Seiko's newest cocktails on the menu are a collaboration with Hisashi Kishi, head bartender at Star Bar in Tokyo’s Ginza district.
Collaborations spring up often in this global age, particularly in the apparel and automotive realms with their universal reach; it seems perfectly natural, then, that a famous fashion house would want to outfit a car or design a pair of sneakers.
In 2010, Japanese manufacture Seiko conceived of a pairing considerably more niche: cocktails and watches. While it’s true that many watch collectors often imbibe in a gentle dram or two (or more), never before had a watch brand collaborated with a bartender. (Smaller watches for women's wrists called "cocktail watches" became popular in the 1950s but these were diferent.)
Seiko designed three watches based on cocktails conceived by master bartender Shinobu Ishigaki, of Ishinohana Bar in Shibuya, Tokyo. The watches, like the cocktails that inspired them, had differing taste profiles. They were Cool, Dry and Sweet.
The Sweet (Reference SARB068) was the rarest, released in a limited run of 300, notable for its brown dial and Arabic numerals at the poles. The Dry (Reference SARB066) featured a white dial that boasted large, funky Roman numerals at 12 and 6 o’clock. But my favorite has to be the Cool, Reference SARB065, which I had the pleasure of owning.
My Seiko "Cool", Reference SARB065 (Courtesy of Christa Chance)
Putting into words what drew me to this watch, just one comes to mind: the dial. It was a mutable blue-grey that changed however the light hit it. The sunray guilloche finishing was like nothing I’d seen at that price point (below $500.) I could stare at it for hours, marveling the way it positively twinkled up at me.
To many collectors, the SARB065 is the watch that we mean we we say “Cocktail Time,” so it seemed a natural progression for it to be added in Seiko’s mid-range Presage collection along with eight other entirely new designs.
And, just a month ago, Seiko added two new “cocktails” to the menu. Like its predecessors, the Cocktail Time watches in the Presage collection took cocktails for their inspirations, this time conceived by Hisashi Kishi, head bartender at Star Bar in Tokyo’s Ginza district.
The SSA361 was inspired by Kishi’s Starlight cocktail, which Kishi makes by shaking the mixer in a way that makes bubbles stand out like stars in the sky. The watch mirrors that effect with layers of gloss finishing — no less than seven — that radiate outward from the hands. The SRPC03 takes for inspiration the Sakura Fubiki cocktail, which captures the ethereal, ephemeral beauty of a cherry blossom; in the watch, the delicate pink hue of the cocktail is reflected in the dial.
The SRPC03 (Courtesy of Seiko)
All of these watches are powered by robust movements in the 4R line, which are automatic but can be wound by hand if necessary. And all feature exhibition case backs through which the movements can be seen dancing away. At a little over 40mm each, these watches are just the sort of practical dress watch that one can get away with wearing every day.
They truly go with everything, and the sheer innovation behind their creation makes me want to delve deeper into the world of spirits and discover just how watches and liquor intersect.
If you, too, have that question burning inside like you’ve just taken a swig of the finest scotch, then check out Issue 004, "The Distilled Issue" of SHIFTed available for download on December 9.