Saturday, January 8, 2022

Ryo Hazuki's White Timex Watch | Unused Asset

Ryo's trusty Timex watch is a familiar sight to players of the the original Dreamcast and Xbox versions of the first two Shenmue games (although in the Shenmue I & II re-releases, the Timex branding on the dial was replaced with the Sega logo for licensing reasons).

The design was closely based on an actual Timex Expedition T43371, which was released in 1999 just before Shenmue's publication. Hence it did not actually exist at the time of the game's setting of 1986 - something that is not unheard of in Shenmue, with the Sega Saturn at the Hazuki household being one example!

The Timex Expedition (left) served as a model for Ryo's watch in the game (center, right).

The real-life watch is an unusual combination of analogue and digital: the alarm is set by rotating the bezel and triggered by physical contact of wires as the hands move, which triggers an electronic alarm sound.

The game reproduced the watch's appearance very accurately, including the writing on the rotating bezel and around the outside of the watch face. Even the sound of the alarm beep and the Timex patented "Indiglo" backlighting are simulated in the game.

There are some minor differences compared with the real-life version: that the word "Expedition" was not included on the watch face, and the date window has also been removed.

Sega also created a limited-edition Timex as an official item of merchandise at the time when the first game was released. The Shenmue logo was both written on the watch face (below the Timex logo) as well as being impressed on the short strap. Yu Suzuki's "YS" logo was stamped onto the long strap.

The official Shenmue watch came in a presentation box

Wording Variation

Regarding the text on the black circular band that contains English instructions for setting the alarm and time, there are two versions of this that can be found on real Timex watches. The first matches the appearance in the game, while the variant has a couple of subtle differences: firstly, the orientation of the wording differs - facing outwards rather than inwards - and secondly the wording has been expanded to be more descriptive:

  • Inward-facing text version (matching the in-game watch):
  • Outward-facing variant:

The official Shenmue limited-edition version actually uses the variant text which ironically means that the standard T43371 version is slightly closer to Ryo's watch as seen in the game than the official one.


Ryo's White-Faced Watch

Although Ryo's watch in the first two games is the black Timex, an unused model of another Timex watch can be found within the files of the 1999 What's Shenmue demo: a white-faced Timex Expedition:

Unused model of a white Timex on Ryo's arm, from the What's Shenmue disc

Unlike the game's black-dial version, the watch face of this model includes details such as a date window, and "EXPEDITION" lettering under the Timex logo. In general the watch presentation feels unfinished though - the outer bezel for example is roughly formed and lacks curves, and the guide text is not legible. The "INDIGO ALARM" lettering on the bezel is also missing (as spotted by eagle-eyed SkillJim!).

This, too, is based on a real Timex watch model (T43391) that shares the same features as the T43371 but with the white dial face and surround; it also has a different strap design.

Black (left) and white (right) Timex Expedition

The existence this watch among the files of the What's Shenmue demo suggests that the white version was once an alternative (or additional) candidate for Ryo's timepiece.

As a side note, since both variations of the actual watches come with the date display, it would be interesting to learn the reason Yu Suzuki's team dropped it from the watch as implemented in the game: it would seem unlikely to have been a considerable challenge technically for expert developers so it may have been dropped in favor of a cleaner user interface, given that the current date is shown on the loading screens.

Final Comment

Although the appearance of Ryo's watch was altered with the third Shenmue game, personally speaking, the rugged look of the Timex from the first games will always hold a special charm.

From the existence of this unused watch asset, it seems the team had been thinking about a white-dial version. Would you have preferred Ryo to have sported a white Timex, or are you happy with the decision to go with the black-dial version?

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