5 minutes

An Interview With Hiroshi Fujiwara

By Tetsuya Suzuki

Hiroshi Fujiwara and the Chrono24 limited edition watchcase

Chrono24 has collaborated with Hiroshi Fujiwara, a world-class creative and avid Chrono24 user, to create a limited-edition watch case to mark Chrono24’s 20th anniversary. This exclusive interview, conducted by Tetsuya Suzuki, former editor-in-chief at online publisher honeyee.com, zones in on Fujiwara’s views on watches.

– What first ignited your interest in watches, Mr. Fujiwara, and when did that moment happen?

Fujiwara: I think I first started noticing watches when I was in junior high school. Seeing James Bond wearing a Seiko digital watch as 007 left a lasting impression on me. That was in the late 1970s. But I suppose that digital watch would be better described as a spy gadget.

– So James Bond was the catalyst for your interest in watches?

Fujiwara: Nowadays, if you talk to watch enthusiasts about James Bond’s watches, there’s a strong association with the Rolex Submariner on a NATO strap that appeared in the earlier films. I became familiar with such details around the age of 20, so in the mid-1980s. Back then, it seemed that every Rolex sports watch with a black dial and bezel was thought of as the “James Bond model.”

– Was this around the time you started to develop an interest in Rolex?

Fujiwara: That’s right. At that time, Rolex was seen as a symbol of wealth due to the bubble economy, and the combination of yellow gold and stainless steel on the Datejust was in vogue. However, I was influenced by the James Bond connection I mentioned earlier, so my first purchase was an Air-King with a black dial. After that, I bought a vintage Rolex Submariner. As we entered the 1990s, some friends and I focused more on the details of the brand, commenting on just how fascinating Rolex watches are [laughs]. Thanks to these lessons with my friends, I gradually began to learn things like “The Submariner, Daytona, and Air-King are all part of the same sports watch category in the Rolex catalog.” This made me even more fond of Rolex. At the time, the models produced from the 1930s to the 1950s, known as Bubble Back Rolexes, were popular among vintage watch enthusiasts. Meanwhile, we were specifically interested in vintage Rolex sports watches.

– It wasn’t as easy to find information about watches at the time, since the Internet was not widely available, right?

Fujiwara: That’s absolutely right. That’s why I started ordering watch auction catalogs in the mid-90s from places like Sotheby’s. As I pored over them, I began to learn about the existence of rare models, like the GMT-Master with a brown dial, also known as the Root Beer.” This eventually led to me buying watches at auction. During that time, auctions at Sotheby’s and Christie’s were primarily for dealers, making it more cost-effective than buying from boutiques. Sometimes I would visit auction houses if I was abroad, but I usually placed bids via fax from Tokyo. I was therefore accustomed to ordering watches from overseas and using platforms like Chrono24 without any reservations. I think I also bought my first Paul Newman Daytona through a Sotheby’s auction in the late 90s. I remember thinking, “This will probably be the last watch I’ll ever buy,” but it turned out that was just the beginning [laughs]. Somehow, with watches, even when you think “This is the last one,” you soon find yourself wanting another. You keep discovering subtle changes made to the technical specifications of certain models during different eras, or the existence of rare models, one after another. And not just Rolex! I later discovered that Omega, for example, had a Speedmaster with Snoopy on it [laughs]. Of course, more complicated watches like those from Patek Philippe have their own unique charm and romance, and the more you delve into the watch world, the more you learn about the depth and complexities that watches offer.

– You mentioned participating in auctions abroad. Do you also network with people in the international watch community?

Fujiwara: Around the latter half of the 90s, I got to know some international watch dealers through auctions. However, what’s much more fascinating than interactions within the watch community is the fact that you can get a sense of a person just by looking at their watch, even if you’re meeting them for the first time. Regardless of whether someone is a watch enthusiast or not, you can catch a glimpse of their personality through their choice of timepiece.

– So you would say that watches represent a person’s identity?

Fujiwara: Yes, but when I think about international dealers, I realize that watches are also viewed as portable “assets.” I feel that this perspective is one of the more fascinating and profound aspects of watches.

– What are your favorite watches right now, or the ones you wear most often?

Fujiwara: I still love Rolex sports watches, but personally, I prefer somewhat smaller watches with case sizes around 3639 mm. This means that watch trends are moving away from my personal taste right now, so I naturally find myself wearing older watches. Still, I am not specifically fixated on vintage pieces. After all, the 39-mm TAG Heuer Carrera that I designed [the Carrera Calibre Heuer 02 by fragment design Hiroshi Fujiwara] contradicts current trends.

– There seems to have been some overlap between the fashion scene and the luxury watch market in recent years. It looks like you’re taking a leading role in driving these trends through various collaborations. What’s your take on this?

Fujiwara: Watch brands tend to frame these collaborations as creative endeavors, but I believe there is also a business-related intent to explore new markets. Many of these collaborations also seem to be more conscious of the hip-hop market rather than the wider fashion market. In fact, you see some rappers wearing diamond-studded watches worth tens of millions of dollars during their performances.

– Do you think there’s an affinity between hip-hop culture and the luxury watch market?

Fujiwara: Personally, I think watch brands expect me to come up with designs that have a strong and impactful hip-hop-inspired luxury feel. That’s why I sometimes think that they’ll be disappointed when they see the final design I’ve come up with [laughs].

– In your collaborations with watch brands, your design concept seems to be consistent, enhancing the inherent strengths of the brand while highlighting its best qualities. In other words, you avoid overemphasizing your own “Hiroshi Fujiwara style and let the design speak for itself.

Fujiwara: In a way, not overdoing it is the essence of the “Hiroshi Fujiwara style.” I’m not sure if the brands I work with fully understand that [laughs]. However, personally, I believe that collaborations between artists, fashion designers, and luxury watch brands will continue to increase in the future.

– And now, fragment design has created an exclusive watch case to celebrate Chrono24’s 20th anniversary.

Hiroshi Fujiwara and the Chrono24 limited edition watchcase
Chrono24 limited edition watchcase designed by Hiroshi Fujiwara

Fujiwara: This watch case is based on the one I use, so it’s very practical. It holds two watches and even has space for some small tools. I often use it when I send my watches in for servicing.

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About the Author

Tetsuya Suzuki

Founding editor-in-chief of honeyee.com and former representative director of Honeyee.com, Inc. Since stepping down in 2017, he has been providing consultation and creative direction services for various companies and brands.

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