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. Electric movements are now a phenomenon mostly forgotten, despite its popularity in the early 1970s during the tumultuous transition between mechanical and quartz movements following the arrival of the then quite expensive quartz crystals at the end of the 1960s.
Mechanical watches were the status quo during the 1950s, but required frequent maintenance and watchmaking skills. Watch companies, including Bulova, Omega, Hamilton, and others sought to remedy these issues with electronic watches. But at that time, the forerunners of today’s quartz watches were only prototypes, far from any possible mass production due to 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. The EL-370, introduced in 1971, with the 3703 movement – like the 1972 example here – was part of Seiko's rather short-lived foray into the electronic watch scene; Seiko produced five series of electric movements, including the 3703.
Regardless, in 1967, Seiko joined the electronic watch fray and 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 EL-370’s lasted until about 1974, when they were replaced by the 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 Seiko bracelet, nylon NATO strap, Pelican travel case, and springbar tool.
1972 Seiko “EL-370” 3703-8001 Electric Watch
DIAL: Original Seiko-signed white dial with original hands; lume on hands and hour indices shine, albeit dimmly.
CASE: Original 38.5mm x 42mm stainless-steel case, with original stainless-steel caseback – no scratches present on the caseback. Renata 357 button battery can be installed via the convenient hatch on back, without removal of caseback.
CRYSTAL: Flawless acrylic crystal.
BAND: 18mm Seiko-signed stainless-steel bracelet – although likely not original, this Seiko bracelet is authentic and pairs well with the watch. This EL-370 also comes with gray NATO strap, with stainless-steel hardware.
MOVEMENT: Original 16 jewel Seiko 3703 electric movement (not quartz), manufactured in March 1972.
CROWN: Original unsigned recessed Seiko crown.