Minase is a Japanese micro-brand specialising in complex cases and dials with superlative handmade finishings. Since the focus is primarily on the external elements of the watch, Minase often turns to traditional Japanese artistic techniques to decorate the dial. The latest Minase Divido models flaunt incredible handmade dials using Urushi lacquer mixed with paint and egg white to create a mottled or swirling pattern that is unique for each watch.
Minase, a spinoff brand from the Kyowa Co., started life in 1963, making precision drills for metal machining. Producing watch cases and bracelets, Minase became a watch brand in 2005. Named after the workshop’s location in the Yuzawa Mountains in the prefecture of Akita, Minase produces less than 500 watches per year and only recently started to expand internationally.
While Minase’s movements are outsourced to competent Swiss producers, metalwork is the brand’s forte, and the complex in-house crafted cases are inspired by Japanese 3D puzzles (Ysegi-zaiku) and decorated with black polishing, aka Zaratsu. Minase’s signature fortress-like case construction can be appreciated on the round Minase Divido watch, one of the four collections available internationally.
Composed of eight parts, the 50m water-resistant steel case is secured by four tiny screws on the reverse side of the lugs. The signature Minase case-in-case construction means that what is used as a dial is, in fact, the top part of the container enclosing the movement. The protective cover, in turn, is surmounted by an hour index ring. The advantage of creating space between the case and the perimeter of the dial is that light floods in from all sides and illuminates the dial; the other benefit of this patented structure is that Minase watchmakers can assemble and disassemble exterior parts of the watch – case and bracelet – to refit, repair or polish them. A further sign of the brand’s dexterity with steel is the crown with raised polished claws clutching a black insert with the brand’s drill head logo.
Urushi lacquerware is a source of national pride in Japan and has been used for over 7,000 years. Using the poisonous sap of the Urushi tree, expert Urushi artisans filter impurities through layers of paper to obtain the sticky lacquer that produces a lightweight, watertight veneer that lasts centuries. Junichi Hakose, the acclaimed Japanese lacquer artist, is the hand behind these dials. At his workshop, Hakose mixes the Urushi lacquer with colour and egg whites to produce Shibo Urushi, a viscous substance with flecks of colour applied to the brass base dial.
Four different colours – Sky of Shell (flecks of green, blue and purple), Scarlet Illusion (mottled red), Metallic Haze (swirling silver) and Golden Flux (swirling gold) – receive Junichi Hakose’s Shibo Urushi lacquer, revealing their colourful patterns emerging from the inky black background. Given the artisanal nature of these dials, no two are the same.
The curved indices, treated with luminescent material, reach up and over the convex dial like claws, and the minute and central seconds hands are bent at the tip to adapt to the contours of the dial. The hour and minute hands are also luminescent, and a domed sapphire crystal protects the dial.
The Minase Divido was upgraded in 2021 with a slightly slimmer automatic movement, allowing a more contained height of 11mm. The latest Divido Shibo Urushi models come in 40.6mm stainless steel cases, revealing alternating eye-catching Sallaz polishing and vertical brushing.
A see-through sapphire caseback reveals the ETA 2892/A2 ébauche with substantial customisation like the hand-finished surfaces with perlage, black ‘or’ bridges and mainplate with diamond-polished bevels, blued screws and a customised Minase rotor with the brand’s drill-head logo. The movement beats at 4Hz and delivers a 50-hour power reserve.
Availability & Price
The four versions of the Minase Divido Shibo Urushi can be ordered online and are available on a matching steel bracelet with invisible screws on the underside of each link with Zaratsu polishing and vertical brushing for CHF 8,410 or a black textured rubber strap for CHF 7,200. For more information, please visit minasewatches.com.