This may come as a surprise to many but Brian May, the legendary guitarist of rock band Queen, has worn Seiko's diver (believed to be a Ref. 7548-7010) for more than 40 years now. The Japanese brand now honors the musician’s legacy with a limited edition Seiko 5 diver’s watch that takes inspiration from a guitar that May designed and built in the early 1960s. Meet the Seiko 5 Sports “Red Special” Edition.
May used his ‘‘Red Special’’ Guitar to create the sound that helped make Queen one of the world’s most admired and celebrated rock bands. The guitar was made by hand, with only hand tools. The neck was carved from the wood of a 100-year-old fireplace. The body was made from blockboard with an ancient oak insert, and covered with a mahogany veneer that May stained and polished himself. The innovative tremolo system designed by May featured a hand-carved mild steel rocker plate pivoting on a knife edge, with the pull of the strings balanced by motorcycle valve springs. To complete the job, the tremolo arm was improvised from part of a bicycle saddlebag holder, capped with a piece of a sturdy knitting needle. The Red Special served May on stage and in the studio for over half a century.
There has been much speculation about the exact model that May has worn all these years. After checking with our sources at Seiko, we now know that May still owns a Ref. 7548-7010 for sure. Though this model was first introduced in 1984 and thus contradicts the fact that he’s owned it for 40 years. But we do know that he bought a Seiko diver’s during the first or second tour in Japan (1975 and 1976), so the assumption now is that he might have changed the case once or repurchased a similar design later. The ref. 7548-7010's design codes were adopted by the cult SKX007 which served as the inspiration for the latest Seiko 5 Sports collection that we reviewed some time ago. The “Red Special” now inspires a new Seiko 5 Sports watch whose dial echoes the design of the guitar which Brian and his father built in the early 1960’s.
The watch shares the same case dimensions as the new Seiko 5 Sports models; the stainless steel case is 42.5-mm-wide and 13.4-mm thick. With the recessed crown at 4 o’ clock, it is instantly recognizable as a Seiko and is clearly reminiscent of the popular SKX divers range. Water-resistant to 100 meters, the watch is fitted with a rotating bezel and Seiko’s Hardlex crystal.
The dial has the same red and black color scheme as the ‘‘Red Special’’ and features a delicate wood-like pattern of the body of the guitar. The watch is offered as a limited edition with May’s signature on the caseback and comes with a special presentation box designed on the lines of the Red Special’s custom flight case.
It is powered by Caliber 4R36, an automatic movement used in Prospex models like the Turtle and the Tuna. This is a 3 Hz (21,600 vph) movement with hacking seconds and a relatively short power reserve of 41 hours. The 4R3X series was introduced in 2011 and includes 4R35, 4R37, 4R38, and 4R39 calibers.
“I am delighted to see this watch come alive, and proud that the creation of me and my dad all those years ago has inspired this collaboration. I love my Seiko and it has served me well for many years. I will wear this new one with pride,” says May.
The presentation box also contains a commemorative coin that is based on the sixpenny piece that he has used throughout his career as a plectrum. The watch is presented on a black nylon strap, designed to mirror the strap that Brian now uses on his guitar. Limited to 9,000 pieces, the Red Special is priced at €560.