For the readers of Deployant, Japanese watches should not be a foreign subject to many. Over the years, we have covered quite a fair bit on this subject – in which the products are equally compelling with their European counterparts.
Since we are currently in the midst of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, as well as the fact that we have published two reviews on Japanese watches this week, we feel that it might be a good opportunity to highlight some of the excellent pieces from the land of the rising sun.
As we have mentioned, there were many great watches from Japan that had caught our eyes over the years. We will try to cover as much as possible within this article, across different price points and tiers. There will certainly be some names that are familiar with many, as well as a couple of those who are more obscure but highly-promising as well.
Throwback Sundays: 6 of the most compelling Japanese Watches for your consideration
Well, what have we selected? Let us find out!
Citizen Mechanical Caliber 0200
We begin the article with a brand that is normally not associated with high-end horology: Citizen.
In recent years, Citizen has impressed us with some interesting watches, such as the Chronomaster AQ 4020-54Y – a piece that we believe is one of the best quartz timepieces in the market. The new Mechanical Caliber 0200, which was launched earlier this year, takes it up a notch with a new in-house caliber that was developed in collaboration with their Swiss subsidiary Manufacture La Joux-Perret S.A.. The finishing of the movement was notably par excellence, without any noticeable blemishes. The only drawback is the lack of cosmetic decorations, but it is important to note that the movement is presented in the highest level of engineering finishing. That is pretty remarkable indeed.
Besides its movement, there are a few noteworthy points to mention as well. The textured dial is done nicely, and the angular case (plus integrated bracelet) is well-crafted and looks pretty with alternate finishing. Overall, at S$9,500, this 40mm Citizen offers an interesting alternative in the space of luxury sports watches.
Kurono Chronograph 2
Kurono is a brand that perhaps needs no introduction. Launched by the great master watchmaker Hajime Asaoka, the manufacturer had managed to gain a cult following within two years of its birth.
Besides its signature three-hand watches, the Chronographs are also part of the brand’s repertoire as well. In fact, we have a slight bias towards the Chronographs – considering that it is a much more complicated timepiece with multiple dimensions to it.
The example pictured above is the 38mm Chronograph 2, which is the second iteration of the series. This particular watch features a more vibrant dial colour combination, with hints of black, copper, dark brown, and white. Powering the watch is the mechanical caliber NE86A from Seiko. The overall package is nothing short of excellent, although we expect nothing less since Hajime remains in control of both the design and quality control aspect for the brand.
Priced at JPY 418,000 (approximately S$5,160), the Chronograph 2 is a piece that offers exceptional value. The only drawback is that the watch is limited to 500 pieces, and all of them have unfortunately been accounted for. Well, perhaps better luck next time for the Chronograph 3.
Seiko Presage Arita Porcelain Dial
Over the last few years, Seiko has stepped up its game with a slew of accessible and incredible timepieces. The Presage Arita Porcelain Dial is no exception to that either.
Introduced in Baselworld 2019, the 40.5mm watch features a stunning porcelain dial from Arita. This is a small town in Japan, with a history of producing fine porcelain for the past 400 years. The end result is a rather special timepiece, with a perfectly smooth dial that showcases the town’s craftsmanship and prowess in making such artistic objects.
The base model (SPB095) is a three-hand timepiece, with an additional date window at the 3 o’clock position. It is priced at €1,750 (approximately S$2,810), and we reckon this is an interesting piece that combines different aspects of art and craftsmanship all together into a beautiful timepiece.
Naoya Hida Type 1B
Amongst the names that we have presented thus far, Naoya Hida is perhaps relatively unknown to many. After all, he is one of the newest independent watchmakers from the country. But do not discount him just yet.
The Type 1B is the eponymous watchmaker’s debut piece, in which it is a simple three-hand watch that embodies Naoya’s ideas of old world charms and aesthetics. There is a huge emphasis on craftsmanship for this 37mm timepiece, especially with its textured dial and hand-engraved Breguet-styled numerals that are filled with synthetic cashew urushi.
Interestingly, the watch is fitted with a modified Valjoux 7750 movement. However, the base movement has been extensively modified – which includes the conversion to a manual-winding caliber, as well as all-new clicks, springs, barrel, and balance bridge.
Priced at ¥1,800,000 (approximately S$22,220), the Type 1B offers collectors a sublime timepiece with the good old touches from the yesteryear. The attention to detail is simply immense, and we believe Naoya is definitely one of the names to look out for in the watchmaking scene.
Masahiro Kikuno Wadokei Temporal Hour
Continuing with the theme of relatively lesser-known Japanese watchmakers, we have Masahiro Kikuno with his intriguing Wadokei Temporal Hour.
While Masahiro-san is not as well-known in the larger scene, he has been making a name for himself since his introduction to AHCI in 2014. Part of this is due to the fact that his watches are mostly handcrafted by himself, with engraving works done by a friend named Keiji Kanagawa.
The Wadokei Temporal Hour is one of Masahiro-san’s earlier creations. The concept is based on the Japanese method of counting Temporal Hours, which is derived from the idea that daylight and night-time have different lengths during differing seasons. Hence, during days with longer daylight, it is depicted on the watch with wider intervals between the hour indices to display the longer passage of time.
Encasing the 43mm x 34mm watch is an oxidised bronze and stainless steel case. In addition, the watch is powered by the in-house manual-winding Caliber MK15, which beats at 28,800 bph. The watch is priced at ¥18,000,000 (approximately S$222,200), and we were told that Masahiro is able to make only 1 example of the Temporal Hour per year.
Seiko Credor Eichi II
We round up the article with perhaps one of the finest watches to come out of Japan: The Seiko Credor Eichi II.
On paper, the Credor Eichi II seems like a simple piece. But this is where it gets interesting. The level of detail on the Eichi II is amazing, with immaculate touches all around. The flawless dial, for instance, is made of porcelain by Noritake – whose clients include the Japanese Imperial family. It is then painted by the artists at Seiko’s Micro Artisan Studio.
And then we get to the movement. The Caliber 7R14 is the pièce de résistance of this watch, with finishing techniques done at the highest level possible. These techniques include convex bevelling, engraving, flame-blued screws, anglage, and linear brush finishing.
The 39mm Eichi II is priced at ¥4,300,000 (approximately S$53,080) for the platinum variation. We do love the purity of this piece, with the fine details being done at the highest level. If you have the means to afford one, we do reckon it is a highly compelling addition to any respectable collection.
Today’s article consists of a sizeable range of Japanese-made watches – from the likes of Seiko and Citizen, to the lesser-known independent watchmakers such as Naoya Hida and Masahiro Kikuno. Even for the former, we are looking at some of the more unusual pieces as well. There is certainly a great variety of well-made pieces from Japan.
One interesting thing to note about Japanese watchmaking – especially on the higher-end tier – is the emphasis on craftsmanship. Many of these watches have great attention to detail, with intricate finishing techniques. There are some that went ahead further, with a great amount of work done by hand. This is perhaps due to the Japanese culture, where the people take great pride and respect for their crafts and trade. This certainly shows in their work, as we have seen from some of the timepieces above.
Additionally, we also like how the Japanese have incorporated different forms of art into their watches. The porcelain dials, as well as the Zaratsu polish, are some highlights of the Japanese art culture and their rich history in these fields. It certainly adds another dimension to their watches, especially when they are placed vis-à-vis with their European competitors.
Beyond the six watches that we have showcased today, there are definitely some other honourable mentions as well. The likes of Hajime Asaoka, Norifumi Seki, and Daizoh Makihara are examples of great Japanese watchmakers from the independent watchmaking scene that are worth their salt. On top of that, we believe there are many more of such brilliant craftsmen who have yet to be uncovered, and we are surely keeping tabs on these talents as we progress.
Finally, do let us know your thoughts on Japanese watchmaking, as well as some watches that deserve a spot on this list. Till the next article – sayonara!