“TWELVE” is the model that best represents him.
Sep 22, 2021
Naoto Fukasawa, one of Japan’s leading product designers, began working with the ISSEY MIYAKE WATCH Project in 2005 with the launch of “TWELVE”.
“Watch design is a specialized field. When I joined Seiko Epson Corporation in 1980, I was shocked to learn that in watch design, 1 mm is equal to 100 units of measurement, and 1 unit is 1/100 of a millimeter. There are no other product designs created with this level of precision, so it was a great experience for me. For this reason, I was able to undertake the request from the ISSEY MIYAKE WATCH Project as a ‘professional watch designer.’ ISSEY MIYAKE’s clothes are special, so I wanted to create a watch that would express the ISSEY MIYAKE brand itself. I aimed to create a design that would allow people to feel and share the image of the brand, rather than being confined to the so-called ‘world of watches.’”
In the 80’s, when Fukasawa started his career as a watch designer, watches were indispensable for daily life as practical items, but nowadays, they are becoming something rather special. What did he consider as a designer when confronting the changing role of watches?
“It has been said that a watch is ‘the only machine you can wear.’ Today, we have smartphones as a tool to tell the time, but still, the watch is the only machine that is worn. Furthermore, watches are more than just a way to tell the time, they are also an accessory and a luxury item. If it were just a machine, it could be designed according to its function, but that is not enough for a watch. In order for it to fulfill its role as an accessory, it is necessary to create a clear concept and pursue an appropriate form. In addition, working with a fashion brand requires a different perspective on watch design. This is something we needed to understand. I think we were able to realize our endeavor to express a stylish idea within a small space with the launch of ‘TWELVE’ in 2005. I think it was a bit of an out-of-the-box surprise.”
As of 2020, Fukasawa had released three watches for the ISSEY MIYAKE WATCH Project, “TWELVE” in 2005, “TRAPEZOID” in 2006, and “GO” in 2011, but he says that “TWELVE” is the model that best represents him.
“At the time, I was thinking of a design that would not be immediately noticeable, but would surprise people. For ‘TWELVE’, instead of using indexes, I made the glass and inside of the bezel a dodecagon. In addition, I designed the minute hand with the ISSEY MIYAKE logo on it. Coming from a watch company, I understand that it is not an easy task to commercialize such a design. In order to complete a watch, it is important for both the technology and the design to be in harmony, rather than compromising on one or the other. If you say, ‘Make it exactly as I’ve designed,’ you are just being selfish. I designed this watch while judging the level of practicality. But later, I heard that it was still quite a challenge to produce. For example, the dodecagonal glass was not only difficult to process, but also difficult to make water resistant, and the minute hand was made thicker in order to fit the logo on it, but this would require more torque from the movement to turn the hands, so the material of the hands was changed to make them lighter. It’s a simple design, but for those who have a good understanding of watches, it is actually something so difficult to develop that it would make them want to say, ‘No way!’”
At first appearance it looks like a simple watch with no index, but then at a certain moment, you realize that the dodecagonal shape of the glass is the index. That surprise is the joy of “TWELVE”. That’s why it remains popular even 15 years after its launch.
(Interview = Tetsuo Shinoda)
Born in Yamanashi Prefecture in 1956. Having worked at Seiko Epson and ID Two (now IDEO San Francisco) and establishing and heading up IDEO’s Tokyo office, Fukasawa went independent in 2003 and established NAOTO FUKASAWA DESIGN.
Fukasawa has established a reputation for his quietly powerful designs and philosophies embodying human sentiment, and he has collaborated with numerous international companies and brands. His designs span a wide variety of fields, from precision electronic equipment to furniture, interior spaces and architecture.
Fukasawa is the recipient of numerous design awards, and has been accorded the title of Royal Designer for Industry (Royal Society of Arts). He was awarded the Isamu Noguchi Award in 2018. He is a professor at Tama Art University. He is also the curator of The Japan Folk Crafts Museum.