Kurono Tokyo is following up the launch of their recent Chronograph 1 Mk. 2 (discussed in this episode of A Week in Watches) with a limited set that, unfortunately, you probably can’t buy. That’s because not only are these watches extremely limited, but they can be purchased in exactly one place: the new Kurono Tokyo boutique located in Kita-Aoyama, Minato, Tokyo. This new trio of Grand Urushi Aoyama watches take the familiar 37mm dress watch case that many Kurono fans have fallen in love with and pairs it with what the brand believes is their most impressive execution of traditional handmade urushi lacquer dials to date.
Between dress watches in the Seiko Presage line and recent work by Kurono, many watch enthusiasts have become quite familiar with urushi lacquer techniques, a corner of traditional Japanese craft that wasn’t always so well known. Urushi lacquer is made from the sap of a urushi tree, which is given pigment, hand painted, and polished by skilled craftspeople. The material itself has a naturally shiny quality and thickness to it, and it will gradually change over time as it’s exposed to light. According to Kurono, sunlight will gradually lighten the colors and make the lacquer more translucent. The dials that you get at the end of the urushi process have incredibly well defined tones and a ton of depth that’s hard to capture in photos. There’s a glass-like quality to a good urushi dial that sets them apart from more industrialized lacquering processes.
The three Grand Urushi Aoyama watches seen here, with dials in green, red, and brown, all with subtle patterns that are applied under the top coat of lacquer, are almost completely sterile, save the Kurono wordmark near the 12:00 position. The hands are in Kurono’s signature design, a cross between syringe and leaf styles, and other than that the wearer is treated to an unobstructed view of the lacquer dial itself, which is very clearly the star of the show and the centerpiece of this mini collection.
Availability, as mentioned, is extremely limited. Not only will the watches only be available in a single physical location, but Kurono is not making many of them, largely because of the difficulty in working with urushi lacquer, the time it takes to complete a dial (Kurono claims two months), and the higher than average reject rate during the production process. A total of 100 examples of each dial variant will be produced for sale individually, with another 88 reserved for collector sets, housed in a collector grade wooden presentation box. There will be no online orders available for these watches. You simply need to show up at the boutique and buy one (or three) in person.
If you happen to be in Tokyo, it might be worth stopping by to place in order (if any are still available). The space that Kurono has opened was conceived as an intimate gathering space where fans of the brand can experience various watches from Kurono’s growing collection. That, of course, is not a new idea in the watch world, but it’s exciting to see a small brand like Kurono Tokyo continue to grow to the point where they can support their own retail operation in their home city.
The retail price for each individual watch in the Grand Urushi Aoyama set is approximately $2,545. The set has a retail price of $6,455. More information here.