was almost a direct replica of the original Bishop Aliens watch and then reinterpreted into different colour combinations, it was a Bishop’s watch in aesthetics only and not really spirit. That said, in using modern production processes, the cases of the new Seiko Giugiaro Chronographs were well made and not prone to the large plastic buttons cracking as in the original. In any case, each year since 2013 enjoyed a new series in the same vein as the original Seiko Giugiaro watches but with minimal (if any) design improvements.
Finally! Seiko Giugiaro Design Chronograph catches up to the Aliens future with Astron GPS
Working with Italdesign Giugiaro, Seiko’s new Astron Giugiaro Design Chronograph follows much in the same as the 1983 original. The asymmetric case which extends rightwards for easily actuated chronograph pushers in a sleeker, more refined aesthetic – think old Star Trek 1701 versus New Star Trek Enterprise 1701-E. Spiritually, the same design cues are there, only tapered and polished up and technically, the new Astron Seiko Giugiaro is a highly advanced timepiece which would fit into the Aliens space-faring universe.
Like its older cousin, the new Giugiaro Design Chronograph has significant wrist presence for the era; given the hyper-masculine trend of recent years, the Astron Giugiaro Design Chronograph is a larger 46.3mm, PVD titanium and equipped with an unscratchable black ceramic bezel – making it one of the more robust Giugiaro Design Chronographs to date. The matching black dial with green and red design elements also works to draw solar power to charge the 8X82 movement. A microchip inside the movement syncs with a GPS satellite for precision timekeeping every noon but if no satellite is in range (or God forbid, infested with Aliens), the quartz regulator keeps the Astron Giugiaro Design Chronograph accurate to within 15 seconds a month.
The Seiko Astron Giugiaro Design Limited Edition will be available in May 2017, retailing for €3250.