One of the new Seiko watches for 2021 is this trio of Seiko 5 Sports x Rowing Blazers timepieces that was inspired by the fashion world of the still-fresh Rowing Blazers clothing brand. Rowing Blazers was founded by Jack Carlson and based on a research book he wrote of the same name — which (as the name implies) charted the history of blazer-style jackets worn originally by rowers in England. The Rowing Blazers clothing and lifestyle brand does produce rowing blazers, but it also makes a wide assortment of colorful pop culture-inspired classic sportswear and other items that, in some regards, are a fashionable merger of “preppy” clothing and contemporary “streetwear.”
As part of its lifestyle collection of items, the Rowing Blazers website has sold some pre-owned vintage watches — including those from Seiko. They’ve now introduced the first “new” watch for sale on their website with the Seiko 5 references SRPG49 (checkered bezel), SRPG51 (red zigzag bezel), and the SRPG53 (four-way color block bezel). The first two are limited editions of 500 pieces, while the latter will be a special edition produced in at least a few batches (based on product demand).
Rowing Blazer’s Jack Carlson met with Seiko early on when he started his brand around 2014. Now, a few years later with “collaboration watches” all the rage, Seiko and Rowing Blazers have finally come out with a special product intended to be primarily sold via the Rowing Blazers website (though I understand some Seiko authorized dealers will carry them, as well). For their design, Jack Carlson was inspired both by his own taste in clothing and watches, but also some classic vintage Seiko products he admires.
The Seiko x Rowing Blazers watches are based on the modern Seiko 5 Sports watch, which is 42.5mm-wide (water-resistant to 100 meters) in steel and contains Seiko’s in-house-made caliber 4R36 automatic movement. The movement operates at 3Hz with 41 hours of power reserve and can be admired through the display caseback on the watch. The display caseback also has a skeleton motif, which Jack Carlson indicates is a Rowing Blazers take on classic memento mori iconography.
Seiko 5 Sports watches is the product family where Japanese Seiko is currently experimenting with collaboration products, so it is interesting from a collector’s perspective to see the wide visual variety in this Seiko sports watch category. For the Rowing Blazers Seiko 5 watches, Jack Carlson opted to go with a vintage-style lume that is a bit more tan/creamy in color than the standard greenish-white. There is also a Rowing Blazers logo on the watch dial, which is an interesting design choice as some, but not all collaborative watches are dual-branded. The design of the watches was created by the Seiko design team in Japan, in collaboration with Rowing Blazers.
Each of the Seiko 5 Sports X Rowing Blazers watches comes with both a steel metal three-link bracelet, as well as a 22mm-wide NATO-style nylon strap. The most distinctive straps are the candy mint-green strap that comes with the SPRG49 (checkered dial) and the multi-color striped strap, which comes with the SRPG51 (zigzag bezel). The SRPG53 comes with a conventional black-colored strap. Further, the watches each come in special blue with red zigzags Seiko presentation box.
Seiko is wise to leverage the strong personalities and appeal of today’s lifestyle fashion brands as a venue to both design and sell Seiko products. This is part of Seiko’s history, and it is exciting to see Seiko rediscover this part of its business model in new ways for the e-commerce age. Complementary to this article is a video interview I conducted with Jack Carlson of Rowing Blazers to discuss the Seiko Rowing Blazers collaboration watches (see above). The Seiko 5 SPRG49, SRPG51, and SRPG53 watches each have a retail price of $495 USD. Learn more at the Seiko watches website here; or visit the Rowing Blazers website here.