Japanese watchmaking has only recently started to look beyond the merely technical and embrace the artistic crafts of its nation’s ancient culture, something I suspect has been driven by the increasing, and equally recent, importance of international customers.
While we’re all fairly well-versed in the plethora of venerable métiers d’art techniques that have been employed in Western watchmaking for a few centuries their Japanese equivalents are often far, far older.
Urushi lacquering, for instance, is thought to have been first developed 9,000 years ago, originally to seal bowls and drinking vessels before becoming appreciated for its uniform, high gloss decorative finish, which these days makes it a great option for dials.
Watchmaker Minase was only established in 2005, the spin-off of tool-cutting and case maker Kyowa, so can’t lay claim to that kind heritage but has employed a similar technique for the dial of its latest watch, the Divido Urushi Silver Maki-e.
Maki-e is an extension of Urushi, which fixes powdered precious metal in between coats, allowing intricate paintings of gold or silver to be formed and preserved.
To create the dials of the new Divido model, Minase has drafted in Kyoto-based Urushi artisan Megumi Shimamoto. Each dial starts with a copper blank that is coated in a traditional layer of black Urushi, before the lacquer cures a dusting of silver powder is applied. Once cured the silver is seal underneath a further coat of Urushi, this time a mix of transparent and blue lacquers. The process is then repeated before the dials are polished to exposed the silver.
Given the number of layers, materials and colours involved in the process, not to mention the fact that it is carried out by hand, this is almost certainly one of those dials that will vary massively in appearance depending on the available light.
Even without such a complicated handcrafted element, there is certainly a lot to take in with the Divido. Its dial alone has four distinct levels and seems to be constructed of as many components, then there are those show stopping, wedge-shaped lugs which overlap the bezel and boast a mix of satin and polished facets. The design bears all the hallmarks of the 1960s, when watch design experimented freely with wild geometry and floating elements.
Not that you’ll notice it from these images of the Divido (they focus on the creation of the dial) it is probably worth mentioning the Divido’s trademark conceit, which sees its movement mounted inside a case within the 40.5mm external case, leaving voids on all four sides and offering the sense that the movement is floating.
The Divido uses a Swiss ETA 2824 movement but Minase has made a really nice job of customising to their own aesthetic setting it inside a black internal case with perlage on the bridges and a black automatic winding rotor stamped with the Minase drill bit logo, a reference to the origins of its parent company.
Price & Specs:
Model: Minase Divido Deep Blue Urushi Silver Maki-e
Case/Dial: 40.5mm diameter x 12mm height, stainless steel, domed box type sapphire crystal, sapphire case back
Water Resistance: 50m (5 bar)
Movement: Calibre KT7001/1, automatic, 25 jewels
Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz)
Power Reserve: 38h
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date at 3 o’clock
Strap: Synthetic rubber or stainless-steel bracelet with folding clasp
Price/Availability: CHF 5,350 (without tax) on rubber strap
CHF 6,470 (without tax) on stainless steel bracelet
More details at Minase.