Hajime Asaoka’s Kurono Line is Back With a New Art-Deco Inspired Chronograph, in Two Variants

Hajime Asaoka’s Kurono project is set to launch a third watch this week, the Kurono Chronograph 1. For those unfamiliar with Asaoka and Kurono, it’s a line of small batch but high value watches designed by one of the leading independent watchmakers in the world. Asaoka’s handmade atelier watches are essentially completely bespoke items, and start at around $40,000. The Kurono pieces offer enthusiasts a chance to get a taste of Asaoka’s design at a much more affordable price point (if they can beat the digital crowds that will line up to purchase these watches upon their release). Let’s take a closer look at the Chronograph 1. 

Kurono Chronograph 1

  • Case Material: Stainless steel
  • Dial: Black/white, white/black
  • Dimensions: 38 x 13.9mm
  • Crystal: Sapphire       
  • Water Resistance: 3 ATM  
  • Crown: Push/pull                     
  • Movement: Seiko NE86A
  • Strap/bracelet: Leather 
  • Price: $3,680
  • Reference Number: n/a
  • Expected Release: May 1 


Like Kurono’s first collection, which we covered here, and the subsequent “Reiwa” series, the Chronograph 1 has a distinct art-deco influence. The defining characteristic of the watch is the central sector, which has a pinstripe pattern that lends the dial a sense of texture and contrasts beautifully with the solid subdials at 3:00 and 9:00. Two versions of the Chronograph 1 are being made, each a take on the ever popular panda and reverse-panda chronograph layouts. Both have a lot to offer, but to my eye the darker dial has a more interesting sector layout, with high contrast black and gray rings at the outer edge of the dial. The white version is somewhat more reserved and monochromatic, but both are executed extremely well.

As you’d expect for a project led by a watchmaker whose stock in trade is the crafting of high end custom timepieces, little details abound that make the Chronograph 1 special and distinctive. The hour markers, for example, are polished steel studs, and each subdial features extremely fine concentric guilloche patterns. My favorite small touch is the hand used for the elapsed minute counter at 9:00. It’s slightly oversized, and its shape is based on the Japanese “kyudu” arrow, which symbolizes “truth, goodness, and beauty.” It’s a small touch that not only adds a unique visual twist to the Chronograph 1, but is also steeped in meaning, something that Japanese watchmaking does particularly well. 

Impressive dial details

The Chronograph 1 is powered by the Seiko NE86A movement, an automatic column wheel chronograph caliber with a vertical clutch. There’s a date display that’s framed unobtrusively at 6:00, keeping the dial’s symmetry intact. The case is high polished and measures 38mm in diameter, a size that should make vintage chronograph fans happy. 

The Tsunami, from Asaoka’s handmade atelier line.

The Chronograph 1 goes on sale tomorrow, May 1, at 10:30 PM Japan Standard Time (that’s 9:30 AM on the east coast of the US). The Chronograph 1 is limited to 68 pieces per dial variant, and is priced at $3,680. Kurono

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Zach is a native of New Hampshire, and he has been interested in watches since the age of 13, when he walked into Macy’s and bought a gaudy, quartz, two-tone Citizen chronograph with his hard earned Bar Mitzvah money. It was lost in a move years ago, but he continues to hunt for a similar piece on eBay. Zach loves a wide variety of watches, but leans toward classic designs and proportions that have stood the test of time. He is currently obsessed with Grand Seiko.