The Minase Masterpiece collection lives up to its nameFergus Nash
When a brand so full of artistic integrity as Minase labels something a masterpiece, we had better pay attention. Given the level of quality and attention to detail of even the most affordable Minase, what they can do in super-limited runs with a sizeable budget and the help of dedicated artisans is almost beyond the imagination. The Minase Masterpiece series comprises some truly captivating watch dials framed perfectly within the architecture of the 7 Windows collection.
The 7 Windows really is the ideal display for the Minase Masterpiece series of dials and artworks, with the rectangular shape already implying the framing of a painting. Not only that, but the case itself allows you to view the interior from all angles and gain new perspectives on your watch from more than two dimensions. The “case within a case” philosophy encloses the movement behind the circular dial, and suspends it within the rectangular exterior using four screws at each corner. The sapphire windows also have the added benefit of allowing light to penetrate the watch from the sides, bringing in a more even glow and lighting up as many details as possible. The movements are Minase’s KT7002, based upon an ETA 2892/A2 with a 4Hz beat rate and 42-hour power reserve. The use of a Swiss base movement helps to focus attention on the aesthetics of the watch as a whole, as well as on their meticulous hand-finished surfaces and diamond-polished bevels.
I first came across some of the Minase Masterpiece watches through the Hakose Urushi collection, specifically showcasing the talents of Junichi Hakose. Hakose is an undisputed master of Maki-e — the art of metallic powders being sprinkled into a traditional Japanese lacquer to form specific pictures. This technique dates back at least 1,200 years, and although Urushi lacquer has been used on watch dials before, it’s an incredibly rare treat to see such intricate maki-e. Junichi Hakose is responsible for the first four references of the Minase Masterpiece series, each made to order and available in a stainless-steel case for CHF13,850 or an 18k rose-gold case for CHF27,700. Each of the four dials has their own distinct theme and significance to Japanese culture.
The first of the four is called the Komon, derived from patterns that are often found on traditional kimonos and tableware. Three sections are split between geometric stylisations of flower petals and leaves, each painstakingly created with tiny brushwork to apply the different powders that fire into their final colours. The Yoshino Sakura dial brings out the famous Japanese cherry blossoms, utilising a wide variety of coloured powders to showcase the different colours and sizes the flowers can grow in. It’s a bold style that defies the notion of cherry blossoms being simply white or pink.
The Yama Sakura is yet another dial devoted to the cherry blossom, however here we’re given more of a close-up view to one with its hoof-shaped pedals and smaller clusters in the background. Each of the small flowers is still unique, pursuing unbelievable attention to detail. The fourth and final piece of the Hakose Urushi collection is the Four Seasons dial, checkering together several examples of the Japanese seasonal features. The flowing waters of summer, autumnal leaves, orchids of winter and the blossoms of spring are all represented above a rippling surface that’s deftly geometric.
Next on the list of Minase Masterpiece talent is the sculptor Keiji Kanagawa, famous for his skills in engraving, Makie-e, silver filigree and needle art. It’s a perfection of the minuscule that gives Kanagawa his signature flair, and his work is strictly customised to each individual customer on a made-to-order basis. The process begins with a consultation to decide which areas of the gold watch case will be engraved, and if there are any themes for Keiji to follow. You also get to choose from practically limitless dial options, as long as it can be physically recreated, you can get it on your watch dial. Once a final concept and design has been agreed upon, production will take around two months per watch.
The Champlevé series forgoes the gold and brass to instead work with solid sterling silver, which then gets engraved and filled with enamel. Although the enamel firing process can be quite similar to Urushi lacquer, the result is wildly different. The silver background allows for much brighter colours to embrace their vibrancy, popping off of the more neutral base. Each theme is limited to just eight pieces, and the first is the “Minase One” displaying playful ducks swimming amongst maple leaves.
The Needle Art series begins with a plate of stainless steel that has been given a black DLC coating, which is then meticulously scratched away with a fine needle. It’s a similar skill to traditional etching, but less reproducible and typically more impressive with its photorealism. If there was ever a design that couldn’t be executed through engraving, then needle art is the answer. Silver Filigree is quite a unique technique alongside the others we’ve covered so far, venturing more into three dimensions than before. Two or three silver wires, each only 0.2mm in diameter, are twisted together to form ornate structures in the centre of the dials.
To learn more about the Minase Masterpiece collection or to enquire about pricing for some of the custom options, be sure to visit their website here.