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Unique Seiko Concepts Go on Display at ‘Power Design Project’ Exhibition in London

Seiko Power Design Project

At the start of the year Seiko announced the return of their ‘Power Design Project’, the second edition of an exhibition series that first debuted in 2001. Essentially, it’s an opportunity for Seiko’s watch designers to unleash their creativity with outlandish and incredibly fun concept timepieces that then tour the world. You can view the seven watches in the UK this month as the Seiko ‘Power Design Project’ is exhibiting at London’s Japan House from May 20th – June 20th.

Each of the watches in the exhibition have been designed by an established designer within Seiko’s extensive team and is based on the theme of ‘incredibly specialised watches’. Watches so niche that only the smallest percentage of the population could possibly find a use for them. The results are bizarre, interesting and dare I say, very cool. Let’s take a look at the watches in the exhibition.

Update: The opening of the Seiko Power Design Project at Japan House is going to be slightly delayed. The exact new opening date for the exhibition is still TBC at this time, but it is coming soon, and it should be in place by 23rd May 2024 (if not before).

01 Hide-and-Seek

Seiko Hide and Seek White
Seiko Hide and Seek Black

This gargantuan piece of wristwear has been specially developed for use in competitive hide-and-seek. Yes, there is an official competitive hide-and-seek tournament with official rules and everything. The watch is designed to be worn by the seeker (known as the ogre in Japanese, hence the ogre insignia on the strap) and has several features designed to assist them in the game.

First of all, there are two ‘modes’ to the watch, open and closed. When closed, the top of the watch features a rotating dial that can be used to keep track of how many hiders have been caught. When open, the top section unfolds revealing a lens and black eye patch – by putting you left eye to the lens and covering your right eye, you can see the time display while having the rest of your vision completely blocked, perfect for precisely timing the initial hiding portion of the game, during which time a playful tune plays from the sound complication. The display itself also has specific scales for counting down that initial 60-second period and the official 10-minute duration of the game.

02 Patterner

Seiko Patternmaker

If you’ve ever attended any red carpet event or gala, then you likely already know that a wristwatch is an important part of an ensemble outfit. However, with the’ Power Design Project’ Seiko Patterner, your wristwatch is now also an important part in the creation of that outfit in a literal sense. It features a pincushion case, making it the perfect tool for patternmakers, those who take a conceptual design and turn them into actionable instructions in order to produce an item of clothing.

There are three versions of the watch on display, a denim style one in blue with a round pincushion case and then black and pink editions with flower shaped cushions. One of the most fun elements of the design is the fact the crown has been turned into an oversize pin, making it look like a natural part of the piece. Additionally, if you want to time a specific event, you can simply place a pin in the cushion at the corresponding point of the display.

03 Sukiyaki

Seiko Sukiyaki
Seiko Sukiyaki

I must profess I am not at all knowledgeable when it comes to Japanese cuisine, so the nuances of this next watch are a little lost on me. It’s based on a traditional Japanese dish called Sukiyuki, a type of hotpot consisting of thinly sliced beef and vegetables. The recipe to create it is well documented and highly orthodox, requiring the placement of the ingredients in precise positions.

The watch inspired by it is designed to perfectly time the cooking of the dish. Each of the ingredients is listed around the edge of the watch and by following the timings, you should end up with a perfectly cooked dish. In order to create as accurate timings as possible the designer worked with the celebrated chefs of Ningyocho Imahan, a restaurant in Ginza, Tokyo.

04 Panda

Seiko Panda

Ok, this is the first of the ‘Power Design Project’ watches that I straight up wish was a real watch and not just a concept. It’s inspired by a child’s observation that so-called panda wristwatches are, in reality, nothing like the cute bears they’re named after. Clearly, this is something that must be rectified and the resulting timepiece is an absolute delight. More so even than a watch like the H. Moser x MB&F Pandamonium with its panda DJ.

It has its chronograph pushers (and crown) rotated to the top of the watch and shaped like the ears of a panda. Then, the black subdials have been elongated into the shapes of a panda’s actual eye markings against a white fur-textured dial. Completing the appearance is a little black nose decoration and the inscription pandagraph forming a smiling mouth. If Seiko mass produced this watch today and sold them, they would have a major hit on their hands.

05 Masking Tape

Seiko Masking Tape

Now we move to what is certainly the most niche of the ‘incredibly specialised watches’ – even more niche than the hide-and-seek watch. The Masking Tape watch is for people obsessed with masking tape. Lovers of stationary who simply need to keep a roll on them at all times. To be fair, the concept comes from the designer himself, who supposedly keeps a roll of tape on him by slotting it over the head of his watch. In the world of creative design, I can picture that keeping tape on you is useful to fix and alter designs.

In order to turn this into a design feature, the watch case is designed in two parts that screw together. You separate the parts and then thread them through the centre of a masking tape roll with an internal diameter of 30mm. It can also accommodate rolls between 15mm and 20mm thickness. The internal edge of the case that leads down to the dial then has a broad surface where you can attach some tape to match the design to the roll attached.

06 Sunny Men

Seiko Sunny Men

It’s often a joke or April fools idea that brands should release watches that are just sundials for your wrist, well, that’s exactly what we have here. Of course, the difficulty with a wrist-mounted sundial is that sundials are traditionally static modes of telling the time that are specifically calibrated and positioned within their environment so that they are accurate. When you move around with a sundial, the angle and direction it should be placed at changes.

Fortunately, the Sunny Men accounts for this by having a dial that can be moved and rotated as well as being equipped with the accoutrements that allow you to perform the necessary calculations. For example, there’s a spirit level in the base to ensure that it’s completely level and a compass in the strap for orienting it properly. Plus, markings for latitude and longitude. However, all of this can’t help the fact that if it’s cloudy, you can’t use the watch – which is why you need the luck of being a Sunny Men.

07 Ambidextrous

Seiko Ambidexterous

Just like the Panda, the Ambidextrous is a watch that Seiko should take out from being a concept and put straight into production. It’s really that cool. It’s a watch that’s designed to be worn on both the left and the right wrist with completely different appearances depending which wrist it’s worn on. The key to understanding the concept is that you don’t just take it off your left wrist and move it the right – you also have to rotate it 180 degrees so that the crown is always pointed down your arm towards your hand.

The trick is that the dial has four hands, which are two pairs of hour and minute indicators. The black set is for when the watch is oriented to be worn on the left hand and the white for the right hand. Corresponding to that, the case itself has multiple finishes, either a black coating or plain steel. Most innovative, the dial itself is constructed like a holographic card, where viewing it from one direction it looks black and from the other it looks white. Incredibly smart design.

More details at Seiko Design.

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About the author

Michael Sonsino

As Digital Editor for Oracle Time, Michael needs an eye for detail, which makes it a good thing that his twin joys in life are miniatures and watches. He's a lifelong fan of fine timepieces, especially those of a more historic nature - if it has a twist of Art Deco, all the better. Recent purchase: Seiko Prospex 1959 Alpinist Modern Re-Interpretation. Grail watch: Vacheron Constantin Historiques American 1921.