Monochrome Watches
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The Kurono 34mm Calligra Special Project is Asaoka’s Vision of Breguet Numerals

Kurono's deliberately small time-only watch comes back with a very desirable set of dials and numerals.

| By Brice Goulard | 4 min read |

The brainchild of Japanese independent watchmaker Hajime Asaoka, known for his high-end tourbillons or chronographs, Kurono Tokyo is the man’s vision of a more accessible brand. Still driven by an almost obsessive attention to detail, which somehow explains the low availability of these watches, Asaoka is here focussing on design more than watchmaking. Following the 2022 series of Art Deco watches, and the 2023 Sector Dial models, Kurono Tokoy’s 34mm timepiece is back with the Calligra Special Project and its dial with hand-designed Breguet numerals.

For this new 34mm series, I have adopted Breguet hour markers. Generally, it is very difficult to place and balance Arabic numerals in a circular pattern as indices, because they were originally meant to be placed in a straight horizontal line. but Breguet indices seem to have been designed from the beginning to be placed in a circular pattern on the dial of a watch,” explains Hajime Asaoka.

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During my art school years, I was trained in lettering. thus for the first time in a long while, I personally designed a typeface with hand-drawn lettering for the Breguet indices from 1 to 12. The fact that the original drawing is hand-drawn is extremely important in the design of Breguet indices. This is because the original Breguet markers were all hand-drawn and the design is based on the strokes of a human hand. I started with the calligraphy of small numbers using a pen, in the same manner as it was done 200 years ago. Afterwards, I selected the ones with the most beautiful balance, enlarged them, and used them as the original templates for the dial indices.

Comparing the 2024 Kurono 34mm Calligra series and last year’s versions of this watch, specifically those with radially-positioned numerals, you can clearly see the evolution – and not only on the typefaces but also the entire dial design. The most notable change are the numerals, which are Asaoka’s vision of the classic Breguet numerals – an almost cursive and italic design credited to A.L. Breguet – which have been, as explained above, hand drawn by the watchmaker. What remains is the slight “sectorisation” of the dial and the two-tone effect – the latter being specifically interesting in one of the 3 editions.

The Kurono 34mm Calligra Special Project is offered in 3 different editions. Two are classic, one is more adventurous but also truly appealing. The first model has a silvery-white dial with black numerals and tracks, as well as a combination of grained centre sector and velvet-like chapter ring. The black edition is somehow its mirrored image, with its white numerals but what appears to be a glossy surface. Last is a bolder edition with a so-called Dark MOP, where the centre sector is made of a blue-ish mother-of-pearl plate that almost looks like water. It is combined to a grained silver chapter rind with metalized Breguet numerals. All feature blue IP-plated hands with luminescence.

For the rest, all the classic elements of Kurono’s 34mm watches have been retained. This deliberately compact watch is thin and short, at 9.6mm in height and 41mm in length – it is a bold choice in 2024 to create a men’s watch of that size and the man must be applauded for his audacity. The dials are protected by a domed sapphire crystal while the back is a screwed solid steel element (WR of 50-meter). All 3 versions are worn on a black textured leather strap.

What allows Hajime Asaoka to offer his limited production Kurono Tokyo watches at a decent price is the outsourced movement, a Japan-made Miyota 90S5. A reliable and relatively precise automatic calibre, it runs at 4hz and boasts 40h of power reserve.

Availability & Price

Kurono 34mm Calligra Special Project will be priced at USD 1,170 (excl. taxes) – which isn’t exactly what you can call cheap but the attention to detail on the cases and dials is real. As always with Kurono’s collections, this new series will be made in limited numbers, not to be repeated (Kurono voluntarily doesn’t disclose the numbers yet, to avoid availability issues), and with a one-watch-per-customer policy. Deliveries are expected in mid-March 2024.

Orders will be possible as of Friday, 23rd February 2024 at 11PM Tokyo time (3PM Europe time – 9AM New York Time) at

3 responses

  1. The mostly flat details of the dial makes the watches appear cheap. The crown especially cheapens the look of the watches further by somewhat resembling a dome nut.

  2. Why plate the hands? And not blue them thermally? Also, if you’re gonna plate them, why plate them that specific color? it doesn’t go with anything on any of the dials. And plating means they could have chose any other color, with no extra cost.

  3. I would have to agree with Gabriel. The plated hands appear cheap next to the dials.

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