Hajime Asaoka Revisits the Kurono Tokyo 34mm Model With New “Calligra” Series

The Japanese independent watchmaker opens up on the process behind the new dial designs.

Watches
1,231 Hypes 0 Comments

You are reading your free article for this month.
Members-only

Hajime Asaoka is perhaps one of the most highly regarded living Japanese independent watchmakers today. Unlike most, Asaoka didn’t come from a traditional watchmaking background and his knowledge of the craft was entirely self-taught. His first prototypal timepiece was the Project T tourbillon, which was also the first-ever tourbillon that was completely Japanese-made. Since then, his creations are also known to be extremely exclusive and limited on top of their exquisiteness, given that every piece is hand-built in his humble workshop in Bunkyo, Tokyo.

As a fine art and design major who graduated from the esteemed Tokyo University of the Arts, the principles for aesthetics as well as an unyielding determination to pursue balance in beauty have been ingrained in him. He was accepted into the Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants (AHCI) back in 2015, an international association for the elites of independent watchmaking – its members include notable names such as François-Paul Journe, Philippe Dufour and Kari Voutilainen.

Although Asaoka has yet to win any accolades, his watchmaking abilities have been acknowledged, as his creations have been shortlisted for the GPHG awards several times since 2020. Even with all the recognition from the horology industry and community, Hajime Asaoka still very much considers himself a product designer today and this sense is naturally reflected in his creations.

In 2018, Hajime Asaoka founded Chrono Tokyo, which was later renamed Kurono Tokyo in the following year after. The subsidiary brand allows Asaoka to continue crafting reliable, chic and fun wristwatches that he can wear every day. In addition to that, these timepieces opened up opportunities to a broader audience of enthusiasts and collectors, complete with prices that are considerably more accessible than Asaoka’s namesake creations.

The affordability aspect has always been in Asaoka’s mind, right from when he received his first mechanical watch. During his junior high school years, Asaoka was gifted a Citizen automatic chronograph by his father, which was an unusual choice as the quartz movement was all the craze then. Because quartz movements were significantly more in demand and popular during the era, Asaoka’s first timepiece had a rather reasonable price point.

Recently, Asaoka has unveiled the latest iterations of the Kurono Tokyo 34mm watch. The model was first conceptualized back in 2022 as a response to Asaoka’s desire to create something that is both waterproof and robust enough for everyday use, hence the compact case size. Aesthetic-wise, the model featured a vintage mood and Art Deco-inspired design.

“This project was the first model of the year because it felt the freshest.”

“This project was the first model of the year because it felt the freshest,” said Asaoka. On the topic of freshness, the new watches do feature a refreshing new look that sets them apart from its forebearers. So far, all 34mm models are classified under the brand’s Special Project series and are coded with sans serif-styled numerals. Whereas, the new models boast a completely new look that utilizes the Calligra type face. “I decided right from the beginning that the hour makers will adopt Breguet-style numerals,” said Asaoka, elaborating on the reason behind this decision was partly due to the difficulties of integrating Arabic numerals onto a circular pattern.

The Calligra font was chosen at the end as it boasted a similar appearance to the style used for Breguet numerals. For Asaoka, it was fundamental for the blueprint to be hand-drawn, just like how Breguet hour markers were produced throughout history. The Kurono Tokyo founder recalled on his calligraphy and lettering training during his art school years for this and underwent copious versions of prototyping before he was satisfied with the final design we see today. “The dial is new this time. The project started in July last year, and I spent almost 7 months just on the dials alone,” said Asaoka.

The new Kurono Tokyo 34mm “Calligra” arrives in three variations crafted and designed with today’s watch enthusiasts in mind. Stark Black and Silver White are presented in a color palette that befits their names, with the former boasting an all-black dial with white decor, while the latter dons a shimmery inner dial set against a white base with black lettering.

“The dial is new this time. The project started in July last year, and I spent almost 7 months just on the dials alone.”

Aside from the newly integrated Calligra-style numerals, the rest of the dial design remains synonymous with its predecessors. This includes the blued syringe-shaped handset, railroad tracks, cursive logo and simple black leather straps. “The look of the first model we released in 2022 was already perfect. Instead of changing it, I decided to add another dial on top based on the same exterior. We announced the second edition back in 2023, and now we’re finally welcoming its third edition this year,” said Hajime Asaoka.

Among the three, one’s eyes may naturally gravitate towards the Dark MOP colorway, which stars an eye-catching mother-of-pearl inner dial that’s reminiscent of a stormy ocean scene from a distance. “I have always been interested in MOP (mother-of-pearl) as a material. Black MOP has a large variation in color, and so for this Dark MOP, I purposely used white pearl oyster with a black plate to create a deep hue,” he explained.

Due to the material’s nature, a different construction was employed for this particular variant. “Since the dial is composed of thinly sliced MOP, only the Dark MOP has a flat dial instead of a cylinder dial,” said the Kurono Tokyo founder, highlighting another obvious disparity between the three colorways. But from a technical standpoint, the trio of watches is mechanically the same as they’re all powered by the automatic Miyota 90s5 movement.

The 34mm “Calligra” series will retail for $1,170 USD, with each variant limited to only 188 examples. Starting February 23, 11 p.m. JST or 9 a.m. EST, the new watches will be open for global pre-order via Kurono Tokyo’s official website and are estimated to be dispatched in mid-March.

Read Full Article

What to Read Next

Longines Expands the HydroConquest GMT Series With New 43mm Case Size
Watches

Longines Expands the HydroConquest GMT Series With New 43mm Case Size

Available in five strap variations and colorways.

Mori JP Tower Opens Its Doors As the New Tallest Building in Tokyo
Design

Mori JP Tower Opens Its Doors As the New Tallest Building in Tokyo

Developers envision the building as a “mixed-use modern urban village.”

Tokyo Design Studio and New Balance Return With New Pitch Low-Top Trainers
Footwear

Tokyo Design Studio and New Balance Return With New Pitch Low-Top Trainers

The refined 610 collaboration features suede, neoprene and mesh panels in grey and brown tones.


New Balance Tokyo Design Studio’s SS24 Wants You To Run with the Wind
Fashion

New Balance Tokyo Design Studio’s SS24 Wants You To Run with the Wind

The latest seasonal installment for its “Uni-ssentials by TDS” collection.

ICECREAM Unveils Its First Delivery of Spring 2024
Fashion

ICECREAM Unveils Its First Delivery of Spring 2024

The latest renditions of ICECREAM’s iconography on wardrobe staples.

Best New Tracks: J. Cole, SZA, Smino and More
Music 

Best New Tracks: J. Cole, SZA, Smino and More

Dive into the weekend with these music projects.

Nike KD 4 "Aunt Pearl" To Return Later This Year
Footwear

Nike KD 4 "Aunt Pearl" To Return Later This Year

Originally released in 2012.

eBay to Celebrate Pokémon Day with "Catch 151" One-Day Auction
Gaming

eBay to Celebrate Pokémon Day with "Catch 151" One-Day Auction

Featuring a variety of rare cards as well as collectibles from names like Daniel Arsham, Hiroshi Fujiwara and more.

BAPE Expands Innovative Sneaker Line, Introducing the BAPE® CROSS STA
Footwear 

BAPE Expands Innovative Sneaker Line, Introducing the BAPE® CROSS STA

Presented by BAPE Japan
The futuristic sneaker is inspired by BAPE’s multicultural reach, featuring urban, on-the-go elements.


Netflix Debuts Official Trailer for Guy Ritchie Gangster Series 'The Gentlemen'
Entertainment 

Netflix Debuts Official Trailer for Guy Ritchie Gangster Series 'The Gentlemen'

The crime drama stars Theo James.

Free Nationals Joins Forces With Anderson .Paak and A$AP Rocky for "Gangsta"
Music

Free Nationals Joins Forces With Anderson .Paak and A$AP Rocky for "Gangsta"

Marking the group’s first release of the year.

Frederique Constant and seconde/seconde/ Unveil Two Limited Edition Releases
Watches

Frederique Constant and seconde/seconde/ Unveil Two Limited Edition Releases

Each a variation of Constant’s Slimline Moonphase Date Manufacture, limited to a total production of 110 examples.

Moschino FW24 Brings Theatricality to Signature House Tropes
Fashion

Moschino FW24 Brings Theatricality to Signature House Tropes

Adrian Appiolaza makes his debut for Moschino just three weeks after he was appointed creative director.

Vice To Stop Publishing Content on Website, Will Lay Off Hundreds of Staffers
Entertainment

Vice To Stop Publishing Content on Website, Will Lay Off Hundreds of Staffers

The company previously experienced another round of layoffs that affected its Vice News division in late 2023.

More ▾
 
We got you covered. Don’t miss out on the latest news by signing up for our newsletters.

By subscribing, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.