This is why Norifumi Seki looks set to become the Next Big Thing in watchmaking This is why Norifumi Seki looks set to become the Next Big Thing in watchmaking

This is why Norifumi Seki looks set to become the Next Big Thing in watchmaking

Thor Svaboe

Last week it happened again. I was standing in line at a coffee shop and, of the seven people queuing, I was the only one wearing a proper watch. There were four naked wrists, one Garmin and one Apple Watch constantly buzzing and flashing. Now if we have any chance of turning this sad situation around we desperately need an injection of youth into the watchmaking industry. Is Norifumi Seki the answer?

Yes, that’s serious pressure laying the entire future of the watchmaking industry on just one man. But hear me out. How many independent Japanese watchmakers do you know? In addition to Hajime Asako and his Art Deco panache, you’d be hard pressed to find many, which is one of the reasons why this story is important, especially considering the enormous power of the Asian marketplace in horology. So who is Norifumi Seki? Hailing from Tokyo and still only 23, he attended the Hiko Mizuno Jewelry College and burst onto the international scene last year as the first Asian to win the esteemed F.P Journe Young Talent Competition.

Seki’s delicate Model II is the precursor to the pocketwatch that won that competition and is a brilliant example of quirky handmade horology, where we already can see the early signs of this watchmaker’s idiosyncratic flair.

Model II

Photo: Hodinkee Japan

The case body is round and smooth like a Laurent Ferrier pebble, but with a charming lug design where the lugs themselves are not fixed, but hinged to fixed smooth case ends, lending the watch a distinctive language and an extra degree of comfort. Instead of choosing a case and hands provided by the College, Norifumi Seki opted for the challenge of producing his own, and included the school-award winning movement Seki presented in his component finishing class. Classic flourishes abound on the dial with the outer steel-brushed chapter ring which, together with the inner hour chapter ring and the eye-catching detail of a seconds register at 9, are all hand-finished separate pieces. The proportioned and sharp spear hands are heat blued, completing a balanced picture of Japanese craftsmanship.

Spherical Moon Phase Display Pocket Watch

If ever I lusted for a pocket watch, this would be it and, well, it is.  This is the winner of the hotly contested F.P. Journe Young Talent Competition – a heady mix of haute horlogerie with a pinch of steam punk luxe through those exquisitely hand-crafted details. The traditional shape of the gold case and intricate work on the crown, frames a silvery white guilloche dial surface with a host of details dominated by the unusual moon phase complication.

As a regulator design, the hours, minutes and seconds are displayed separately with unmarked, gold-plated brass chapter rings demarcating the seconds and hours at 10 and 2, while an off-centre narrow chapter ring intersects these two marks with those blued spear hands. The date windows have a Lange touch to them in size and layout, though are unusually crafted from vertical steel drums. This date complication was, according to Seki, more difficult to produce than the spherical wonder of the moonphase complication.

And it’s that moonphase that really captures your attention. It seems to float within its circular frame and, with a 20mm thickness, constitutes the need for a 28mm case. This sphere brings a welcome touch of 21st century metallurgy comprising of a mix of gold-plated titanium and blued titanium. F.P. Journe noted that this layout was indeed something he had never seen before – we’ll take that as high praise indeed.

Through these two models and the award, we can only wait in eager anticipation for what Norifumi Seki conjures up next. He is currently working as a watchmaker for the Eguchi Watch Store in Tokyo with more than 10 new ideas on his drawing board. Make no mistake, this guy is one to watch.

Follow Norifumi Seki on instagram right here at @aysopos_jal. (I certainly will, with baited breath.)