Everybody is familiar with the big names in Japanese watchmaking like Seiko, Grand Seiko and Citizen, but not everybody has heard about Minase, a microbrand from Japan specialising in complex cases with superlative handmade finishings. The Minase 7 Windows is not, as its name would seem to suggest, an ode to Microsoft’s operating system; it is a rectangular watch with seven sapphire glass windows. With so many windows flooding the dial with light, it provides the perfect canvas to showcase traditional crafts from Japan. Minase introduces four new 7 Windows models in steel or rose gold as part of its Masterpiece collection, with exquisite dials representing the four seasons handmade by master lacquer artist Junichi Hakose.
Minase, which was part of the Kyowa Co., started life in 1963, making precision drills for metal machining. With its expertise in metalworking, Kyowa developed a precision step drill (useful for drilling crowns) and started manufacturing watch cases of ever-increasing complexity. One thing led to another, and Kyowa expanded its portfolio to include bracelet manufacturing and sophisticated polishing techniques. Finally, with all this experience under its belt, Kyowa was ready to create its own watch brand, and in 2005, the watch brand Minase was born. 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.
Minase’s mission is to produce unique, beautiful, high-quality handmade watches. Unlike many brands, Minase focuses on the habillage (external parts) and not the movements; these are sourced from ETA. Minase’s watches are characterised by highly architectural cases bristling with sharp angles, radical inclinations, convex dials and loads of personality. You can really get a feel for the brand’s mastery of metal by looking at the fanciful crown bearing Minase’s drill head logo.
Introduced in 2021, the 7 Windows collection is characterised by its complex, geometric case structure with seven bevelled sapphire crystals, five placed on the case flanks. It might be rectangular – measuring 38mm x 47mm, with a thickness of 13mm – but its sweeping mirror-polished curves give it a unique oriental character. Incidentally, Minase also uses the distortion-free Sallaz polishing technique called ‘Zaratsu’ at Grand Seiko.
The unusual case-in-case construction inspired by 3D Japanese puzzles 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, which is screwed into a casing ring on the reverse. Following the curvature of the dial, the minute and seconds hands are bent at the tip. This compact module, housing the dial and movement, makes it look like the round structure is floating inside the rectangular case.
Urushi lacquerware is a source of national pride in Japan and has been used for over 7,000 years. Using the highly poisonous lacquer from the sap of the urushi tree, expert urushi artisans apply successive layers of the sticky lacquer to produce a lightweight, watertight veneer that lasts centuries. Maki-e or makie urushi involves sprinkling fine particles of gold dust onto the wet lacquer. Maki-e master Junichi Hakose is revered at home and acknowledged as one of Japan’s most internationally acclaimed artists.
Inspired by the four seasons and the flora and elements associated with each one, Hakose starts by applying a layer of urushi lacquer to the dial, which is heated to prevent rusting and decolouration. Repeating the procedure three times, the urushi is then decorated with a combination of miniature painting and the sprinkling of metal powder (maki-e) and flat flakes of gold (hirame).
Hakose relies on a variety of ancestral decorative patterns to create the dials: an Ichimatsu pattern, for example, is formed by different coloured squares and was originally used in textile art, while komon refers to a miniature pattern made up of countless fine dots, often seen on Japanese kimonos. The Four Seasons dial depicts the four seasons using an Ichimatsu pattern; the Komon dial is decorated with three tiny floral patterns; the Yoshino Sakura dial features cherry blossoms of different colours and sizes using five kinds of gold, silver and metal powders; and the fourth dial, known as the Yama Sakura depicts a close-up of a cherry blossom.
Each Minase 7 Windows Hakose Masterpiece is an original work of miniature art. It comes with its certificate of authenticity inside a handmade wooden box and is wrapped in a furoshiki, a traditional Japanese folding and knotting technique for packing gifts. Presented on a hand-stitched calfskin leather strap, customers can choose from 18k rose gold or stainless steel Windows cases to house the work of art.
The automatic mechanical movement is a top-grade Swiss ETA 2892-A2 decorated with perlage, diamond-polished bevels and a bespoke openworked rotor with apertures that resemble the brand’s drill head logo. Beating at 28,800vph, the power reserve is of 50 hours.
Availability & Price
There is no indication of the limitation of these miniature handcrafted masterpieces, but given their artisanal nature, expect them to be very limited in number. The steel Minase 7 Windows Urushi Hakose Masterpieces retails for EUR 16,500, and the rose gold for EUR 32,950. For more information and to purchase online, please consult minasewatches.com.