Hajime Asaoka - A Japanese Watchmaker Master (1)
If anyone has defined the current trend of "must-have" limited edition watches, it must be Hajime Asaoka's watches with high cost performance. As an AHCI watch manufacturer, Asaoka-san cooperated with TiC TAC retail chain in 2018 to launch a series of affordable watches for the Japanese domestic market. These watches were named after "Chrono Tokyo". The international watch collection community soon proved that these watches were irresistible, so it launched the "Kurono Tokyo" series of watches the next year.
Hajime Asaoka is often referred to as "Philippe Dufour of Japan," an independent watch maker more respected in his homeland than anyone else. Although I am sure that Asaoka-san is flattered by this praise, it is not fair to evaluate his work by his nationality or origin. Asaoka-san won the respect of the watchmaking industry, not because he is the best in Japan, but because he is one of the world's top watchmakers. That's why he quickly joined the Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants (AHCI) in 2015.
There are three "real" Hajime Asaoka's design, but none of them are mass-produced. “The three handed tsunami”, “Project t tourbillon”, and “Chronograph” are hand-made by Asaoka-san and a group of watch manufacturers in his studio. Every watch produce Asaoka-san by was customized. In the interview of Europa Star in 2018, Asaoka-san compared the watch design process to "playing chess with my customers". So Hajime Asaoka's watch is both traditional and full of unexpected twists and turns.
Hajime Asaoka's watches are in such great demand that they are not available on the market today. Like Mr. Dufour, Asaoka-san has a long waiting list for years, and can only produce a few watches every year. Although his production may have exceeded 19 watches he produced in 2018, but it is impossible for an independent watchmaker to meet the needs of global customers without reducing the quality. In 2020, it was revealed that Asaoka-san only produced "4 Tsunamis, 2 Tourbillons, and 1 Chronograph". Asaoka-san doesn't even have his own watch, because his watch takes so much time to build, and he is focusing on his customers' needs. If everyone can't wear his watch because of capacity problems, he will be very sad.
Chrono Tokyo First Series, October 2018
TiC-TAC is a Japanese watch retailer focusing on watch lifestyle. Since 1984, the store has sold not famous but interesting brands, including Ikepod, Junghans, Lip, Mondaine, Mühle Glashütte, Nomos Glashütte, Stowa, and Seiko’s Astron, Presage, Prospex, and Spirit. TiC-TAC has been expanding and has opened theme stores in many cities.
In early 2018, Hajime Asaoka revealed that he was developing a new watch. Chrono Tokyo series was launched in April 2018 and sold exclusively in TiC-TAC, with 50 in each batch. The prototype used Miyota's 9015 movement, a high-profile automatic movement in BaselWorld 2010, but the production model used Cal.90S5. Asaoka-san explained that this took away the date function which the watch didn't need, and increased the swing angle of the balance.
In April 2018, the world finally saw Hajime Asaoka 's affordable watch series for the first time. Asaoka-san discussed the development process of the watch, including his special hands, through the social platform. Although watch production is outsourced, Asaoka's Precision Watch Tokyo Co. handled most of the work for designing, ordering, final inspection and shipping. Asaoka-san sharing on social media showed his affinity for all aspects of the watch, from packaging to strap to dial to pamphlet.
The first Chrono Tokyo series was released on October 12, 2018, with two reference models, one in champagne dial and the other in grey dial, each with a distinctive contrast. The initial production run was 50 watches with 26 champagne dials and 21 grey dials.
The dial is a new interpretation of the classic design, with a mark applied at four points above the concentric lettering groove. The cylindrical dial with a convex canter needs a curved hands, which only one company in Japan could produce. “ The cream color of the "champagne" dial is a refreshing change. The gray has an organic slate hue in sharp contrast to the hand.
That's all for today's story. We will continue to introduce other crafts of Hajime Asaoka in the next story.