For the 99%, a watch obsession can feel like a real catch-22. It’s not hard to fall in love with the pieces themselves, the legends who’ve worn them, the technical wizardry involved in making them, and their sometimes mind-bending designs. But it comes with a literal price: For the most part, the very best and most beloved watches are expensive, and buying just one will probably drain a savings account. (That they remain out of reach for most is, undoubtedly, part of their allure.) All that makes today’s Seiko x Rowing Blazers release so juicy.
The trio of new $500 watches are rare examples of no-compromise pieces. They deliver on design and function—and, of course, on price. The neo-prep brand Rowing Blazers takes the beloved Seiko 5, which we’ve already called the “biggest cheat code” in watches because of its mechanical movement and relative basement-level pricing, and adds its own characteristically whimsical touches. “Collaborating with Seiko is a dream come true,” Rowing Blazers founder Jack Carlson said via a press release. “I have a small collection of both new and vintage Seikos, and I’m obsessed with the brand.” Rowing Blazers has a section on its website dedicated to vintage watches, and past campaigns have featured pieces like the Domino’s-stamped Rolex Oyster Perpetual. That appreciation for watches’ more fun-loving side is made apparent in this collaboration.
“The bezels are the really distinctive thing about the three watches,” Carlson said. “I wanted this capsule to be understated, subtle—but also fun.” No piece is having a better time than the multicolored-bezel piece that Carlson describes as a tribute to the ’90s. It’s not hard to imagine this color-blocked pattern appearing somewhere in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, but the ring of colors isn’t all that different from designs on old yacht-timer watches, either, leaning directly into Rowing Blazers’ Big Cape Cod Energy. (This is also the only non-limited piece of the collection.)
The other two watches, each limited to only 500 pieces, take cues directly from either distinct Seiko or Rowing Blazers patterns. The checkerboard-bezel “Rally Diver” is inspired by a vintage Seiko of the same name. Now, the watch is reborn with a marginally more sober round case and crisp black-and-white pattern. The watch with the zig-zagging bezel, meanwhile, is all Carlson: The pattern is a signature Rowing Blazers vibe.
In addition to the standard metal bracelets, the watches also come with fabric NATO straps in bold colors, like mint green and rainbow. The watch also has a skeletonized caseback. No, not like that—I mean, literally, there is a skeleton hunched over, resting its head against its bony hand, etched onto the back of the watch. The drawing is another Rowing Blazers motif and is fittingly included as a memento mori—a constant reminder we’re always running out of time. And if we’re all gonna die anyway, shouldn’t we at least watch the minutes go by on a super fun watch?
The limited-edition watches are already sold out at both Rowing Blazers and Hodinkee. As of this writing, the last place to claim yours is Seiko’s website. The color-blocked piece is also available at Rowing Blazers, where purchase comes with a Seiko dad hat.