A series of hourglass designs

A coffee mill for grinding beans. A trimmer to cut the candlewick. A carving knife to design a Halloween pumpkin Some products are useful for one specific purpose, but lose all its value elsewhere, ending up just taking up space. Yet somehow that strangely becomes the very reason why we develop this attachment and the desire to treasure them. We took this way of thinking - from an entirely different angle - to probe further into the utility of such products and thought why not discover their new value, new ways to enjoy them.

Inscriptus is a series of hourglasses. They are clocks yet their purpose is not to keep time. Rather, they are almost like a stage device that lets you leisurely enjoy and even forget time; in fact, there is no set use. Inscriptus is a Latin word which means the unwritten. So we would like you to enjoy this series in whatever way you see fit. You can keep it for yourself, or give it to someone as a gift.

When you stare at the grains of the sand slowly falling, you can almost forget time. It is a stark contrast to the original function of a timepiece but spending time like this in daily grind feels like finding a bit of treasure. Like finding one fleck of shining stone in each moment, amongst the many identical grains of sand.

You look back on the day and wonder how many times you checked the time. So that you can keep to the rhythm of the society, every minute, every second. To meet someone, to keep the deadline. After madness of the day, you go home late at night or at the end of the week, it is not a bad idea to come home to a clock to forget time as you unwind. Since it does not have a set purpose, it is entirely up to you to choose how you want to enjoy it. It is an open-utility product.

Inscriptus is a Takram project as well as a result of the research into item of inconvenient convenience, the theme set by ifs Future Laboratory.

Main Visual

The Three Hourglasses

Scarab of the Earth, Rainbow in the Sky

Ring of scarab blue and iridescent red

There is a Baccarat ring locked into each chamber. When the sand falls from the top chamber, one ring slowly emerges while the other disappears. A true pair, you can never see both crystals at the same time. Scarabs are dung beetles that walk on the ground and were deified in the Old Egypt. The Iridescent Red symbolizes the rainbow in the sky. Each time you tilt this timepiece, the land and the sky ebb and flow, creating a pattern that dances on the horizon.

Seeing this movement, one woman said, I want to give this as a gift to my daughter. At each milestone, we tilt and enjoy the timepiece. When she becomes an adult, we can take them out and enjoy the rings together.


Twilight Hour

The two-colored sands that paint the sky in the twilight hour

The two sands of soft orange and light blue are the colors that paint the Tokyo sky at a special time of day. Two types of sand with different weights are locked into this timepiece. The two colors separate from one another as they fall through the chamber and beautifully depict the Tokyo sky in the twilight hour. The heavier sand falls in the center and the lighter kind, on the fringe. When you flip and shake the timepiece, the two colors merge to form a unique chaos. But when they reach the ground, the colors, once again, fall to their own places.

These two colors were inspired by the twilight sky seen from the rooftop of Andaz Tokyo. We all have an image of a sky on a particular day we treasure in our memory. Whatever the season, wherever the location, all we can do is hope that we have captured the distinct colors of the sky in a form of a timepiece.


Completion and W.I.P.

A processed precious stone and a freshly-mined stone

The rosy colored crystal is called Rose Quartz. In one chamber, we placed a beautifully polished round stone while in the other, the crystal-shaped raw stone. Rose Quartz is also known as the Stone of Aphrodite. This goddess of love and beauty, also known as Venus, was born with a figure of a grown woman. They say that the clear crystal took on that rosy color with her breath.

When you turn the timepiece upside down, the sand goes back and forth between the forms of completion and work in progress (W.I.P.). Quartz is widely used as the oscillator for precise timekeeping but we intentionally gave it a function contrary to keeping time.



Inscriptus Series is on a tour. After the unveiling at the First Research Result Exhibition for the ifs Future Laboratory held at the WORK WORKSHOP(Aoyama, Tokyo) in July 2014, it took part in Art in Design at WALLS TOKYO, an art gallery in Hakusan(Tokyo). From this winter it is expected to go abroad to take part in various art exhibitions.

Project Information

Project Team

  • Art Direction & Creative Direction: Kotaro Watanabe
  • Support: Isamu Okuda (ex-Takram)
  • Rings: Baccarat Pacific K.K.
  • Special Thanks: Mr. Hiroshi OGAWAMs. Sayori IWATA
Kotaro Watanabe
Context Designer, Project Director

Related Projects

View all projects


Artwork with water-repellent effect exhibited at 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT


Location based data visualisation framework for web

tagtype Garage Kit

Gamepad-like keyboard acquired by MoMA as a permanent collection