Horological Rhapsody: Don’t Miss Out On The New Seiko Sports 5 Brian May “Red Special” Limited Edition
The second collaboration between Seiko and Queen guitarist Brian May builds on the collector-hit success of the first collab by offering a one-follows-the-other story as dynamic as the A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races album saga.
Queen axe-man Brian May has a ridiculously impressive list of credentials. Besides being a member of one the world’s best-selling bands of all time, this list includes a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) title, a Ph.D. in astrophysics from Imperial College London, Chancellor of Liverpool University (2008-2013), and a “science team collaborator” on NASA’s New Horizons Pluto mission (among others).
But now, with the release of the second iteration of a limited-edition timepiece based on his signature “Red Special” home-made guitar by Japanese brand Seiko, Brian May can add “multiple watch designer” to his list of unexpected credentials. And it is just as distinctive and harmonious as his guitar work.
Full Disclosure: The very first real rock concert I ever attended was a Queen performance during the A Night at the Opera album tour at my hometown’s AAA ice hockey team’s arena as a pre-teen. And rock concerts have pretty much been all downhill since then for me. But, even if you’re not as familiar with the rest of his discography as you are with May’s scintillating string work from the rousing finale of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” his harmonics and sonic qualities are instantly distinctive, subtle, and unique.
Likewise, this new collaborative limited edition in the Seiko 5 sports watch collection evokes musicality and musical instrument inspiration without hitting you over the head with it.
Variations on a Theme
From a pure design perspective, the new Seiko 5 Sports Brian May Limited Edition (SRPH80K1) is virtually identical to the first Seiko x May collaboration from 2020. But, most notably, this new execution sports a gold-colored 40.5mm case, fittings, and hand and dial details (inspired, according to May, by the new “Gold Series” reissues of his solo albums) as well as a decidedly guitar pick-y transparent red signed case back.
In contrast, the earlier iteration (SRPE83K1) was in an untreated stainless steel case, the dial had more neutral steel detailing, and it sported a clear signed exhibition window. However, like the first collaborative piece, the new striped fabric NATO-style strap of this new version also mimics guitar strings.
But the loaded history and inspiration of the timepiece remain the same: It honors both May’s 40-year reliance on a trusted Seiko dive watch he acquired on tour in Japan in the 1970s and the story of his Red Special guitar.
For the unaware, the Red Special was lovingly constructed by May and his father together in the 1960s, using hand tools and, often, pieces of whatever was laying around their garden shed. For instance, wood for the neck came from an old fireplace, string tension regulated by discarded motorcycle valve springs, and a tremolo arm jerry-rigged from a piece of an old bicycle saddlebag. Yet, the one-of-kind sound from this labor of love helped create one of the most distinctive sonic signatures in the annals of rock-and-roll.
“I am delighted to see this watch come alive and proud that the creation [my dad and I made] all those years ago has inspired this collaboration,” May commented. “I love my Seiko, and it has served me well for many years. I will wear this new one with pride.”
Limited to 12,500 pieces, the dial of the new Seiko 5 Sports Brian May Limited Edition (SRPH80K1) picks up the black-on-red colorways of the guitar as well as the appealing curve of the instrument’s pick plate. Like the original May collaborative timepiece, the dial has a subtle wood grain appearance to make an even stronger visual connection.
Presented in a fun presentation box designed to look like a small guitar “gig case” and priced at $595, it’s both a terrific tribute to a singular talent and a savvy investment (especially when you consider that the SRPE83K1 is going for two to three times the asking price from its launch).