If the name Kurono means absolutely nothing to you in watchmaking, then this watch will make very little sense to you without a little explanation. This is the Kurono Anniversary Green Mori; it’s a steel-cased 37mm 3-hand watch powered by a Miyota 90S5 (the no-date version of the 9015 we all know and love), and its priced at $1,790 USD. ****Pauses to allow for venting of explicatives, confusion, and outrage**** The new release is set for May 22nd at 10:30pm Tokyo time (9:30am EST).
Yes, that sounds like a lot for something so simple, until you take a moment to realize who is behind its creation. Kurono is the entry-level brand started by Hajime Asaoka—the Tokyo-based watchmaker who has become a bit of a legend in terms of high level watchmaking outside of Switzerland—and though he’s using the Miyota as the base for this 50-piece release, they are anything but ‘entry level’ in terms of quality, craftsmanship, and finishing. Hajime has been a member of the AHCI since 2015, producing watches one by one on a commission basis. His watches run alongside those of Akrivia, Kari Voutilainen, Vianney Halter, and other low-production masters that are highly sought after by collectors who’ve moved on from lusting over big-box houses like Patek and Lange. So far the releases under the Kurono name have already seen high desirability, selling out in a hurry. So much so that Hajime has put into place an account policy, allowing him to cut out known resellers and flippers from the ability to purchase.
While Hajime won’t be spending the same countless hours designing and finishing the caliber that lives in the Kurono Anniversary Green Mori—his own hands won’t be touching the assembly or finishing of any of these pieces, for that matter—however, the design/finishing choices and QC are all his own responsibility, and that design DNA really rings through in the Mori, as it has through the handful of other releases under the sub-brand thus far. That said, a true Hajime Asaoka watch is a significant margin higher in price than the Mori; if you double the Mori’s sticker price then add a zero you’re in the right ballpark.
Looking at the watch itself, the beauty is really layered in its dial and hands above all else. As one of our Watchuseek forum members pointed out when receiving their previous model Kurono back in January, there’s a lot to take in. An outer railroad minute track, applied concentric inner rings, and additional high-polish baton indices at 3, 6, 9, and 12, all help in delivering a very classic dial design without feeling derivative or overplayed. At 37mm, he’s really sticking to traditional dress watch codes here, more than many players in the market these days. It’s not a size I’d ever thought I could come to grips with, but after having the Ming 17.03 in my personal collection for a couple of years now I’ve grown to appreciate the ‘time and place’ for conservatively sized pieces like this. The dial is signed Bunkyo Tokyo, referring to the city ward where Hajime’s design studio is located.
So, Where the real debate comes in now, is whether or not it’s worth it, and (as the title states) why you should care. Sure, the romance of having a watch that’s passed through Hajime’s skilled hands is lost on account of the serialized production here. If Hajime had to build and finish each one of these himself, then he wouldn’t be able to keep laboring away at his tourbillon and chronograph models, nor would he be able to start work on developing other new complications (by the way, he manufactures the vast majority of his movement components himself in his workshop). Buying the Kurono Mori is more of a sign of solidarity. A sign that we—the watch loving community at large—love and appreciate what he’s been doing, and want to support his endeavors even though we aren’t necessarily going to be dropping $50k on one of his bigger pieces any time soon.
I’ve heard people arguing that moves like this with a sister brand act as ‘brand dilution’, and frankly they’re wrong. If Patek went out and launched ‘Patek Junior’, sure, I’ll agree with you. But when you’re talking about brands like this, or like Sarpaneva Watches and their entry-level S.U.F. Helsinki, this couldn’t be any further from the truth. Consider them dealers of horological gateway drugs, and if it means more people get hooked on independent watchmaking, then I’m all for it.