For the past few months I've been dreaming about Haruo Suekichi's steampunk-ish watches. Just type his name into my searchbar and you'll find a few posts about his work :)
Well, today I got to meet the man!
As I mentioned earlier, I went to the Tom's Studio store in Yoyogi Uehara. The original plan was to buy one or two of Suekichi-san's watches, so I could have a wonderful souvenir to this dream trip. Unfortunately, it seems that the four dozen watches that are on display are actually meant for that: a showcase of his work. I was told that he has many fans in Japan and that they'd snap up most of his watches faster than he'd be able to make them. And since he wants to take things easily, they're only selling one or two watches at a time.
Because the store clerk didn't speak english, he called over a colleague, while I was taking a look at the watches. And while I was talking to this friendly lady (I hope I didn't take up too much of her time) he also called Suekichi-san over! The phone call must've started out with something like: You wouldn't believe who's asking for your work at our store! ^_^
All three of them were very surprised that:
A) Suekichi-san has many fans in Europe and America too
B) I came over to Tokyo, from the Netherlands, just to visit their store
Anywho... Over a cup of coffee (Haruo ran to the vending machine around the corner) I managed to learn a few very interesting things about his work...
* The article in Chief Mag that originally made him famous abroad, came into existence by pure coincidence. One of their employees saw one of Suekichi-san's watches in another Tom's store, bought it and got all of his coworkers enthused.
* Originally, the watches were meant as interesting objects for daily use. They'd be very functional, but also look good. Over the years, it's become more "form over function", so Suekichi-san's been letting go in the designs :)
* A few of his watches may look outlandish, but are based on very basic ideas from daily life. Take the watch I bought for example: it's meant to store one's Suica card in an easily accessible manner. By making a little frisbee-throwing movement, the wallet with the card pops out, so you can hold it up to the machine.
* My absolute favourite watch may look functional, but that wasn't its purpose. I mean sure, it's great to have coins at the ready for your trip to the vending machine. But the original idea came from the Japanese TV show Zenigata Heiji, in which the protagonist disables criminals by knocking them out with coins. Here's the show's opening on YouTube.
* Some watches are just meant to be fun :) There's one that looks a bit like a gaslight (I cannot find the picture just now), that's Suekichi-san's "idea lamp". Whenever he runs out of inspiration, he can strap on the watch, snap his fingers and get an idea! The watches internals consist of an accelerometer, a light and a speaker. Snapping your fingers (thus twitching the watch) will result in the light illuminating, with a "sproi-oi-oing" sound coming from the speaker ^_^
* While watchmaking is usually associated with exact science, Suekichi-san usually takes a freehand approach. He confided in me that he was never very good at math (after hearing that I'm going to be a maths teacher) and that he never calculates any of his work beforehand. It's all made up as he goes.
It was absolutely awesome to get the chance to talk to Suekichi-san. He's a friendly, yet slightly bashful man who will gladly talk about his projects. He's also quite tall, compared to the average Japanese man :) Suekichi-san also gave me a copy of the Time Magazine issue that he appeared in as an omiyage. I just hope it wasn't his only copy of the mag -_-; I really ought to have brought one of my sets of omiyage along for the trip.
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All content, with exception of "borrowed" blogpost images, or unless otherwise indicated, is copyright of Thomas Sluyter. The character Kilala the cat-demon is copyright of Rumiko Takahashi and used here without permission.