The land of the rising sun

Mar 10, 2019,03:59 AM

When talking about watches, we tend to focus our attention to Europe where some of the most famous brands appear from Switzerland, Germany, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. Until the last decade, apart from Grand Seiko and Credor, Japan were not reputed for producing high quality watches and the one independent who most of us may have heard of is Hajime Asaoka who is a member of the AHCI.  I was therefore more than excited to discover a couple of other lesser known independents who produce high quality watches to rival Mr Asaoka and the independents in Europe.

Kikuchi Nakagawa was formed by Yusuke Kikuchi and Tomonari Nakagawa in June 2018. They had met in Paris in 2012. They shared a similar vision to make finely finished watches that resemble vintage watches. Kikuchi had graduated from the Paris Watch School practising watch repair wthi Antoine De Macedo Horloger. Tomonari on the other hand after training as a swordsman decided to try his hand at watchmaking and graduated from the same school as Kikuchi. He then worked at Citizen and the Tokyo Watch Precision Company. They have produced something quite extraordinary called the Murakamo which has a diameter of 36.8mm with a thickness of 8.5mm. The watch is in 316L stainless steel and the black polishing on the case is done in house. One might even say that the Murakamo resembles a Patek Philippe ref. 96!  The spade shaped hands are beautifully three dimensional and again black polished. The movement is a Vaucher VMF5401 automatic with a micro rotor used by the likes of Parmagiani and Richard Mille. The price of this watch is USD20,000 which is not at all unreasonable considering the quality of the end product and its exclusitivity.

The other independent I would like to mention is Naoya Hida who in 2004 helped to launch FP Journe in Japan. He has just started his own watch brand and debuts with a classical vintage looking watch called the NH Type 1B, a rather long name if you ask me. The watch measures 37mm in diameter and is 9.8mm thick. The watch is in 904L stainless steel (similar to that used by Rolex) as it offers a slightly higher corrosion resistance than the more common 316L! Many of the external components are produced by a Japanese precision machining specialist which results in parts that boast a tolerance of several microns.The dial is in German silver and the movement is a modified Valjoux 7750 with the chronograph mechanism and automatic module removed. Apparently, the barrel and balance bridges have been reworked as well as the winding mechanism which aims to give the winding a more vintage feel. The hands are blue steel and the tip of the minutes hand is curved by hand with a rolling pin to bring it as close as possible to the minute track. Not bad for a watch costing USD16,100.

Thank you for reading and I hope the next time you consider buying a classical vintage looking watch, you might bear in mind these offerings from the East.

The elegant Murakamo

A contender for the ultimate dress watch?

Just the correct proportions

The three dimensional hand black polished

The NH Type 1B

The steel buckle is styled exactly like a vintage watch

Lovely hands and Breguet numerals

More posts: Grand SeikoHajime Asaoka

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Beautiful workmanship...

 By: Cpt Scarlet : March 10th, 2019-04:08
Thank for your post on this subject. I would definitely consider ordering a piece. It would be great to see pictures of the finishing on the movement.

Thank you!

 By: sham1 : March 10th, 2019-04:24
In line with the vintage feel, the Murakamo has a solid case back. I am not 100% sure about the NH Type 1 B but it probably also has a solid case back. The solid case of the Murakamo is black polished too

It is very much my taste too Nico

 By: sham1 : March 10th, 2019-04:25
and probably the taste of many purists. The case back is solid and I do not have any photos of the movement!


 By: sham1 : March 10th, 2019-08:00
I have been noticing that many Japanese manufacturers tend to pay less attention to a display case back but instead focus on the dial, case and the finish on the hands. Don't get me wrong - the movement finish is usually very good but they seldom like dis... 


 By: Bruno.M1 : March 10th, 2019-04:54
(Vaucer base) pics from his IG ...  

Thank you for the movement photos!

 By: sham1 : March 10th, 2019-10:02
I totally agree with Nico - this should not be hidden - way too beautiful!!

These Geneva stripes

 By: kjell_j : March 10th, 2019-13:21
It is hard enough to make them straight. This is really special. Not only a steady hand, but also some special skills to make that pattern flawless. I’ve not been that impressed in a very long time.

Yes that movement is beautifully decorated

 By: sham1 : March 10th, 2019-13:30
It makes the USD20,000 seem reasonable but how would this compare against a Gronefeld, a Rexhep Rexhepi or a Voutilainen I wonder

thanks for sharing Sham...

 By: maverickmahesh : March 10th, 2019-04:27
I like the NH Type 1B, carved dial with Breguet numerals & the blue hands says it all ! at 37 mm, both brands are attractive but NH - i love it more for the hands + manually wond movement but unfortunately i don't see movement pics in both the website... 

Thanks Mahesh!

 By: sham1 : March 10th, 2019-04:30
They both are great sizes and a great take on the vintage look. And we all know what perfectionists the Japanese are when it comes to fine finishing!!

Thanks for sharing these!

 By: KMII : March 10th, 2019-04:49
Both look very nice in pictures - would love to experience them live at some point!

Me too!!

 By: sham1 : March 10th, 2019-07:40
Going to Japan is not quite an option for me so perhaps a trip to Basel assuming these watches will be exhibited there.

Very nice and well executed piece

 By: Passionata_george : March 10th, 2019-04:52
not sure on the price point for a but that s maybe just me.


 By: sham1 : March 10th, 2019-08:20
But I guess it depends on how the movement is improved by the watchmaker. The Lemania movement used in the Patek Philippe 5070 is a perfect example of a movement that has been vastly improved by a watch brand.

That s obviously true

 By: Passionata_george : March 10th, 2019-09:40
but haven t seen the mvmnt yet to judge also the cited Lemania is a great mvmnt as per se .

I have been trying

 By: sham1 : March 10th, 2019-10:15
to source a photo of the revised Valjoux 7750 movement used in this watch but I have been unsuccessful. Perhaps one of my better informed purists can oblige.

It is Val 7750 minus auto rotor & chrono functions...

 By: maverickmahesh : March 10th, 2019-13:24
Is it finished different - I couldn’t see anywhere though. What is interesting for me is the numerals on the dial being hand carved...

These are watches that

 By: sham1 : March 10th, 2019-13:31
we can't seem to have too much information of!!

You are welcome Ron!

 By: sham1 : March 10th, 2019-10:03
I thought it would be nice to post something from an independent outside Europe for a change.

Great report my friend . You know i love these small brands too

 By: Watchonthewrist : March 10th, 2019-05:24
These two are def worth giving a closer look at them . Maybe a little bit to small for me but sometimes they wear bigger . I hope to get a closer look at a Hajime Asaoka Tsunami at BW soon

Can't go wrong with Asaoka

 By: sham1 : March 10th, 2019-10:05
Hope it lives up to expectations! Will you be going to Basel?

One of the benefits of being based in Europe my friend!

 By: sham1 : March 10th, 2019-12:26
Have a lovely time there. One day I shall join you

Not as much as I am my friend! :-)

 By: sham1 : March 10th, 2019-12:57
The good thing is that from next year the SIHH and Basel will be at a similar time so one trip to Europe to both shows will make a huge difference for me.

These both seem like perfect Sham1 watches.

 By: Spangles - Mr. Tabby : March 10th, 2019-12:45
Excellent, classic dress watches in a vintage style and size, very well executed. I hope you make a quick hop to Japan to check these out.

You are absolutely right!

 By: sham1 : March 10th, 2019-12:55
These are my type of my watches. Elegant simple dress watches that are about the right size. Maybe a trip to Japan might not be such a bad thing after all. What I am a little afraid of is that I might end up with both!!!

I shall resist the temptation

 By: sham1 : March 10th, 2019-13:59
and hope that Patek launch a steel Calatrava in Basel !!

A forlorn hope!

 By: Spangles - Mr. Tabby : March 10th, 2019-14:43
Let's compromise with you just picking up the Murakamo :P

You're not on commission, are you?! :-)

 By: sham1 : March 10th, 2019-20:55
Sell three Murakamo timepieces and get one free!!

One down, two to go! ;) [nt]

 By: Spangles - Mr. Tabby : March 11th, 2019-03:44

Just for you

 By: sham1 : March 11th, 2019-04:04
I may buy one

👍👍👍 [nt]

 By: Spangles - Mr. Tabby : March 11th, 2019-06:56

Making that hours hand really takes some serious skills (and time).

 By: kjell_j : March 10th, 2019-13:20
I know how hard it is - this is craftsmanship on the very highest level.

You seem to be very well informed!

 By: sham1 : March 10th, 2019-13:28
This may explain why production of the Murakamo is limited to fewer than 12 a year I believe.

It's a shame the movement doesn't do the casework of the Kikuchi Nakagawa justice

 By: nwk00 : March 10th, 2019-20:28
I really like the exterior of the watch when they first posted them on Instagram. The sheen of the polish is incredible, for me as good as if not better than Zaratsu. But upon finding out the movement choice, and the fact it's a solid caseback, I lost all... 

And I actually thought the movement looked great!

 By: sham1 : March 10th, 2019-20:57
Would you have preferred a manually wound movement??!! Or what was it about the movement that disappointed you?

It's not a manual/auto issue. I feel......

 By: nwk00 : March 10th, 2019-21:25
movement does not have a good flow in terms of the lines of the plates. It's probably originally designed as one big 3/4 or larger plate. However someone might have decided halfway that they should show more of the movement components so they proceeded to... 

Thank you very much for your observation and candour!

 By: sham1 : March 10th, 2019-21:31
I must confess my knowledge of movement finishing is at the kindergarten stage so it would be interesting if my more learned friends have similar views.

Absolutely superb piece my friend

 By: Mike H : March 14th, 2019-12:21
Many thanks for this review. Definitely an interesting offer for whoever likes the codes of vintage and the beauty of a new watch. The caliber beating in this beautiful case surely needs to be looked at but this is a very appealing offer 😉👍 Mike

Thanks Mike!

 By: sham1 : March 14th, 2019-20:30
It is nice to see independents from outside Europe and who also price their watches quite competitively making it more within reach of the majority. Frequently, we see beautiful watches that we can only dream of unfortunately!

I fully concur my friend

 By: Mike H : March 14th, 2019-20:49
And it is thus well deserved that we talk about their watches here to let our community know about them. Thank you again for your review my friend.

You are most welcome Mike!

 By: sham1 : March 14th, 2019-20:58
I am glad that it has been well received on the forum. Something different and interesting I guess