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Knot Designs Make Traditional Japanese Watchmaking Crafts Accessible

Knot Designs ATC-40SVPT Platinum and Urushi

Knot Designs are the brand making custom watches and traditional Japanese craftsmanship affordable, wherever you are in the world It’s no secret these days that Japanese watchmaking is in its ascendency. It’s had some big players for a while now – predominantly Seiko, Citizen and their various offshoot brands – but now smaller, niche watchmakers are gaining global recognition, from haute horology maestros a la Hajime Asaoka to crisply machined independents like Minase.

Maker’s Watch Knot – more colloquially known as Knot Designs – is the latest Japanese brand to start making its presence felt on the international watchmaking stage. Yet rather than focusing on black-polished cases or intensely mechanical movements, its raison d’etre is to bring renowned Japanese craftsmanship to the world at large in collaboration with its MUSUBU Partners, masters of their craft enlisted to create specific elements of Knot Designs’ watches. Dials, straps, there’s a host of intricate, delicate touches incorporated using some of the most ancient of Japanese techniques.

Don’t think that means they have a penchant for over-exclusivity however. Knot Designs is bringing that craftsmanship to the world less with a small number of curated designs and more so by simply letting buyers create the watch they want – and the options are almost daunting. A quartet of differently shaped quartz models, five solar-powered models and a clutch of automatics make for an already well-populated starting point.

Knot Designs Urushi

Knot Designs Urushi, ¥75,000

Indeed, a starting point it is, because for each different shape and layout there’s a host of different dial colours and variations to choose from. Knot’s collection runs the gamut from brightly coloured field watches (the titanium-cased TS-36) to more elegant, classically inspired open-hearted numbers. Perhaps the timepieces that best express what drives Knot Designs however are in the aptly named Japan collection. There’s less customisation available here in terms of overall design, simply due to the fact that these are true pieces of Japanese craftmanship.

Knot Designs Urushi Dial
Knot Designs Urushi Gold Dust

First, we have the Urushi, which uses a technique we’ve discussed before on these pages that utilises a mix of lacquer and gold dust. The process behind it is intense, requiring multiple layers of lacquer that’s then sprinkled with shavings from a gold nugget, creating a unique depth and texture. Grand Feu eat your heart out. The watch itself is available in steel or black PVD, but the centrepiece of that deep crimson dial is always the same – and rightly so.

Knot Designs ATC-40SVPT Platinum

Knot Designs ATC-40SVPT Platinum, JP¥126,500

The second watch in the Japan collection is the ATC-40SVPT, created in partnership with gold leaf expert Hakuichi, the PT standing for Platinum. The dial here is made by stretching platinum to extraordinary thinness – one ten-thousandth of a millimetre, while retaining its luxurious sheen. It’s a technique that the craftsmen of the city of Kanazawa have perfected over the last 400 years and layered on a watch dial, there’s nothing quite like it.

Both these techniques are far more ancient than watchmaking and, although they crop up here and there, are rarefied in the extreme and tend to be more than a little pricey. At first that might seem at odds with Knot’s self-professed mandate to bring Japanese craftsmanship to the world. That is, until you actually look at the prices here.

Knot Designs ATC-40SVPT Platinum
Knot Designs ATC-40SVPT Platinum Dial Close Up

The deep red lacquer of the Urushi will set you back ¥85,000 in its PVD case, which is just over £525. No, we did not miss out a digit. Surely then, the platinum has to be much more expensive, right? Try ¥70,000, just over £430, for the non-chrono version. The chronograph is definitely more expensive, but under £750 isn’t exactly breaking the bank.

Both offer not just Japanese craftsmanship on the dials, but in the movements too. Granted, there are more prestigious calibres than the Miyota 9015 out there, but when you have an affordable, homegrown workhorse available, why look anywhere else? It’s hard to argue with these kinds of results.

More details at Knot Designs.

About the author

Michael Sonsino

As Junior Content Producer for Oracle Time, Michael needs an eye for detail, which makes it a good thing that his twin joys in life are miniatures and watches. While a relative newcomer to the magazine, he's nonetheless a lifelong fan of fine timepieces, especially those of a more historic nature - if it has a twist of Art Deco, all the better.

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