To label Kurono Tokyo as a microbrand is both accurate and misleading at the same time. Its movement, launch patterns and price point is rather comparable with the slightly higher end microbrands, but its dial work and overall watch quality puts it right up there in the higher echelons of watchmaking. Not that this should be unexpected, after all, it is an independent brand founded by renown watchmaker Hajime Asaoka. Hajime Asaoka has his own watch brand bearing his namesake produces haute horology pieces by hand, but he wanted to create a brand that would be far more accessible to enthusiasts.
Since its launch in June 2019, Kurono Tokyo has really taken off among watch circles, with each release selling out almost immediately upon its launch. The latest Grand Mori ‘森’ (meaning woods) sits in the brand’s Grand collection (it also has Classic and Chronograph collections) which are time only watches that feature amazing dials. It is one to commemorate the brand’s 3rd anniversary and it is a real beauty. Let’s get into it.
Dressy, unique hand-applied urushi lacquer dial
Like the rest of the watches in both the Grand and Classic line, the Grand Mori ‘森’ is a slim dressy watch that allows the dial to really stand out. And stand out the dial does. Like another Japanese watch brand, the watches produced by Kurono takes inspiration from nature and this latest release draws that from the canopies of the forest with streams of sunrays flowing through.
To bring this inspiration to life, some of the top master dial makers in Kyoto were engaged to craft each dial by hand. The dial was first gilded with gold before it was painted over with Urushi, a specialised Japanese lacquer that thousands of years of tradition. The result is a metallic green dial with an intricate pattern that has tons of depth that comes to life in no small part because of the cylindrical (sloping) dial shape. Interestingly, according to the brand, dials painted with Urushi will react with UV light over time to change its colour. That encourages the use of these watches such that they become extremely personal to you.
316L Steel, 37mm x 43.5mm x 7mm (exc. crystal)/11mm (inc. crystal), sapphire box crystal, closed embellished case back, 30m water resistant, 20mm lug width, 20/16mm calfskin strap
The platform that allows the dial to shine is a case that carries the one of the most ideal proportions for a dress watch in my opinion. It is extremely versatile and should easily work on most people’s wrists. The box sapphire crystal goes some way to increasing the presence of the watch by magnifying the dial. When paired with short elegant lugs and a 4mm tapering strap, the watch becomes a classy understated piece where the dial take centre stage.
Miyota 90S5 caliber, 28,800 vph (4Hz), 40-hour power reserve
Unlike the rest of the watch, the movement is nothing to shout about, though I find it apt that a affordable Japanese movement is used, given the provenance of the brand. Moreover, it is a proven reliable movement that should be relatively easy to service which keeps the overall package in line Hajime Asaoka’s vision for the brand. If anything, I would have liked some accuracy regulation which is something even smaller brands like Nodus is capable of doing.
Price & Availability
JPY358,000 (50% on pre-order), 12-minute limited window
Starting delivery in June/July 2022, pre-orders open 27 May 2022 @ 11:00pm (JST), 3:00pm (GMT)
10:00am (EST), 6:00pm (GST), 28 May 2022 12:00am (AEDT)
As mentioned, the brand was started to provide enthusiasts with a relatively accessible independent watch and that is reflected in the price. Additonally, a lot of respect has to be given to its release strategy. Kurono was one of the first brands (at least among those that sold out rapidly upon launch) to introduce a time-based limited edition in order to combat flippers back in 2020. It has chosen to adopt the same release principles here. While it is unlikely that the brand does not have an internal production number limit, kudos has to be given to the brand for its attempts to get its watches into the hands of true fans and collectors. It reflects a desire by the brand to truly connect with people who appreciate the brand for what it is instead of the monetary benefit it can offer.
Overall, like many of the earlier releases from Kurono, this new piece is an extremely elegant watch with an amazing dial, especially since it features the Urushi based depth that has been a hallmark of the brand’s Grand collection. I for one love this particular shade of green. It is true and pure green, a shade that you don’t normally see on watches. And while the price cannot be categorised as cheap (let’s be real, which luxury mechanical watch can?), it is affordable when you consider what you are getting. For those still on the fence, do check out the amazing video put out by the brand on the dial inspiration and creation and tell me you are not even a little bit swayed by the level of zen that comes across.