MICRO MONDAYS: The Minase DividoThor Svaboe
A round watch case like few others, sharp angles, quirky Japanese design and a Swiss movement? Surely that can grab your attention, even in these weeks of big stories from Switzerland. At a time when just as many gravitate towards the well known, we have the ones that turn towards another path, a path less crowded, where you will find small manufacturers like Minase.
In the Akita province of northern Japan, Minase, more atelier than maison, produce around 500 watches a year – of which the Divido, unusually, is the only round watch, rising to fame a while back on the wrist of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the G7 summit, in the very same purple-blue we are looking at today. The brand has only existed since 2005, with a strong following in Japan, under the ownership of Kyowa Co, a specialist tool maker that had expanded into precision watch parts.
With its perfect size of 40.5mm and a strong angular case design, there is a wealth of details few other small manufacturers dare enter into production – and in these intricate details the Divido truly shines. A case architecture and finishing that also shines in the physical sense due to a well-known polishing machine of European origin called Sallaz, the Japanese phonetic translation being Zaratsu.
If you enjoy the smooth pebble-like finish of anything from a Laurent Ferrier or anOrdain, with the pebble-like Apple Watch on your other wrist, welcome to a foray into the exciting world of angles and edges. Angular enough to be conceived as a test case challenging a designer to incorporate as many acute angles as possible within a watch case while keeping to a strict Japanese quality code. Task complete. The name Divido is from the lost language of Esperanto meaning Divided, which makes itself understood by looking at a case side like no others. Most case sides are rounded, flat, or flat in profile with bevelling. This case is joined sharply in the middle with inwards razor-sharp brushed bevels like some alien angular craft captured in Area 51, with superb finishing to boot. There is a lot to take in here, with the split angular case sides being a fascinating start to a visual journey, and should you be vintage — or homage allergic — the integrity of line within the futuristic Divido case is a godsend.
The case of the Divido is made from eight main parts, within the Japanese HiZ principle of being able to dismantle and repair a single constituent part, a brilliant adage in our age of consumerism. Let’s be honest, this is a lug-centric case, to such an extent it seems the Lug Union pushed through their demands for more recognition. I’m counting as many as eight different bevels or facets only on the top piece of the lug, which is perfectly vertically brushed. There is a narrow polished bevel following the edge, faceted off at one corner while rounded at the front, with a sharp polished decline towards the brushed bracelet.
I’d go so far as saying a single lug has more detail work than the complete case of a medium-priced microbrand. The top of the lugs are clamping the bezel and case together, while the polished underside of the lugs are an integral part of the actual caseback, a most unusual design. The countersunk screws on the back of the angular Zaratsu-edged lugs have two jobs. They act as the screws for the caseback, while simultaneously holding the eight-part case together through the lugs, a design as surprising as the dial configuration. Due to this design quirk, the polished caseback has room for a large rear sapphire crystal to better see the semi-suspended movement. You might be surprised yet again by the familiar sight of the ETA 2824 automatic movement.
To me, this is not a budget-centric but wise move by Minase, concentrating on the intricate work of the dial and case, while going for a trusted Swiss workhorse movement. It is, however, hand polished, with the addition of perlage in the Minase workshops – and is, with its well-known solidity and 38-hour power reserve, a guaranteed success. I know some of you might argue that the 2824 is now also available in small-brand pieces within a lower budget range, but it does not take more than a glance at an angular lug to see that the Minase Divido is quite far from the sum of its parts – exquisite as they visibly are.
This is where I could get quite wordy, as the dial is not a dial per se, but rather a floating presence within the case-in-case structure of the Divido. How do they create the intense ripple effect we can see beneath an already spectacular colour? The surface is hammered copper, using Japanese artisanal techniques, which is then lacquered in an intense blue shifting to purple, and a great antidote to monochrome wrist-shyness.
This is fitted together with the movement as a case-within-a case, fixed by the angled claws of the substantial indices. The indices themselves are polished with a central lume-filled groove, and the sporty touch of the ends being angled downwards with a blade-like flat end.
The minute track is radially brushed steel fitted flush with the bevelled edge of the dial, also appearing clamped by the tough-looking indices. The pièce de résistance is the millimetre or so of air between brushed rehaut and the suspended dial, adding to the barrage of details to take in. Exquisitely finished sword-shaped flat-ended hands complete the picture, flat tops brushed and sides bevelled and polished with the usual Japanese attention to detail we’ve come to expect from a much higher price point.
The date window is charmingly rhomboid in appearance with a bevelled edge to the opening and the quirky nature of seeing both the coming and preceding date. The seconds hand is a sharp needle affair, with a white lume tip finishing off what to me is a fascinating dial scene.
At a quick glance, you’ll see the echoes of Royal Oak here with flat links connected by intersecting pairs of polished connecting links, though it doesn’t seem flat? This is the one brilliant piece of design that, together with the precise single-link bevelling and articulation, makes the bracelet.
The polished pair of rectangular connecting links are not flat, they are bent at about 10-20 degrees. Why? As you wrap the bracelet around your wrist, genius becomes apparent as they make the bracelet drape itself on the wrist with the connecting links following the curve of the arm.
No visible screws or pins with a thin, sharp bevelling on the edges make the angular details assume an air of quiet elegance, as all assembly and adjustments are done from the underside. Once again, this follows the HiZ principle of maintenance and repair through ease of disassembly into its constituent parts, while having the added benefit of solidity through the lack of push – or screw-in pins visible on the outside.
A conclusion of sorts
Once you’ve managed to calm down the eyes after a period of continuous discovery, we can conclude that this is Japanese, but not in the ascetic minimalist way. The impression is one of technical complexity. A complexity that breeds both a fascinating play of light both on and within the semi open-worked case construction, and an ergonomic comfort not associated with angles. The way the bracelet drapes around the wrist is superb, the 40.5mm size of the Minase Divido is just so, and the angular lugs come dramatically down with a wrist-hugging presence of only 12mm height, just right for a dressy sports watch. The price firmly puts it in the value category similar to a Tudor, but with a quirky language all of its own and the comforting presence of a solid ETA movement, and in the dressy bracelet sports arena of GP and AP.
Minase Divido price and availability:
The Minase Divido is €4680 on bracelet and €3380 on rubber strap.