Time is a very crucial asset in today’s fast paced world. Exacerbated by connectivity, many of us are trapped in the furor of getting to the next location, next step in life, next career move, and have little time to savour the essence of living. Taking pride in one’s work, and having joy in one’s craft are many a times lost in transit. Although, there are instances where we have come across a select few, who embody a respectable passion for their work but have otherwise gone unnoticed.
Today, we begin a series dedicated to people and their craft, drawing inspiration from the world around us and how it relates to watchmaking and Glashütte Original. (From part 1)
In the first article, we introduced local tailor David Gan and the art of tailoring. In part 2, we explored Steinway, and the craft of creating a piano. In the last instalment of this series, we turn to the world of whiskies, in particular a rare artisanal distillery and whiskey maker from Chichibu, Japan.
Ichiro Akuto’s Single Malt Whiskey
Known for his legendary “Playing Cards” series of whiskies from the now-closed Hanyu Distillery, Akuto now makes whisky at his Chichibu Distillery in the foothills of Mt. Kobu, in a town 100 km northwest of Tokyo.
His family has been in the brewery business since 1625. Some 300 years later, in 1941, Akuto’s grandfather set up a new headquarters and factory, Hanyu Distillery. It made a variety of liquors, from pot rum and sake to shōchū and whiskey.
Keeping tradition alive
Akuto’s father continued the family business, and brewed more whiskey, producing about 400 casks of the liquor. But the family business faced an end road in 2000, when Japan’s financial bubble burst saw it being sold off.
Unwilling to let go of his family’s tradition, and with his undying passion for whiskey brewery, Akuto left his salary job and started the Chichibu distillery in 2008.
His small production, artisanal whiskey focuses on traditional production methods. A lean staff of 14, with an average age of 30, the Chichibu distillery is arguably the most respected craft distillery in Japan. Unlike larger distilleries, there is little use of automation. The whiskeys are produced mostly through small-scale, manual, labor intensive processes.
Many are willing to pay hundreds of dollars – and in a few cases into the thousands, for a bottle of single malt from what is Japan’s smallest distillery.
Sharing a similar modern history, Glashütte Original comes from a lineage dating back to 1845, when Ferdinand Adolph Lange began the first watch company in the German silver mining town of Glashütte. The company had its tumultuous share of history, notably, being added up, then broken up, under the “GUB” franchise during the Cold War period. It was only in 1994 that the company was ‘revived’ under the Glashütte Original brand name.
The art of reinventing tradition
While many brands today have evolved into synergistic corporate types that share facilities and procure parts as and when, thus earning the controversial ‘Made in Switzerland’ debate, Glashütte Original is one of the few watch companies today that still manufactures almost everything in-house. From its heated blue screws to its dials, the watch is completely in-house and made in Glashütte.
It prides itself in having its own dial manufactory in Pforzheim, which has the craftsman and technology to create some of the thinnest dials in the world. The dials are on average only 0.8 millimetres “thick” – while mother-of-pearl dials generally combine 0.4-mm-thin metal with 0.4 millimetres of mother-of-pearl.
Mastering new movements
The manufacture caliber 36, used as a foundational movement for the Glashütte Original Senator Excellence Perpetual Calendar is touted to be the future of the manufactory. It possesses a four-day or 100-hour power reserve, the larger mainspring provides greater stability for timekeeping due to the steady power supply which fuels the gear train and thus amplitude of the balance wheel. Compared to the predecessor perpetual calendar, this QP with the caliber 36-02 has double the power reserve of the previous calibre 100.
The movement is thoroughly tested, adjusted and then certified by Glashütte Original. Not just any other test, but one that is said to put the COSC standard to ‘shame’. The Senator Excellence Perpetual Calendar is tested and adjusted in 6 positions, different temperatures and at 4 intermittent stages of power reserve. After a 24-day in-house testing cycle, the watch is certified and the performance of the watch can be tracked via an online portal by the owner.
The ideal gentleman’s timepiece
The Glashütte Original Senator Excellence Perpetual Calendar has been at the center of our walk about town. We have looked at the lives of some incredible individuals, and the art behind otherwise forgotten objects. Through this period, the watch reminds us time and again of how much it is an embodiment of human achievements, as much as it is practical and technically efficient. As a daily wearer, it is excellent in keeping a busy man on his toes, knowing how quickly the days are advancing. Romantically, or rather unromantically, the digital display and moonphase frightens the wearer that time does not repeat itself unlike with a time-only watch. An impetus to keep working and advancing his dreams, the gentleman should think to himself that “even the moon is moving, I cannot be in the same spot”.
Photography & Art Direction by Peter Chong. Models: Chester Lau
Venue: The Writing Club
Special thanks to Tan Soo San
The Writing Club
390 Orchard Road, #02-10 Palais Renaissance, Singapore 238871
Sunday – Monday | 12 noon – 10pm
Tuesday – Saturday, eve of public holiday : 12 noon – 12 midnight
Public Holidays: Reservations only