Editor’s Note: This is a preview of the new Kurono Chronograph II White “Shiro”. For our actual hands-on reviews, please head to the dedicated section here. Now let’s get to the point.
What Is It
The Kurono Tokyo brand is an initiative by independent Japanese watchmaker Hajime Asaoka that’s intended to offer high quality timepieces at rather affordable pricing.
For those who may not know, the man behind the new Kurono Chronograph II White, Hajime Asaoka, is a self-taught watchmaker who started professional life as a product designer and has been making watches since 2005. Highly regarded as an independent watchmaker, he specialises in hand making his watches, and as a result, only few connoisseurs get the chance to actually look at, and perhaps own, one of his special timepieces.
To cater to a growing audience of watch enthusiasts who can’t afford extremely high-end pieces, he started Kurono Tokyo in 2019.
The first chronograph offering from the young brand came back in the first half of 2020. The Chronograph I was a 38mm x 13.9mm column-wheel chronograph that featured a monochromatic art-deco design language in either black or white dial options (with 68 pieces released per dial variant). It was powered by the Seiko SII calibre NE86A that featured a power reserve of 45-hours. The steel cased watch with a solid case back had minimal 30m water resistance.
Next came the Chronograph II in 2021. Different dial execution but same specs and movement.
Following the multi-layered dialled Chronograph II that saw a copper, silver, and dark brown colour palette — reminiscent of the Reiwa watch — the new Kurono Chronograph II White “Shiro” is yet another offering from a micro brand that has taken the watch enthusiasts’ wrists by a storm, the watch collectors’ safes by a frenzy, and the watch flippers’ misaligned greed by the horns.
The new Kurono Chronograph II White “Shiro” follows the same case design codes and features the same Japanese Seiko movement as its predecessors. It also retains at 9’o clock the much loved high-polished elapsed minutes hand in the shape of a traditional Japanese ‘kyudo’ arrow.
Difference is mostly in the dial colour. And it can be yours after you jump a few hoops — the brand has certain measures in place to tackle with demand and flippers and we recommend you read their ‘Conditions of Sale’ here before proceeding — for the pre-order price of JPY 428’000 or ~5’200 AUD — excluding shipping and applicable taxes — with a non-refundable 50% deposit upon order placement.
It will be released at 11:30pm Japan Standard Time on Thursday, February 24, 2022 (or Friday, 25 February, 01:30 for Sydney).
“This watch is my personal desire. In 2021 I really wanted to release a white chronograph but was forced to launch only black. As a small independent, we are limited in the number movements we can procure, in the year since the first prototype. I’ve been wearing it myself, figuring out improvements, and then making many new dial samples. As a result, I’m proud to say I have created a dial with a very high degree of perfection, and one with absolute balance. Looking back, it was good that the delay allowed me to release something exceptionally complete. I am very happy to be able to make this deferred desire a reality”.Hajime Asaoka
Inside the 38mm diameter Kurono Chronograph II White ticks the automatic Seiko SII calibre NE86A. It is regarded as a ‘premium’ offering from Seiko, courtesy the use of column wheel, vertical clutch, and a magic lever winding system. The movement inside the Kurono Chronograph II White is also considered ‘better’ than other Seiko entry-level calibers because both the minute and hour counters are driven by a powered wheel with its own clutch, thereby improving accuracy and long-term durability.
The Seiko SII calibre NE86A measures 28.6mm in diameter and 7.62mm in thickness, comprises 311 components and 34 rubies, beats at the standard frequency of 4Hz, and offers 45-hour power reserve. It also features a quick date correction and provides – 15 ~ + 25 seconds per day accuracy (when static).
It is part of the 2009 Seiko 8R family and is based on the Cal. 8R49 or OEM TMI’s calibre NE88 (but is sans the hour counter). Most importantly for watch-movement nerds, it is a modern interpretation of Seiko’s iconic calibre 6139 (vertical clutch column wheel chronograph from 1969).
Kurono Chronograph II White’s Landscape
As far as I am aware, no one currently offers the exact same package and design language as Kurono Tokyo does. It is, after all, pretty unique and very impressively designed, with a number of subtle features that really elevate the appeal.
That said, there are a number of brands that have watches that the Kurono Chronograph II potentially competes with.
The above calibre NE86A is not all that common, but can be found in other watches such as:
- the 39mm x 15.5mm Yema Speedgraf with an added bidirectional bezel and 100m water-resistance retailing for 1’499 USD or ~2’100 AUD
- the 42mm x 15mm and 50m water-resistant Zeppelin Atlantic 8422-3 retailed for 1’249€ or ~1’950 AUD
- the Crafter Blue Hyperion Ocean Chronograph with a 42mm x 16.90mm 316L stainless steel case and 200m water resistance. It is currently retailing for 1’100 USD or ~1’500 AUD
- the William L Automatic Chronograph features the similar NE88A encased inside a 41mm diameter case with 100m water resistance and retails for 799€ or ~1’250 AUD
In regards to the sizing, I reckon the as compared to 38mm x 13.9mm x 46.5mm Kurono Chronograph II White wears similar to the Baltic Bicompax 001 (38mm x 12mm x 47mm) that featured the SEAGULL ST1901 movement and retailed for 640€ or ~1’000 AUD.
Design wise, it harks to vintage chronographs and one modern iteration that comes to mind is the Furlan Marri brand’s chronographs with measurements reading 38mm x 11.3mm x 46mm. These 50m water-resistant watches make use of the Seiko VK64 (mechaquartz with mechanical module) movement and retailed for only 838 AUD.
How Does The Kurono Chronograph II White Do
I appreciate and respect what the brand is doing, and forgive me for this but somehow don’t fully understand the hype (and the re-sale asking prices on Chrono24 or some local Aussie reseller websites). I honestly haven’t handled their watches in person, and probably that might make a big difference.
Of course I understand the demand of Hajime Asaoka’s own hand-made watches brand and their appreciation.
But ~5K AUD is not a small figure, one that can get say a Tudor BB Fifty-Eight (with a longer heritage, manufacture movement and an improved 72-hour power reserve (and greater water resistance)). I know comparing the design of the COSC-certified BB58 to the Kurono Chronograph II White is like comparing apples to oranges, but given any consideration to the money spent and the dimensions — Tudor BB59 measures 39mm x 12.5mm x 47.2mm as compared to 38mm x 13.9mm x 46.5mm — one can’t help but wonder.
Honestly, if the – 15 ~ + 25 seconds per day accuracy was improved to near COSC-specifications and the 30m water resistance was increased to about 100m, I would even without going hands-on with their watches say that the Kurono Chronograph II White definitely rocks (even considering the price).
That said, no doubt that Hajime Asaoka is a living legend and all watches designed by him have a certain edge to them; instead of being generic designs that appear to be mass produced, they have a distinctive personality.
There are plethora of details in the new Kurono Chronograph II White “Shiro” that both the watch collector and architect in me like; even before I mention the rest of the dial, I have to say that the feature I appreciate the most is the execution of the date window.
It has evolved from the Chronograph I stage and instead of being ‘just’ an aperture for the date wheel to peek from, it has become a sort of ceremonial getaway into the movement.
That thick frame with its silvery surface in cahoots with the silver appliqués — high-polished domed-steel hour markers — brings a welcome play of light and shadow to the dial.
The dial of the Kurono Chronograph II White is a work of art in its own right: a multilayered process if you may, it features fine sandblasting followed by silvering, and finally a thick lacquer layer lends it the “Shiro” appearance.
There is also a degree of depth in the dial, mostly thanks to the sunken counters. There is also a degree of textural play, with the lacquered base mixed with the azurage treatment of the counters. And to keep your visual senses heightened, there is that parallax overprinting and the mixture of hand styles including ‘kyudo’ arrow hands at 9’o clock.
Another added detail I like is the ‘kyudo’ arrow hands at 9’o clock sweeps rather than ticks / jumps to reflect the minutes elapsed. This gliding makes it a bit different than other chronographs I have personally handled.
The new Kurono Chronograph II White “Shiro” has a lot going for it, and am sure that their “single limited edition run in the hundreds” will sell out pretty soon after being made available.
So if you aspire to be a gentleman who can live in his castle and own timepieces pure as white, then the new Kurono Chronograph II White “Shiro” is the right watch for you.
To find out more about the new Kurono Chronograph II White “Shiro” and other Kurono Tokyo watches, please head to their website here. All images unless otherwise stated are courtesy are © KURONO TOKYO.