San Francisco-based accessory company TOKYObay was born when Dory Isaacs, a British art and fashion design major, met Jun Kobayashi, a bass-guitarist and product enthusiast, as the two were passing through Toronto. Though from eclectic backgrounds and cultures, the two saw in one another what Isaacs calls “a great symmetry of aesthetic choices,” and knew they had to collaborate in some way. In 1991, the watch and accessory design company TOKYObay was founded.

Named for the partners’ geographical circumstances – Kobayashi’s hometown in Japan and Isaacs’ adopted home of the Bay Area – TOKYObay’s products reflect their international backgrounds and the complementary interests and skills of the two. Though Kobayashi continues to reside in Toronto, the company is stationed in a tidy and airy warehouse in SF’s South of Market area, just a couple of blocks from the heart of the city’s burgeoning Design District. Isaacs and Kobayashi, the company’s sole designers, consult via Skype every day, and frequently travel to Asia and elsewhere, gathering inspiration and materials for their products. Together they create watches, handbags and jewelry that exude a unique and recognizable aesthetic, which Isaacs calls “that British-Japanese mix.”

“We take a lot of inspiration from what happens in Japan,” says Issacs. “Right now we’re working with a woven fabric cord (or obijime) we found near Kyoto—It was historically used in Samurai attire, and is still used with Kimono dressing.” As for Isaacs’ culture, she says, “English people generally like ‘old’ things, and I am a confirmed flea-marketer in my heart… I’m constantly looking for some way to give a nod to the styling of previous eras, from the ‘20s through to the ‘80s.”

The duo’s products speak of that serendipitous melding of aesthetics. Though diverse and impossible to categorize, TOKYObay products generally involve strappy, minimal urban profiles detailed with old-world treatments, such as watch cases tinted with rose gold or sepia-toned metal plating, worked European leather or lushly-hued obijime straps, and vintage-looking faces and dial sets. For Spring 2013, Kobayashi and Isaacs have trained their sights on petite profiles (whether in watches or handbags) an Art Deco influence, and non-watch accessories for men.”

Their modern-global-retro look has caught on with a fashion-conscious set looking for distinctive accessories that come with a mid-level price tag. And while Dory believes TOKYObay is “still a bit of a secret little company,” she also allows that, “essentially, if there’s a cool, design-choice store in your city, we’re usually in it.” Because TOKYObay watches are so clearly fashion accessories, the advent of time-telling mobile phones hasn’t been a concern, and in fact the company has found expanding success in the fashion-forward accessory niche. With retail outlets across the US as well as in Europe and Asia, placement in lifestyle catalogue shops like Garnet Hill and Anthropologie, and, perhaps most exciting to Isaacs, a collaboration with London fashion giant Liberty in the works, it looks like TOKYObay’s secret is out.

Text by Megan Bates