It is rare that the word “incredible” is put to fair use in the world of watches and watchmaking, but I am sure you’ll agree that Seiko has applied it correctly this time. Enter the incredibly and hilariously titled Seiko Incredibly Specialized Watch Exhibition, where, as part of the Japanese watchmaker’s Power Design Project, seven astounding concept watches are on display. What are these far-fetched Seiko watches for, and how have they come to exist in the first place? We are here to tell you.

The Seiko Power Design Project was started in 2001 and suspended in 2009 to be revived as recently as 2022. The goal here is to invite designers to create experimental watch ideas that might be incorporated into mass-produced Seiko watches in the future. The theme for 2024 is the tool watch — more specifically “incredibly specialized watches” conceived to tailor to very specific use scenarios. Something we find amusing on the aBlogtoWatch Weekly podcast is the bafflingly high number of new watches released by Seiko — some 289 new Seiko references saw the light of day in 2023, along with 73 new Grand Seikos, making it one new Seiko per day, every day. This is to say that Seiko certainly has given itself the space to add some of these concepts, in full or in part. Without further ado, let’s see these watches one by one.

Advertising Message

Dedicated Hide-And-Seek Watch By Masanori Kawamura

Kawamura joined Seiko in 2013 and has been a part of the design team for Seiko brand watches; he’s responsible for thinking up all sorts of watches destined for the Japanese, European, and American markets, including Seiko Astron watches and Seiko Prospex watches. Inspired by the game’s sense of adventure, this time he created a hide-and-seek watch for the ogre’s (seeker’s) role to help them act as a “righteous ogre” who resists the temptation to peek through their fingers or start the search a few moments too early.  He says, “With this item, the ogre instantly becomes the star of the show, exhibiting rule-abiding behavior worthy of a hero recognized by all.”

Here’s how it works: The beautifully made lid with its red anodized ring helps the ogre keep count of players found, up to 11. But first, the seeker has to open the lid and stare at the countdown timer of the watch through a lens while their right eye — to prevent peeking — is covered by the lid that’s just been opened. When the 1-minute countdown starts for the hiders to have time to disguise themselves, the watch plays a little melody that goes like “Mou-iikai? Ma-da-da-yo!” (“Are you ready? Not yet!”) From what we gather, this also helps locate the ogre, meaning that they can’t move as their chiming watch would give their movement away.

Seiko had Mr. Masaru Takayama, the president of the Japan Hide-and-Seek Association, praise this concept — and claim that, according to the association, an estimated 7.8 billion people play the game. This should give away that not only the design but also the presentation of these watches is quite hysterical as well. The dedicated Hide-And-Seek watch by Masanori Kawamura exists in two colors, black and red, and white and blue.

Advertising Message

The Patternmaker’s Watch By Kotaro Usugami

Usugami joined Seiko in 2016 and has been engaged in the development of watches for licensed brands, as well as contributing to advanced design projects (meaning the development of a design before creating the final production design). Usugami-san explains: “Creative people often wear their favorite clothes, acquire tools akin to those used by admired professionals, decorate their tools, and invest extra effort in seemingly trivial details that don’t directly impact the creative process. Tools, beyond their functional role, possess the unique ability to inspire the desire to create.” Naturally, this leads to watches as he adds: “Similarly, a watch, while primarily serving the function of timekeeping, is a familiar accessory that significantly influences our emotions when worn. I pondered whether we could create new value by connecting this characteristic of the watch to the act of creation.”

That mission led them to the realm of clothing production, as “the plump appearance of the pin cushion on the wrist and the action of inserting and removing pins served as cues, inspired their enthusiasm.” In this case, a professor and a student at the Department of International Fashion and Culture Studies at the Bunka Gakuen University added their feedback, saying, “It not only reflects the user’s personality but also serves as a practical tool for organizing and inserting needles. It seems like a design perfect for everyday use,” and “So cute! I’d love to wear it! It has a feel-good vibe. I’m not usually a watch person, but I could see myself using it as an accessory.”

Charming details to the Seiko Patternmaker’s watch include a “countdown” of sorts, where the current date, highlighted as “Due Date” — a familiar term to those working in the fashion industry — is accompanied by a 1-week, 2-week, and 3-week display, allowing the wearer to plan out their patternmaking schedule as though they were looking at a full calendar. The little red Seiko tab added to the strap is another lovely touch. As much as I love bonkers dive watches and fast chronographs in rugged cases, I am drawn to the feeling of a plush pillow on my wrist sometimes — how about you?

The Sukiyaki Watch By Akira Yoshida

Expensive dive watches with rotating timing bezels and even more valuable chronographs with 30-minute totalizers have long been subject to insider jokes in watch enthusiast circles, pointing out how 1,000-meter dive watches and vertical clutch chronographs are basically only ever used as egg-timers by their owners. Well, the Seiko Sukiyaki watch by Akira Yoshida is an ode to what Yoshida-san describes as “the dish I adore most in the world.” Yoshida joined Seiko in 2015, first designing Seiko and Prospex watches for the European and U.S. markets, and, since 2019, penning Grand Seiko watches.

Over 150 years ago, sukiyaki spread throughout the nation during Japan’s rapid pursuit of Westernization, ultimately resulting in the definitive recipe for sukiyaki. And so, Yoshida-san pondered the question: “How could someone truly relish the exquisite flavors of sukiyaki?” In his contemplation, he grappled with how he could contribute to his beloved dish. Fueled by his profound affection for sukiyaki, the solution became clear: To embark on the journey of developing a dedicated item created solely to make the most delectable sukiyaki imaginable.

Yoshida’s expert help was Mr. Fumihiko Mizutani, General Manager of Ningyocho Imahan Co., Ltd., who explains: “Sukiyaki, when you break it down, is a science. Essentially, there’s always a numerical value involved. He has won me over in his ability to quantify and capture it in a watch. […] We envision that, through steady use of this watch, akin to a cooking utensil, you’ll accumulate valuable experience and forge your own path to mastering the art of sukiyaki.” The wearer of the Seiko Sukiyaki watch is to follow the directions of the hands. Fun details include a sturdy case reminiscent of an iron cooking pot to “put you in the mood for sukiyaki even before you begin cooking” and a strap made of leather from Kobe beef cattle, considered to be resistant to water and oil splashes adding that “it is also important to remember appreciation and respect for the cow.”

A Seiko Watch Exclusively For Panda Lovers By Kiyotaka Sakai

Sakai joined Seiko in 2012 and has designed Seiko watches, including Prospex, for the global market, and then for the Japanese market. Today, he is part of the Grand Seiko design team. For the 2024 Incredibly Specialized Watch Exhibition he ponders, “Is a watch called ‘Panda’ really seen as a panda in anyone’s eyes?” He tells the very source of his inspiration, too: “One time I showed my son, who loves pandas, a watch called Panda and told him, ‘it’s a Panda.’ In response, he called it a ‘watch.’ I was momentarily confused and, at the same time, amazed at the purity of his heart. In his mind, it was just a black-and-white watch. I thought to myself, ‘What is the essence of a panda to a panda lover?'”

Captivated by the curious charm of the black-and-white animal, Sakai-san was driven by the desire to create a true panda watch that could capture the lovable, teddy bear-like appearance of an actual panda. The result is a watch that looks shockingly Seikoesque, somehow, but not without its playful details. The subdials of the chronograph have been integrated into the black drooping around the panda’s eyes, and the tachymeter is replaced by a sasameter (bamboo meter). Although Seiko doesn’t say, we’ll tell you that a tachymeter can be used to measure the number of occurrences of any unit over an hour — therefore yes, you could use this Seiko Watch Exclusively For Panda Lovers to calculate the number of bamboo strips a panda eats over an hour — if it were to continue eating at the same pace.

The caseback features the adorable motif of the rear side of a panda and, more importantly, the ’70s Seiko-style watch head even has “panda ears” and is matched to what appears to be a fluffy strap. Ms. Miho Nakagawa, a panda expert is quoted by Seiko as: “Giant pandas are adorable creatures. When you wear [this watch], it feels like it opens your mind to the mysterious ecology of pandas and their connection with people. Without a doubt, this really is a panda! It certainly wins the panda lover’s seal of approval!”

Seiko Exclusive Watch For Masking Tape Enthusiasts By Yugo Hibayashi

If a pincushion or a hide-and-seek watch weren’t quite obscure enough for you, behold the Seiko Exclusive Watch For Masking Tape Enthusiasts. We really are into uncharted territory here, but I, for one, love it and am greatly amused. Hibayashi joined Seiko in 2007, and for several years he was engaged in development design for digital watches. Currently, he is leading one of Seiko’s design development teams and is designing Grand Seiko.

The inspiration? “I caught myself placing a roll of masking tape on my watch.” Well, isn’t that something? Hibayashi-san explains, “Masking tape is a personal favorite of mine. Initially designed for industrial purposes, it has evolved into a distinctive form of stationery, thanks to the texture of Japanese paper and the many unique patterns that adorn it. Not only is it used for jotting down notes, wrapping sweets, and embellishing small items, but it has also become a highly addictive collectible, with more than 1,000 new varieties introduced in Japan each year. I often find myself surrounded by masking tape rolls of every color.”

Drawn in by its mysterious charm, Hibayashi instinctively picked up a roll of masking tape and placed it on his favorite watch, marking the moment when his nature as a watch designer — which is to connect everything to watches — responded strongly to the allure of masking tape. Seiko and Hibayashi even quote a survey by Neo Marketing Inc. that concludes: “When combined, those who use masking tape and stickers mostly in private and those who use them equally in both settings form a substantial majority of respondents.”

The resulting watch is absolutely and positively incredible — I can’t believe it’s taken us this long to first apply the name of the exhibition to a watch from it. It clearly indicates one’s passion for masking tape, as it reveals a clever and playful approach to displaying the beauty of its structure and patterns. The watch uses a threaded capsule-style design that hides the crown and envelopes the masking tape and does so in a way so that the tape can be easily replaced for a fresh look without having to remove the strap. The watch can accommodate tape rolls with an inner diameter of 30 mm with tape width ranging from 15 mm to 20 mm. The different thicknesses create distinct impressions. Mr. Yoshihiro Yokosawa General Manager of Seal Do Printing Co., Ltd, adds: “Wearable? Intriguing” — what else is to add to that?

Seiko Watch Exclusively For Sunny Men By Yu Ishihara

I am not sure how much longer it will take for a Western watch brand to summon the courage and debut a watch “exclusively for sunny men,” but Seiko and its designers have now beaten them to the punch anyway. Ishihara joined Seiko in 2003 and has been a key member of the design team for Prospex and Grand Seiko since 2014. He is currently serving as the Design Director of the Design Development Team.

Inspired by sundials dating back approximately 6,000 years, the Seiko Watch Exclusively For Sunny Men is a “portable observatory for the ‘sunny men’ to wear on their wrist.” At first glance, this watch may appear as a mere piece of metal, but that’s just a fleeting impression. It transforms into a “miniature astronomical observatory,” capable of meticulously tracking celestial movements with a high accuracy of -1.59 milliseconds per day, or -0.58 seconds per year. The sundial lid is to be opened and a pin — that is stored inside the watch — is to be put through it to serve as the “gnomon” (projection rod).

Because the path that the sun follows on the celestial sphere changes according to the latitude, the gnomon must face the North Star for the time to be determined accurately. “Fixation grooves” are provided for 25°, 35°, and 45° north latitude, as a guide, along with a small spirit level inside the open case to help keep the case level. Still, setting up your Seiko sundial watch isn’t quite over.

You see, adjusting the longitude is crucial for sundials. Rotating the dial adjusts the longitude (which equates to the time difference from the standard reference point), enabling the watch to function as a sundial that can provide accurate time indication even outside of Japan. The flip side of the dial adjusts the longitude through rotation and, depending on the season, the gnomon will cast its shadow on the back of the dial, instead of the front, to indicate the time. The upper portion of the sundial rotates 180 degrees based on the season (calendar), making it uniquely designed for year-round readability when worn on the wrist.

The Seiko-veteran Ishihara worked with another well-respected individual within the brand’s circles: Mr. Takuma Kawauchiya, movement designer of Kodo, Grand Seiko’s first mechanical complication watch with a world-first mechanism. Kawauchiya adds: “A sundial? I see that it follows the oldest timekeeping method known to mankind. […] Considering it even encompasses the equation of time, it really is a highly precise mechanism that covers every aspect! …And yet, isn’t this useless unless it’s a sunny day? Is it intended for sunny men only? Well, I’m a rainy man, so let’s have all of us rainy men wear the ultra-precise Kodo that I invented…

Seiko Ambidextrous Watch By Kento Ito

“Unleashing the potential of ambidextrous individuals” is the drive behind Kento Ito, who has experience designing home appliances, furniture, miscellaneous goods, information devices, and more at a product design firm and an information device manufacturer. He joined Seiko in 2018 and now designs Astron watches. Ito shares: “I was at a bowling alley one fateful day, with a friend who was wearing his watch on his left hand. However, in the next moment, he switched it to his right hand and bowled with his left hand! Before the 10 pins even fell, my brain was jolted by a powerful shock. Normally, right-handed people wear watches on their left hands, and left-handed people wear them on their right hands. At that moment, these stereotypes were shattered.”

This raised the question in Ito-san: “Does the hand that wears the watch significantly influence our thoughts, abilities, and actions? Perhaps the relationship is like that of the chicken and the egg.” And so, Seiko’s ambidextrous watch is designed for ambidextrous individuals as a tool to allow them to undertake self-innovation. His expert assistance is Dr. Toshinori Kato, Neurologist, Doctor of Medicine, President of KatoBrain Co., Ltd., who adds: “While a watch can limit movement, the idea of a cross-dominant watch aligns with my belief in evenly utilizing every section of the brain through training. Wearing and reading the time on a watch engages memory, comprehension, as well as visual and motor systems. Moreover, you can alter the way your brain functions simply by switching the side on which you wear your watch.”

Perhaps not many of us watch enthusiasts know that “Using the opposite hand to that wearing the watch not only changes the section of the brain in use but also directs attention to the hand wearing the watch. Having a watch that can change its look in terms of its color and form enhances the clarity of awareness in the process of changing the watch from one hand to the other, creating a stimulating effect on the brain.” Most importantly though, Dr. Kato says, “I get the feeling that this is the sort of watch that really should have existed from a long time ago. I sense that many cross-dominant individuals are often deep thinkers, and by wearing this watch, they may be able to tap into an incredible new way of using the brain.”

In a truly fantastic fashion, the Seiko Ambidextrous watch changes its dominant color once it is flipped 180° — which is what happens when you move it from one hand to the other. The dial appears to be striped and structured in a way that reveals a white dial with black hands or its opposite. Even the Seiko logo, apparently printed on the crystal, gets disguised, and the “lower” half of the case is in exposed stainless steel (beautifully angled, too!), while the “upper” half received a black coating and gentle curves. Incredible!

Phew, what a ride! Frankly, Seiko has not overstated the nature of its exhibition. Having discussed in detail the seven watches Seiko chose to feature, it well and truly is an Incredibly Specialized Watch Exhibition. Better still, the 2024 Seiko Incredibly Specialized Watch Exhibition takes place at Seiko’s exhibition space in the Harajuku district from January 19th to March 31st and admission is free. Which one of these seven Seiko concept watches has caught your eye, and why? Let us know in the comments below. You can learn more at the brand’s website.

Advertising Message

Subscribe to our Newsletter