The eternal watchmaker pursuit of precision continues to produce a wide variety of technologies – after mechanical watches and before the invention of quartz movements, we find a curiosity popular today among collectors: watches with electric movements, like this all original 1971 Seiko "EL-370" 3702.
Mechanical watches were the status quo during the 1950s, but required frequent maintenance and watchmaking skills. The arrival of electric movements, a phenomenon mostly forgotten despite its popularity in the early 1970s, during the tumultuous transition between mechanical and quartz movements came soon after the arrival of the-then-quite expensive quartz crystals at the end of the 1960s. Watch companies, including Bulova, Omega, Hamilton, and others sought to remedy these issues with electronic watches.
However, during the aforementioned tumultuous time period, the forerunners of today’s quartz watches were only prototypes and far from possible mass production due to their prohibitive expense. Seiko’s entry to the electronic watch market appeared to lag its rivals – then again, Seiko was also no doubt busy designing and devoting considerable resources to what would ignite the quartz crisis a few years later, the Seiko Astron quartz watch.
Regardless, in 1967, Seiko joined the electronic watch fray, and the EL-370 was introduced in 1971, with the 3702 movement was part of Seiko's rather short-lived foray into the electronic watch scene; Seiko produced five series of electric movements, including the 3702. By the early 1970s the EL-370 Electronic Series was being actively marketed in the USA as, “Up to the minute watches for the man who looks to the future.” These watches featured the 3700 series of transistorized balance movements and played a stopgap-role during the period during which Seiko was strategizing how to make the new quartz technology affordable for mass production.
The Seiko EL-370’s lasted until circa 1974, when they were replaced by the Seiko Elnix series of electronic balance watches, which was produced into 1977, when all of Seiko electronic efforts seemingly vanished – it’s difficult to find any reference at all to the electronic watch in official Seiko historic timelines, although examples of an EL-370 on display at the Seiko Museum in Tokyo.
The late 1970s saw the end of electric watches altogether, as quartz – by then cheaper, more accurate, and easier to produce in high quantities – flooded the market, and marked the demise of not only mechanical (for a time), but also electric watches.
The Seiko EL-370 comes with a leather strap, nylon NATO strap, Pelican travel case, and springbar tool.
1971 Seiko “EL-370” 3702-7000 Electric Watch
DIAL: Original Seiko-signed blue dial with original hands; lume on hands and hour indices shine, dimmly.
CASE: Original 38.5mm x 42mm stainless-steel case, with original stainless-steel caseback – no scratches present on the caseback. The 3702 takes a Renata 357 button battery.
CRYSTAL: Flawless acrylic crystal.
BAND: 18mm light brown leather strap, with stainless steel hardware. This EL-370 also comes with a dark brown Perlon strap, also with stainless-steel hardware.
MOVEMENT: Original 16 jewel Seiko 3702 electric movement (not quartz), manufactured in June 1971.
CROWN: Original unsigned recessed Seiko crown.