The Seiko Cocktail Time Collection
By Daniel Yong
Prior to immersing myself in the world of Grand Seiko, I was quite infatuated with the Seiko Presage family. A few years ago, these were still relatively affordable for a clueless kid (still am) in university. Since then, the mid-tier line in the Seiko collection has expanded significantly and prices range from 400-10 000 AUD (no, I did not accidentally type an extra zero). Oh how the times have changed. Aside from the various enamel, urushi and now porcelain dials, one collection in particular, always stood out for me, and that’s the Cocktail Time collection.
Considering that these have been around since 2010 (if I’m wrong please let me know via Instagram @mrgrandseiko), it’s highly likely that you’ve stumbled across a few articles that already explore the Cocktails in greater detail. But for the sake of building some background knowledge for my story, the Cocktail Time was born out of a collaboration with iconic bartender and mixologist Ishigaki Shinobu and Seiko. In case you didn’t know, when the Japanese get into something, they don’t just go through a phase, they go deep baby, to the point of pure obsession. Their bar scenes are no different, and within this world, you would find Ishigaki Shinobu working his magic in the Ishinohana Bar, mixing ingredients like a wizard in a Harry Potter film. I mean, just check out this video of him making a Vodka Martini. He’s not simply dumping a bunch of elements together, he’s handcrafting these with finesse and swag.
But we’re not here to learn about mixing drinks together, we’re here to talk about the Cocktail Time.
As previously mentioned, the design of the Cocktail Time results from Seiko and Ishigaki Shinobu working together, to create timepieces that reflect the characteristics of his cocktails. As expected, the dial is where the performance happens. Take for example, the first ever Cocktail Time, reference SARB065. It was released in 2010 and quickly became somewhat of a cultural icon. What sets it apart from the other Presage models, is the striking cool blue dial which features strong guilloche lines. Put this piece on the wrist and it screams, no, it demands respect. It also captures and plays with any forms of light that if one were to sit suavely in a dim lit room, you could bet that the watch would compete with the attractive jazz singer for the lovingly gazes of the guests.
Obviously, I’m biased. Unless you’re calloused to emotional writing, you may not be able to tell that I adore these. I’m sure that I can’t be the only one to think this, but the main reason why I love the Cocktail Time collection is for the intricate dial work. Since the SARB065’s release in 2010, Seiko have added newer models that veer away from the familiar sunray-like guilloche patterns. You now have models that feature hammered looking patterns, some mimicking the fallen leaves of the cherry blossom flowers, or even a honeycomb!
The attention to detail on these dials I dare say, would almost rival that of Grand Seiko. I personally just love the connection these watches have to the coolest bars in Japan. When I strap a Cocktail Time on, I’m immediately transported to an environment of culture, interesting people and delicious drinks. So, part of the experience is not just “savouring” the beauty of these watches, but the emotions that they convey. I might add, that I seem to get the most remarks from both watch and non-watch enthusiasts alike when I wear my Cocktail (not that I’m fishing for compliments). I guess… that’s saying something right?
Affordable for new and seasoned watch collectors
Forget the snobs out there who stupidly tell you that you need to spend a month’s salary to get a good watch, these models start at 650 AUD (as indicated on the Seiko website at the time I am writing this) and it’s up to you if you want to spend a bit more. Alternatively, you could explore the used market and try to score a deal.
Don’t be fooled by the price. Yes, they are relatively affordable, but that doesn’t mean that you’re buying a cheaply made watch with a plastic quartz movement. No, these watches come equipped with Seiko’s very own work horse automatic movements. And you know what? It’s all made in house.
Some of my personal favourites that you can buy right now
I’d rather not continue explaining why you should buy one or add more to your collection. Instead, let me show you some of my personal favourites.
The first photo is of my own watch, reference SRPD36J, inspired by the Old-Fashioned cocktail. I just adore the amber dial that changes colours according to the light. The rest have been borrowed from Seiko’s Instagram feed. To keep things fun, I’ve listed each reference by the cocktail (or nickname) that inspired them.
The Old Fashioned
The Side Car (photo by Seiko)
The Sky Diving (photo by Seiko)
The Honeycomb (photo by Seiko)
The Geocentric Black Dial (photo by Seiko)
The Mockingbird (photo by Seiko)
The Blue Moon (photo by Seiko)