Kurono Tokyo Calendrier "Type 1", A 2022 GPHG "Challenge" Finalist
Created by master watchmaker Mr. Hajime Asaoka, a true challenger with compelling designs, craftsmanship and values
The Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG), the annual watch industry event, has become a venue for the independent and micro brands to shine. The competition is particularly intense in "Challenge", a category for watches under CHF 3500. For this year, there are 35 watches competing in this category, the largest among all 15 categories.
After a vote of the full GPHG academy, the field of 35 narrowed to 6 on Sept 1st. The nominated watches for "Challenge" include the Tudor Ranger and M.A.D.1 RED from MB&F. Both watches have been the darlings of watch media and social media.
There is one finalist standing out to me among its 5 peers with a classic, elegant, yet refreshing look. It is not a re-edition of a past classic, nor is it a whimsical creation breaking boundaries. It is a triple calendar, not so common but a very useful complication for daily wear. The timepiece was conceived and built by an AHCI master watchmaker. Yet, its retail price of CHF 1700 is the lowest among the 6 nominated watches. To me, it is a daring challenger with compelling designs, craftsmanship and values. It is the Kurono Tokyo Calendrier "Type 1".
I was very lucky to receive this watch recently and I could not wait to share my review with you.
A Brief History of Kurono Tokyo
Kurono Tokyo is a brand founded in 2019 by master watchmaker Mr. Hajime Asaoka from Japan. The watches are all designed by the master himself and assembled in his workshop in Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo. The beautiful art deco designs and accessible prices make the watches very desirable.
In hindsight, the timing of launching this new micro brand could not be better. First, e-commerce and social media made it possible for a small brand to gain world-wide audience and customer base. The watch collecting hobby got a huge boost with people staying at home during the pandemic. The rise of independent watchmakers created buzz and excitement around this new brand. After all, the Kurono watches are created from the DNA of Mr. Hajime's high end, hand-made watches.
The young brand won industry recognition in 2020 with a debut in the GPHG. Two Kurono watches shared spotlight as the finalists in the Chronograph category and Challenge category. Due to limited productions, the Kurono timepieces became quite collectable. A total of 9 watches came up for auctions curated by the top watch auction houses Christie's and Phillips. All nine of them were sold at prices far beyond the original list prices. Seven of them were sold above the high ends of the estimates provided by the auction houses.
From mid-2019 to mid-2022, Kurono has launched 12 time-only pieces and 3 chronograph models. Various colors and mesmerizing artisan-grade dials were introduced. Many fans, myself included, were anxious to see what the future creations Mr. Hajime had in store for us. The anticipation was over by the end of July this year. A triple calendar, a complication never produced by the brand before, was announced!
I am a sucker for calendar watches and my collection includes perpectual, annual and weekly calendars. But I missed a triple calendar and had been looking for one. After seeing the photos from the Kurono IG account, I knew that this model with a cool dial color, the Calendrier "Type 1", was for me!
The wait of less than 2 months was nothing in this day and age of watch collecting. Kurono kept me posted all the way through the pre-ordering, shipping and delivery. As always, the unboxing of the elaborate packaging is a treat for the Kurono watch owners. The beautiful presentation, branding and packaging are the start of a delightful experience.
The packaging for each watch model is separately prepared. A different wrapping cloth is designed and used for each model. For the Calendrier piece, it is an olive green cloth matching with the green dial of this watch. What a wonderful experience to go through the unboxing!
The Dial and Bezel Design
The Calendrier inherits some notable features from the earlier Kurono models. Examples include the iconic high polish leaf hands, the logo in Japanese, the crown, the lugs and the leather strap. However, many other design elements are new and different. I will make a list here.
The olive (khaki) green dial color (never used by Kurono before)
The Blackletter (Gothic) typeface (seldom used by any brands)
The high-polish coin edge bezel
Box shaped sapphire crystal raised further above the bezel
A push button for month adjustment
The end result is a watch with a clean and refreshing design. The dial is symmetric and three dimensional with the lowered sub-dials. The coin edge bezel shines under the light and is quite eye-catching. The Blackletter (Gothic) typeface works wonders and goes very well with the Japanese logo. Great attentions were paid to the design of two sub-dials to make them as symmetrical as possible. The dial looks wonderful under the loupe too. Really a beauty to behold!
The Calendrier is powered by Miyota 9122, with center second, day of week, date and month display. It is part of the Miyota "premium automatic" movement offerings. The vibration frequency is 28800 per hour and the power reserve is 40 hours or more. The setting of the date and day is done with the crown at the first pull-out position. The setting of the month is faciliated by a pusher at the 2 o'clock. The use of a Miyota movement makes the Kurono watches 100% Japan made.
Miyota specifies the timing accuracy conservatively at a range of -10 to +30 sec per day. My own measurement with a timegrapher showed +3.0 sec per day (averaged over 6 positions). This was beyond my expectation for a standard movement and I was very pleased with the results.
Dial up: +7
Dial down: +4
Crown up: +4.5
Crown down: +0.5
12 up: -3
12 down: +5
Average: +3.0 (sec/day)
There are extra cautions needed to protect the triple calendar movement. Kurono advises the following. Refrain from changing the month when the windowed date display is showing the 31st. Refrain from changing the day and date when the time is between 9pm and 3am.
Constructions and Specifications
The case of the Calendrier is 38mm with 316L high-polished stainless steel. The mirror finishing is so refined that the reflections are vividly seen. The thickness is 11.5mm including the box shaped sapphire glass. With a closed case back, the water proof depth is rated at 50 meters (higher than all previous Kurono models).
Included with the watch is a 20mm width black leather strap. I replaced it with a Hiroshige 3-color strap that matches with the green dial perfectly. This brand of beautiful watch accessaries is managed by Kurono Tokyo as well. The watch instantly looks more causal with the colorful strap. It is cool wearing it to a downtown coffee shop or taking to a vacation in the national park.
Limited Production and Pricing
Kurono only disclosed that the Calendrier "Type 1" was a limited edition. No specific production number was provided. The reason was to discourage flippers from grabbing the watches. However, watch collectors and enthusiasts are still quite curious about the number being produced. Perhaps Kurono may disclose the number after the watches were sold out? Just a suggestion to the Kurono team.
Here are the production numbers for various models based on Kurono website and IG account:
Chronograph I: 136
Chronograph II: (black): 500
Chronograph II: (white): “hundreds”
Grand Akane: 200
Grand Hagane: “hundreds”
Calendrier Type 1: “limited edition”
It is safe to guess that the production number for the Calendrier would be in the range of “hundreds” as well. As it is the first time for Kurono to build the triple-calendar, the number could not be too high. I would venture to guess the range to be 250 to 300.
The price for the Calendrier "Type 1" is JPY 243,000 or about USD 1,787 at the time of sale. The buyers in the US definitely benefited from the strong US dollars.
The Final Thoughts
My impression of the Calendrier “Type 1” after initial experience - It is very likely the best watch that Kurono Tokyo has ever produced. If I were to own only one Kurono timepiece, this would be it! It is no doubt a next level for the brand. The stunning watch shines with compelling designs, craftsmanship and values. The GPHG academy members were impressed for sure, as they voted this watch into the final round. It is a true challenger to the timepieces by top brands offered at many times its price. It will bring happiness and enjoyment to watch lovers who are fortunate to own a piece.
The GPHG awards ceremony will be held at the Théâtre du Léman in Geneva on November 10, 2022, exactly one month from today. Winners in all 15 categories including the Grand Prize will be unveiled. Will the jury continue to give the “Challenge” prize to Tudor, as it did in 2017, 2019 and 2020? Tudor is a very established brand, and not a challenger to me. Will the front runner MB&F take the top spot for “Challenge”? The “M.A.D. Editions” to MB&F is just like Kurono Tokyo to Mr. Hajime’s high-end, hand-made brand. Both offer accessible watches with their respective DNAs. Both have chosen the Japan made Miyota movements, haha.
I’m rooting for Kurono Calendrier for sure. But no matter what the final outcome is, Kurono has moved up to the next level with the Calendrier release. The Kurono team under Mr. Hajime is an artistic yet scrappy challenger who will keep bringing enjoyment, fun and surprise to its fans.