BY ERIK SLAVEN
Since 1997, renowned watchmaker Hajime Asaoka has produced some of Japan’s finest luxury watches at his atelier, Hajime Asaoka-sensei. Prices start at around USD 50,000 for these rare handmade pieces, but he also has a much more affordable label, Kurono. This brand just introduced an update to its original Chronograph II model that adds style and refinement to an already sophisticated dial. Precision Watch Tokyo Co., Ltd is the parent company of both Kurono and Hajime Asaoka-sensei, which allows the same dial and case makers from the ultra-luxury brand to supply Kurono. The results belie the (somewhat) affordable prices.
The new Chronograph II White, nicknamed Shiro, brings a new color palette to the original that launched last year with a black dial. The overall design remains unchanged, but improvements include higher definition printing, a greater depth of field from heavier lacquer, parallax overprinting and “kyudo” arrow hands. The recessed sub-dials feature concentric guilloche and diamond-cut steel surrounds, and small seconds are at 3 o’clock and a 30-minute counter sits at 9 o’clock. A mix of three main colors, bright white, heron white and red, all work well together and are complemented by polished silver hands and round applied indices. It’s a rather busy dial with both a tachymeter and pulsometer in red that run through both sub-dials. A third telemeter spans the outermost, sloped perimeter. Neither sub-dial has Arabic numerals as well, making quick references a bit difficult. The “kyudo” arrow hands bring some Japanese flair and the overall execution is very nice. The colors were achieved by fine sandblasting, silvering and thick lacquering. A framed date window tastefully sits at 6 o’clock.
The polished stainless steel case has conservative dimensions for a chronograph at 38mm in diameter and 13.9mm in height. A domed sapphire crystal provides nice distortions at sharp angles and the case back is solid. Classic pushers at 2 and 4 o’clock operate the chronograph functions, while a slightly oversized push/pull crown limits water resistance to 30 meters. The watch is fitted with a black leather strap with black stitching.
Powering this latest Chronograph II is the Seiko NE86 automatic, which is a flagship movement featuring a column wheel, vertical clutch and Magic Lever winding system. Seiko introduced the Magic Lever in 1959 and it improves winding efficiency and uses fewer parts than a traditional Swiss counterpart. It has 34 jewels, beats at 4Hz with a 45-hour power reserve, and is among Seiko’s finest calibers for third parties.
The Chronograph II White “Shiro” retails for USD 3,700 (JPY 428,000), which is a world away from the high five-figure prices from Hajime Asaoka-sensei. It has a unique Japanese style and nice features like the pulsometer, and the dial is impressively refined. It’s a bit busy for my taste, reminding me of Hanhart’s TachyTele Chronograph, but well-executed nonetheless. Unfortunately, all pieces are sold out since pre-orders began on February 24th.
Visit Kurono here.