Masahiro Kikuno had a fascination with watches and wanted to make one. Unfortunately, he didn’t have a lot going for him. He lived in a land more known for Sushi and Hondas than watches. There also wasn’t access to a CNC machine to fabricate parts or any of the other modern tools 99% of the brands use to make their watches. The cost of making a watch was just too prohibitive.
After seeing a documentary on the restoration of a Japanese clock, the myriad year clock, Kikuno had a revelation. That watchmaker only worked with a wheel and files and so did watchmakers hundreds of years ago. The evidence was clear. With enough passion, conviction effort, Kikuno himself could reach his goal, creating a watch entirely by hand. It wouldn’t be easy but it was definitely possible. A handful of people could still do it like godfather of independent watchmaking George Daniels, who recently passed away, and his protege Roger Smith, who does small series and bespoke pieces.
The then 22 year old Kikuno enrolled in a WOSTEP course at Hiko Mizuno College and just six years later became a candidate of the AHCI (Academie horlogerie des createurs independents), a prestigious group of independents established in 1984 by Vincent Calabrese and Sven Andersen to celebrate and support the craft of independent watchmaking as an alternative to industrial manufacturing. It takes a lot to be considered in this company. Candidates must be able to make a horological construction and execute it by him/herself in a presentable quality. In addition, two members of the AHCI must be godfathers. After completing three exhibitions in five years the candidate can be accepted as a member by a majority vote of the assembly.
Kikuno’s most recent creation is a Tourbillon 2012, constructed entirely by hand, including cutting out the bridges and tourbillon cage, and which has a unique herringbone finish on the plates. The dial presents a very clean and austere face yet is quietly beautiful, reflecting a Japanese aesthetic. The curves of the case are quite sensual. Notice how the case flows around the crown.
I like the tourbillon at 9 o’clock, as most watches place it either at 12 o’clock or 6 ‘clock. The eccentric presentation of both the time dial and tourbillon somehow provide a nice overall balance that captures the eye and holds attention. In addition to the Tourbillon 2012, Kikuno counts a Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon and Temporal Hour Watch in his collection so far. He proves that haute horlogerie isn’t just limited to the Swiss.
Because Kikuno performs every by hand, each piece, even if it’s the same model, is slightly different due to the fluctuations of the human touch. But this is what makes each one a work of art. Below is a video of Kikuno decorating a plate with the Herringbone pattern.
You can learn a bit more about Kikuno on his website, but it is a bit sparse on content. Though it’s in Japanese, there are corresponding English sections.
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