Passing the baton to watch connoisseurs who have a need for speed and precision with Seiko Prospex timepieces inspired by the passion of international athletic competition: the Speedtimer Mechanical Chronograph and the Speedtimer Solar Chronograph.
In the middle of the last century, global watchmakers were not only pushing to increase the accuracy of stopwatches, but also to bring that competition-grade timing accuracy to the wrist. And in Japan, those lofty goals were embraced with a particular fervour. Seiko’s introduction of a heart-shaped cam into a stopwatch mechanism enabled the first measurement of 1/100th second intervals, a feat unheard of in contemporary mechanical timekeeping.
In that same year, 1964, Seiko introduced the Crown Chronograph, Japan’s first timepiece equipped with a stopwatch function. The world’s first vertical-clutch automatic chronograph, with a now-familiar column wheel approach, arrived five years later in the 1969 Seiko Speedtimer, and with that innovation, Seiko was truly off the starting blocks, so to speak.
Seiko became the official timekeeper of the International Association of Athletics Federation (the IAAF, now known as World Athletics, which holds the World Athletics Championships bi-annually) in 1985 and is now in the 36th year of that partnership. In 1991, Seiko developed the photo-finish camera specifically for the Championships, as well as a false-start sensor.
While there are certainly international competitions with more blustery notoriety, elite global athletes and track-and-field enthusiasts around the world regard the World Athletics Championships, held on U.S. soil for the first time in Eugene, Oregon, this July, with equal measures of prestige and authenticity.
Honouring the Champion’s Heart
For this year’s World Athletics Championships, Seiko released two chronographs that both recognise its important heritage of competition-timing and cast a forward-looking eye to the future of athletic competition.
In the new Prospex Speedtimer Mechanical Chronograph, the ground-breaking legacy of the original Seiko Speedtimer from 1969 is re-envisioned in a modern steel execution. A Seiko Calibre 8R46 movement, which utilises the original Speedtimer’s vertical clutch/column wheel chronograph approach, delivers classic, positive pusher action and timing accuracy.
Limited to 400 pieces worldwide, the 42.5mm SRQ041 Prospex Speedtimer Mechanical Chronograph features bi-compax subdials at 3 and 9 o’clock that log the one-minute and 30-minute intervals respectively, with the central seconds hand and 30-minute sub-dial hand in the same brilliant yellow of all of Seiko’s precision athletic-timing devices. In addition, the arcing yellow central seconds hand gently bends down toward the watch dial for even-more-precise visual timings. And the dial itself, well, that’s something special, too.
The two metallic grey sub-dials pop off a black, pebbly canvas that is a dead-ringer for the surface of a competition running track. The yellow detailing (a yellow 60-second marker on the outer-bezel seconds ring joins the colour story of the hands, as well as an optional black leather strap with yellow stitching), date window at 6 o’clock, and both edition serial-numbering and commemorative etched sapphire crystal badging on the case back break the tape for this winner.
A non-limited-edition SRQ039 version of the Prospex Speedtimer Mechanical Chronograph features black bi-compax sub-dials on a matte blue watch face, and is available on a black leather strap. A non-limited-edition SRQ037 version is offered with a grey dial, but both are still powered by the Seiko Calibre 8R46 movement.
Athletics’ Sunny Future
If the Prospex Speedtimer Mechanical Chronograph is an artful ode to competition-timekeeping history, its sister timepiece commemorating the World Athletics Championships, the SSC813 Prospex Speedtimer Solar Chronograph, is firmly focused on the future. As athletic performance, and indeed the records set at the Championships, continue to improve, Seiko’s development and use of cutting-edge timing technologies keeps pace.
While the compact 39 mm steel case, black tachymetric bezel ring and flat chronograph pushers are closely aligned with the original 1969 Speedtimer design, a V192 quartz movement provides contemporary precision and a sustainable, renewable energy source via a state-of-the-art solar cell incorporated into the dial. Like an athlete, no batteries are required.
Hairline and mirror-polishing on the steel case and three-part steel bracelet up the gleam-appeal of the Speedtimer Solar Chronograph, with a traditional three sub-dial black-on-white “panda” dial design injecting some heritage cues to the package. A date window runs at 4 o’clock, and LumiBrite adorns the black blade hour and minute hands as well as the four cardinal bar hour markers.
Where the World Comes to Compete
Seiko Prospex’s official brand philosophy, “Keep Going Forward,” could just as easily serve as an unofficial tagline for the World Athletics Championships. From the world-record-setting under 9.6-second 100-metre dash time clocked by Usain Bolt in Berlin in 2009 (expertly totaled by Seiko technology at 9.58 seconds, and still unbested) to the 2019 Championships held in Qatar, the first world-class athletic event of its stature held in the Middle East, since its founding in 1983, the World Athletics Championships have always captured the attention of track-and-field fans and set a very high bar on memorable moments in sports.
July sees the 18th edition of the World Athletics Championship hosted in the U.S. for the first time, centred around Eugene, Oregon, a spiritual home for American track-and-field achievement (it was the “home track” of moustachioed distance-running legend Steve Prefontaine, after all).
With over 1,800 athletes descending on Eugene, this year, the expectations for the Championship’s track record of historical athletic achievement are running high.
Regardless of any future records set, all the events will be officially timed by Seiko, with the same unparalleled dedication to precision and craftsmanship evidenced in the new Prospex Speedtimer Mechanical Chronograph and Prospex Speedtimer Solar Chronograph timepieces that honour the storied competition.