Japanese Independence Watchmakers: The Art of Time

Japan is well-known for its watchmaking industry, especially for its quartz and mechanical movements that power some of the most popular brands in the world. But beyond the mass-produced watches, there is a hidden gem of independent watchmakers who create exquisite timepieces with their own hands and vision. These artisans combine traditional Japanese craftsmanship with innovative techniques and designs, resulting in unique and captivating watches that reflect their personality and culture. In this article, we will introduce you to four of these independent watchmakers, who are producing exciting and exceptional timepieces that are shaking up the horological world.

1. Masahiro Kikuno (https://www.masahirokikuno.jp/watches/temporal-hour-watch/ )



Masahiro Kikuno is a self-taught watchmaker who graduated from the only watchmaking school in Japan, Hiko Mizuno College of Jewelry, in 2008. He decided to stay an extra year to build his own watch from scratch, using a Japanese-English dictionary and George Daniels’s book Watchmaking as his guides. Since then, he has been making one-of-a-kind watches in his home studio in Funabashi, using traditional Japanese tools and techniques.



Kikuno’s watches are inspired by Japanese culture and history, such as the Orizuru, which combines a minute repeater with a moving origami crane automaton at 12 o’clock, or the Wadokei, which features a traditional Japanese timekeeping system based on the seasons and the sun.



His watches are also known for their intricate and elegant details, such as the hand-engraved numerals, the hand-polished cases and hands, and the hand-made dials and movements. Kikuno’s watches are highly sought-after by collectors and enthusiasts, who appreciate his dedication and passion for his art. He only makes about four to six watches per year, each with a different design and concept. His prices range from $50,000 to $300,000.

2. Naoya Hida (https://naoyahidawatch.com/?lang=en )



Naoya Hida is another independent watchmaker who graduated from Hiko Mizuno College of Jewelry, but he had a different career path before becoming a watchmaker. He worked as a designer for Seiko and Citizen, as well as a product manager for Grand Seiko and Credor. He also founded his own brand, Time Module Inc., which produces movements and components for other watch brands.



In 2018, he launched his own brand, Naoya Hida & Co., with the aim of making watches that reflect his personal taste and style. His debut model, the NH Type 1B, is a classic three-hand watch with a date window at 6 o’clock. The watch has a simple but refined design, with a 37mm stainless steel case, a matte black dial with engraved numerals and indices, blued steel hands, and a sapphire crystal. The watch is powered by a modified ETA 2892-A2 movement with an exclusive rotor. Hida’s watches are praised for their high-quality craftsmanship and attention to detail.



He only makes about 10 to 12 watches per year, each with a different dial color or material. His prices start from $16,100.


3.Hajime Asaoka (https://kuronotokyo.com/)

Hajime Asaoka is one of the most renowned independent watchmakers in Japan and the world. He started his career as an industrial designer, but he was fascinated by mechanical watches and decided to teach himself how to make them. He launched his first watch in 2005, the Tourbillon #1, which he made entirely by himself in his Tokyo workshop.

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Asaoka’s watches are characterized by their modern and minimalist design, as well as their technical complexity and innovation. He has made several tourbillon models, such as the Tsunami, the Project T Tourbillon Chronograph, and the Kurono Anniversary Green Mori.

Watch Alert: Kurono Tokyo 2022 Anniversary Grand Mori '森' (read. Sen) -  Scottish Watches

He has also made other complications, such as the Chronograph #1 and the Pulse Meter Chronograph. His watches have won several awards and accolades from international watch magazines and organizations. Asaoka’s watches are very limited and exclusive, as he only makes about 20 to 30 pieces per year. His prices range from $40,000 to $200,000.

4. Kikuchi Nakagawa (https://kikuchi-nakagawa.com/en/watches/)



Kikuchi Nakagawa is a relatively new independent watchmaking company founded in 2018 by Yusuki Kikuchi and Tomonari Nakagawa. Both men are trained watchmakers who worked for Seiko before starting their own venture. They share a common vision of making original and distinctive watches that showcase their skills and creativity.



Kikuchi Nakagawa’s first model is the Ichimonji Murakumo (One Line Cloud), which is inspired by the shape of clouds in Japanese paintings. The watch has a 38mm stainless steel case with a curved bezel and lugs, a white enamel dial with a single blue line at 12 o’clock, blued steel hands, and a sapphire crystal. The watch is powered by a hand-wound movement based on the Seiko 4S27, which has been modified and decorated by the duo.



Kikuchi Nakagawa’s watches are admired for their originality and beauty, as well as their fine finishing and performance. They only make about 10 pieces per year, each with a different dial color or pattern. Their prices start from $12,000.

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