Watchmaking has quite the cutthroat world. The lion’s share of attention falls mostly on European brands. However, Japan has a lot to offer. After all, Japan was the center of the development of the quartz movement that had sent the entire Swiss watch industry into a tailspin during the 1970s.
A new generation of Japanese watchmakers exists in the 21st century and beyond. These watchmakers have been perfecting their craft for quite a while. Who are they? They are:
To the typical commuter, 39-year-old Masahiro Kikuno is a simple guy. He dresses in all-black same, traditional Japanese clothing. He rides a bike every day to work. However, despite his good manners and very amiable nature, his true passion lies in the horological art.
Kikuno graduated from the three-year watch-repair course at Tokyo’s Hiko Mizuno College of Jewelry in 2008. After graduation, he stayed a year behind to produce his first watch from scratch.
“Just by myself, to make my watch, by trial and error,” Kikuno shared. He had built his first watch from scratch. He also learned from trial and error and used the school’s equipment and tools. He had also picked up George Daniels’s seminal tome, Watchmaking, and studied it intently with an English-Japanese dictionary. From there, he moved on to making watches and developed a keen precision in crafting.
Kikuno produces one (1) to two (2) watches yearly, relying on his precise skill and attention to detail. When his business turned ten (10) years old, Kikuno released 18 watches for 17 customers. He has already made eight models but has sold only four. Right now, he is currently holding back the others as prototypes.
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For Naoya Hida, the perfect watch is still hard to find. He had worked for over 30 years in the luxury industry in Japan. His work had also been involved in the planning and designing limited-edition Swiss timepieces for the Japanese market. He had believed maybe his watch was Swiss, but it was not. It forced him to face reality: give up or produce his ideal watch. He chose the latter.
Now at 59, he and Kosuke Fujita joined forces. Fujita was someone Hida had met when they had worked at F.P. Journe. With engraver Keisuke Kano, Hida and Fujita established Naoya Hida & Co. in Tokyo in 2018. All of them shared a common dream: to attain perfection.
The company’s designs offer vintage model-inspired watches with a contemporary flavor. What gives the watches the modern flavor is their 37mm size. The watches marry advanced and ultra-high-precision machining with Kano’s hand-engraved components. According to Hida, some customers thought the style was Zen and minimalist, perhaps because he was from Kyoto.
Daizoh Makihara combines European haute horlogerie craftsmanship with Japanese techniques, such as the 18th-century glass-cutting practice edo-kiriko, to create his intricate, sculptural dials. This Japanese Watchmaker hard work had rendered him triumphant. In April, he had come from a Masters of Horology event in Geneva triumphant. His second model, the Kacho Fugetsu, had earned plaudits. He had also earned membership in AHCI, a major for watchmakers.
With the edo-kiriko technique, artisans used a diamond sharpener to slice the patterns freehand. Makihara’s first model, the Kikutsunagimon Sakura, was the first watch to incorporate the technique. For the rest of the process, Makihara did everything else by himself. He worked from his one-room atelier in Saitama. Learn why you should have a smart watch here.
Up to now, Makihara has remained busy. Until March, he has to complete three (3) more orders of his first model. After that, he has to continue working on the new model.
Japanese watchmaking still has a lot of promising new names. Although they may be from the independent scene, no one can deny the precision and talent there.
Luther Abrams is quite a jack-of-all-trades type of guy. He loves exploring new things and cultivating his knowledge every now and then. Today, he grows more and more interested in jewelry and watches and even writes about such things in his free time.
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