Seiko 5 Contest Winner Makes it into Production

Thanks to Seiko fans in Italy?

Announced by Seiko almost a year ago, the Custom Watch Beatmaker was an online contest to design the brand’s next sports watch. Seiko just unveiled the winner – which has been brought to life as a limited edition – the Seiko 5 Sports Custom Watch Beatmaker 2021.

A surprisingly clean design, the winner has a gold dial circled by a “Pepsi” bezel. It was one of about 50,000 submissions, but it won by a surprisingly large margin of 8.5 million votes out of a 16 million-vote total – possibly due to a group effort by a forum dedicated to Seiko.

Initial thoughts

The Custom Watch Beatmaker contest was in many ways an official acknowledgment of the Seiko “mods” community that pursue aftermarket customisation of Seiko watches. It’s uncommon for a big brand to do so, though the contest was centred on the Seiko 5 Sports, the brand’s entry-level mechanical watch.

But Seiko itself has changed the landscape since the contest was announced in October 2020. The brand has since launched numerous Seiko 5 Sports “crossover” editions featuring Japanese pop-culture themes, resulting in watches far from the average Seiko 5. In comparison, the contest edition seems less special, at least from an aesthetic perspective, since it’s basically rearranged the colours of a few elements instead of being an all-new design.

Still, compared to the regular-production Seiko 5 Sports, the Beatmaker edition stands out. The gold, sunburst dial on a dive-style watch is uncommon, not to mentioned the combination with a red-and-blue bezel. In fact, I found the colours incongruous at first glance, but they actually work well.

More intriguingly, the design appears to have won as a result of a concerted effort by members of an Italian Seiko forum, according to chatter on social media. One of its participants submitted the design, and all members were encouraged to vote. Multiple votes per person were permissible in the contest, which might explain the huge winning margin. Another explanation is that the public appreciates simplicity and bright colours – the winner is a straightforward design in pleasing colours.


Seiko clearly anticipated a large number of submission – over 48,000 was the count – hence the streamlined entry process. Each entry was basically an iteration of five elements of the watch, namely the bezel insert, case, dial, hands, and strap, all chosen from existing parts.

The winning design stuck to basics with a steel case and bracelet that echo the hands. A splash of colour comes from the champagne dial and “Pepsi” bezel. While the obvious inspiration behind this combination might seem to be the ref. 6139 “Pogue” chronograph, its closest historical ancestor is the Seiko 5 ref. 6309-836A, a 1980s model offered in identical colours, according to the Italian forum member behind the winning campaign.

The rest of the watch is a stock Seiko 5 Sports, which means a compact, cushion case with a handy 100 m water resistance, as well as a mechanical movement with a day-date complication.

Key Facts and Prices

Seiko 5 Sports Custom Watch Beatmaker 2021
Ref. SRPH19 (SBSA137 in Japan)

Diameter: 42.5 mm
Height: 13.4 mm
Material: Steel
Crystal: Hardlex
Water resistance: 100 m

Movement: 4R36
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, day, and date
Winding: Self-winding
Frequency: 21,600 beats per hour (3 Hz)
Power reserve: 41 hours

Strap: Steel bracelet

Limited edition: 2,021 pieces
Availability: At Seiko online stores starting August
Price: US$295, or 33,000 Japanese yen

For more, visit


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Bell & Ross Introduces the BR 03-94 Patrouille de France

Timekeepers for the French air force aerobatics team.

Bell & Ross has long supplied timekeepers to various French military and police units, ranging from the bomb disposal team of the national civil defence agency to the tactical unit of the National Gendarmerie, GIGN. The brand was recently tapped to become the official watchmaker to the Patrouille de France, the famed aeronautics team of the Armée de l’Air et de l’Espace, the French Air and Space Force.

To inaugurate the partnership, Bell & Ross has unveiled the BR 03-94 Patrouille de France, a limited edition designed in collaboration with the nine pilots of the aerobatics team. Cased in matte black ceramic, the chronograph has a dial in the colours of the French flag, along with the team logo at six o’clock. It is a 500-piece limited edition available to the public, while team members of the Patrouille de France will be issued with the same watch, but powered by a quartz movement.

Initial thoughts

Bell & Ross has made a variety of air force-unit watches in the past, as have other brands. Breitling, for instance, recently debuted an edition dedicated to the Red Arrows, the aerobatics team of the Royal Air Force.

The Patrouille de France edition, however, stands apart in an important aspect: the members of the Patrouille de France – nine pilots and 35 engineers – are actually kitted out with an almost-identical watch.

Produced in a run of 100 watches, the official-issue team watch is identical to the civilian version featured here, but it has a quartz movement – a necessary concession for cost and perhaps shock resistance. The fact that the team pilots are wearing essentially the same thing makes the Patrouille de France edition pretty cool.

And it helps that the watch itself is good looking – the tricolour dial is appealing – and reasonably affordable.


The Patrouille de France edition is essentially a BR 03-94 with the addition of a rotating bezel and new dial, albeit in good-looking livery.

Mostly blue with accents of red and white, the dial is dressed in the French tricolour. Nearly perfect in its symmetry, the dial is executed in a grained, metallic blue. It features stamped, recessed registers at three and nine, along with the Patrouille de France emblem at six o’clock. A surprisingly discreet date sits in between four and five o’clock – it’s smallish and in the same colour as the dial, allowing it to blend in.

The case is matte black ceramic, rendering it scratch-resistant and non-reflective. Though it might seem large due to the square shape, it’s a wearable 42 mm in diameter.

Inside is the BR-CAL.301, a no-frills and reliable movement that’s actually an ETA 2892 with a Dubois-Depraz chronograph module on top.

The Patrouille de France edition is delivered with both a rubber strap and a fabric band with Velcro closure

Key facts and price

Bell & Ross BR 03-94 Patrouille de France
Ref. BR0394-PAF1-CE/SRB

Diameter: 42 mm
Height: Unavailable
Material: Black ceramic
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 300 m

Movement: BR-CAL.301
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, and chronograph
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Winding: Automatic
Power reserve: 42 hours

Strap: Rubber and additional fabric strap with Velcro closure

Limited edition: 500 pieces 
 Starting end July at Bell & Ross’ online shop, boutiques, and authorised retailers
US$6,400; or 8,800 Singapore dollars

For more, visit


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