The “Red Special” Collaboration Between Seiko and Brian May Will Rock You

Last year, Seiko made some serious waves with a major relaunch of their Seiko 5 Sports line. Seiko 5 has been an enthusiast favorite for years, but the 2019 relaunch was aimed squarely at the mainstream, with an aggressive price point, plenty of options, and wide availability at major US retailers. Now, just months after the new Seiko 5 Sports watches began appearing in stores, Seiko is introducing a special edition version with Queen guitarist Brian May. Now, while that may at first blush seem to be an unlikely partnership, there are actually plenty of key parallels between Seiko and May that make this collaboration genuinely interesting.

Seiko 5 Sports “Red Special” Brian May Limited Edition

  • Case Material: Stainless steel
  • Dial: Red
  • Dimensions: 42 x 13.4mm
  • Crystal: Hardlex
  • Water Resistance: 100 meters
  • Crown: Push/pull        
  • Movement: 4R36
  • Strap/bracelet: Nylon
  • Price: $621 
  • Reference Number: SRPE83K1
  • Expected Release: Available now 


The “Red Special” Seiko 5 Sports that we have here is based on May’s famous guitar with the same moniker. As Queen fans know, this isn’t any ordinary guitar. May built the guitar largely by hand with his father in the early 60s, using wood taken from a 100 year old fireplace, and a mahogany veneer that May stained and polished himself nearly 60 years ago. This guitar has accompanied May throughout his musical career and has become something of a signature. 

While perhaps lesser known, another object that has traveled the world with May is his personal Seiko dive watch, which he bought while touring Japan in the 70s. Guitars and watches have an obvious connection in that they are both, potentially, finely crafted objects, made to last a long time, with a certain heirloom quality to them. They both mark time and pick up stories of their owners in different ways. 

The Red Special Seiko 5 is, naturally, dominated by a bright red dial with a slight gradient effect at the 6:00 end. A black accent stretching from 8:00 to 11:00 mimics the curves and color scheme of May’s guitar, and gives the dial a unique, asymmetrical flair unlike anything else in the Seiko 5 Sports line. The watch comes in a presentation box that’s meant to look like a guitar case, and nylon strap is modeled after May’s guitar strap. 

Part of the appeal of the new Seiko 5 Sports line is the wide range of styles that could conceivably appeal to almost anyone. While there are some oddball or niche designs in the collection, the Red Special is a different animal altogether, with it’s specific tie to a single celebrity musician. While there are no doubt enough Queen fans worldwide to justify the production of the Red Special, I think Seiko deserves some kudos for bringing this kind of hyper-specific special edition to what is essentially their entry-level line. Many saw the influence of the modding community present in some of the more offbeat Seiko 5 Sports designs, and that kind of creativity is certainly represented in this limited edition as well.

Technically speaking, the watch is identical to the Seiko 5 Sports watches introduced last year. The movement hacks and hand-winds, the case is water resistant to 100 meters, and, somewhat controversially, the rotating dive bezel lacks a lume pip at 12:00. While many in the Seiko community were upset that the Seiko 5 Sports (essentially the replacement for the much loved SKX007) lacked the dive pedigree of prior watches, this piece is a very specific limited edition, and shouldn’t be evaluated as a pure tool. 

The Red Special edition of the Seiko 5 Sports watch is available now, and limited to 9,000 units. Seiko

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Zach is a native of New Hampshire, and he has been interested in watches since the age of 13, when he walked into Macy’s and bought a gaudy, quartz, two-tone Citizen chronograph with his hard earned Bar Mitzvah money. It was lost in a move years ago, but he continues to hunt for a similar piece on eBay. Zach loves a wide variety of watches, but leans toward classic designs and proportions that have stood the test of time. He is currently obsessed with Grand Seiko.