Each year Seiko has a bit of a design competition in Japan called the Seiko Power Design Project. Utilizing a different theme each year, 2008 had 12 watches each named after a district or neighborhood in Tokyo. This is one of the very cool things that Seiko does, and I think that more watch companies should get involved in working with local artists to design watches that come from different points of view. The first Seiko Power Design Project was in 2002, and it has been occurring annually since. I am not sure exactly how the project is done, but the “winners” actually get their watches made. This means that as an artist, you can design a watch and actually have it be produced (if you are lucky), something that most people will never experience as watch production is no easy feat.
The goal of the project is not all altruistic of course. Seiko is always on the lookout for new watch designs that will have market appeal. In the past, watches produced from the Power Design project have been successfully commercialized. Japan is known to be a lot more relaxed when it comes to releasing products to market. They have no hesitation manufacturing something with limited or untested appeal, but you don’t often see these items out of Japan. Still, it is nice to know that at least in Japan companies like Seiko are willing to take risks.
Seiko gives designers direction each year. This year it was about designing watches whose goal is to be “really Japanese.” With instructions to focus on areas in or around Tokyo, the 12 watches from 2008 each have an inherently Japanese look, though all moderns, and all very unique. Here is Seiko’s take on it:
“Thinking about what would result if SEIKO itself was to try its hand at designing such industrial watches led us to the theme for this year — “TOKYO”.
Rather than the watch-like feel brought into Japan from Europe, the watches here are bound to give you a “Tokyo-like” feel. In Japan, a country whose strong point lies in its attention to detail in the creation of things, the watches here are bound to feel more familiar, somehow Japanese…Tokyo-ish.”
What a great way to get concept watches. You might not like each of the concept watches from this year’s Power Design Project, but you have to admit that most of them are interesting. It is very easy to design a watch that works, but it is very hard these days to create something unique, and something that has a lasting design that really “talks to you.” That is really Seiko’s goal here, and I think they do a good job at it. Get artists that aren’t necessarily involved in watch design to make watches. Give them some direction, and tell them that if you like the watches enough you’ll make them. I want to join the next Seiko Power Design Project!
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