If the name Minase is not as famous as other Japanese watch manufacturers (such as Seiko or Citizen), it is because it has been first and foremost synonymous with precision metalworking. For a few years now, the Kyowa Co. (the company behind Minase) has developed its watchmaking collection with a focus on manufacturing watch cases of ever-increasing complexity. The best example of this concept is the Minase 7 Windows, a rectangular watch with seven sapphire glass apertures flooding the dial with light. Atypical, bold and distinctive, it proves to be disruptive. But it is time for the brand to present its most classic collection to date, a watch named Minase Uruga, which fortunately retains some signature design elements of previous creations.
As explained by our editor Rebecca Doulton here, 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 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 only recently started to expand internationally. And then adding that 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.
As of now, Minase launched 3 main collections; the 5 or 7 Windows models with complex, geometric case structures with five or seven bevelled sapphire crystals, the Divido characterized by its ultra-sharp round case and floating movement, and the Horizon, the rectangular brother to the Divido. All quite fascinating watches yet with highly polarizing designs. This year, Minase, with the help of designer Hirokuni Yamamoto, makes a shift from the brand’s traditional edgy and linear designs, towards more classical shapes and more conventional watches… relatively speaking, as the new Minase Uruga isn’t your typical round-cased watch either.
Uruga is an acronym of the Japanese words “Uruwashii” and “Myabi” meaning respectively beauty and elegance. Behind the creation of this new collection is, once again, a strong focus on habillage rather than high-end watchmaking skills. The brand and its designer decided to soften the overall design the brand has long been associated to, but retain a signature element; a complex construction for the case. And for its new Minase Uruga, it takes the shape of a technique used to securely set gemstones into place. Named clamping case structure, it includes 4 claws that somehow remind of the griffes used to secure a stone on a ring.
Available also in a smaller, feminine version of 31mm, the Minase Uruga collection mostly interest us with its 42mm case variant. Complex, architectural yet easier than previous models, it is characterized by 4 large and angular clamps that are brushed to contrast with the multiple mirror-polished areas and facets of this case – which, in classic Minase fashion, are made using the Sallaz or Zaratsu distortion-free technique. The sapphire glass is inserted between the bezel and the case, and displays a slight vertical curvature that follows the bezel’s shape. Clamped from below, it adds brilliance to the case while securing its water resistance.
The dials offered on the new Minase Uruga are following the same strategy; intricate, still using geometric shapes but once again less striking than before. Available in blue, grey or green, the dial uses a horizontal embossed pattern that is reminiscent of the waves of the Minase River – it consists of an “endless array of interlacing lines symbolizing infinity.” But what strikes most are the markers. These are asymmetrically shaped with a diagonal cut. Polished and faceted, they will surely provide interesting reflections. The hands, also faceted, have a dual finishing (polished and brushed) and the metallic element around the date window is certainly catching the attention.
Under the sapphire crystal secured by 6 screws is a tried-and-tested base movement, an ETA 2892. It however displays hand-finished surfaces with perlage, bridges with diamond-polished bevels and a main plate plated in black gold, as well as blue screws. The openworked rotor is unique to Minase. The specifications of this movement are otherwise classic – 4Hz frequency, 50-hour power reserve, and stop-seconds.
The new Minase Uruga 42mm watch is offered on a leather strap or a complex stainless steel bracelet with geometrically-shaped links. Now available from the brand’s website, the watch retails for EUR 4,850 on leather strap or EUR 6,150 on steel bracelet.
For more details, please visit minasewatches.com.