Watch Dating Profiles: Japan — A Gorgeous Grand Seiko, A Knockout Kurono Tokyo, And An Easy Casio
In the land of the rising sun, the love runs strong, and the heart ticks away the moments worth remembering. These Japanese watches are prime eligible bachelor(-ette?)s looking for their ideal wearer to pick them up and while away the hours in sweet adoration. Today, it’s the elegant Grand Seiko SLGA007, the jazzy Kurono Tokyo Chronograph 2, and the shamefully easy Casio MQ24-7B2. They’re all fun, in their own way. It’s just up to you to which watch you’ll say, “こんにちは、大好きです” (Konnichiwa, daisuki desu — Hello, I love you).
We here at Fratello have been showing Japanese watches a lot of love lately, to which I say, “Kanpai!” From a flurry of articles about different elements in the G-Shock line, to Jorg’s delightful in-depth look at some of Seiko’s choice Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) models, to my own article introducing some GADA (Go Anywhere, Do Anything) representatives from the JDM lineups of Casio, Seiko, and Citizen, I’m back again to tell you that, yes, there’s more. This time around it’s in the form of wristwatch dating profiles like I did last time with some of Germany’s choice offerings. These are most likely not models you were expecting. Best of all, they’re internationally available, but only when they’re available at all. Hey, I only said the Casio is easy.
Grand Seiko SLGA007
What’s in a name? “SLGA007” may not be the most attractive name, excluding any accidental allusion to the 007. But that’s not to say the watch that carries the moniker isn’t extremely attractive itself. The Grand Seiko SLGA007 is one of a few watches employing Grand Seiko’s newest iteration of its Spring Drive movement, in this case the 9RA2 (rowr!). It also exhibits a new dial design with a scooped texture that, when combined with its deep rich blue, convincingly embodies the qualities of an almost calm lake. Fitting, then, that this watch was inspired by Japan’s Lake Suwa.
A Cool Glass Of Water
However, newness abounds all-around. The SLGA007 employs the new “Series 9” case, shared by the immensely popular “White Birch” SLGH005 and a couple of others. Its reserved lines and mix of polished and brushed surfaces compose an elegant “standard” case of 40mm in diameter. It’s an evolution for Grand Seiko in many ways, not least of which is its reduction in thickness. The new 9RA2 Spring Drive caliber found inside and revealed through the sapphire case-back is thinner than its predecessors, allowing for a more svelte case and better wear overall with a thickness of 11.8mm.
New Spring Drive, Who ‘Dis?
And as if the richness of the lapping blue waves of the dial and understated elegance of the case isn’t enough, the 9RA2 is a sight to behold in and of itself. In defiance of its slim size, it boasts a power reserve of five days, indicated by the blued steel hand on the movement side of the watch. The finishing is superb, but coy in that the unique innards that make Spring Drive so special are obscured by the large plate that covers much of the movement. Some radially brushed gears are just visible, hinting at the precise engineering and prowess within. The rotor is pure Art Nouveau, with curves directly taken from that school, or from Mother Nature herself.
Long Walks On The Beach
Rarely does a “sporty” watch demand such quiet introspection, but that seems to be Grand Seiko’s modus operandi with its newest uniquely dialed watches. The ideal wearer of this Lake Suwa-inspired SLGA007 is one of both body and mind. The subtly striking dial and case elements suggest poetry, while the 5-day power reserve and 10-bar water resistance — along with the stainless steel of the case and bracelet ensemble — call for adventure. You might be one to breathe deeply overlooking a mountainous vista, having spent the morning hiking there. You’d be just as apt to jump in Lake Suwa as you would be to recall some favorite haikus at its shores. And when life calls for the drudgery of work, you have a watch that can accompany you while providing secret joy upon closer admiration.
The Grand Seiko SLGA007 is for one who experiences the depths of living in full saturation. Thus, the little joys in life are plenty to sustain with their richness of quality. With an MSRP of $8,700 and limited production of only 2021 pieces, the element of exclusivity adds to the allure of such a seemingly simple yet elegant watch. Non-verbal communication is the forte of your flirting, and the SLGA007 reciprocates beautifully.
Kurono Tokyo Chronograph 2
If the Grand Seiko SLGA007 is an exercise in subtlety, the Kurono Tokyo Chronograph 2 is a Latin conga beat. A bi-register chronograph in true roaring twenties, Art Deco regalia, it’s Hajime Asaoka’s exploration of taking that era of design to its natural limits. A tachymeter and telemeter encircle the dial alongside the seconds track and semispherical steel rivets for hour markers. Brown, black, orange, and steel combine to form an espresso shot of a watch awash in nightclub cigar smoke.
A Study In Art Deco
Rivets and concentric rings combine with leaf hands, arrow hands, and what I can only describe as a “fountain pen” minute hand to express all the swoops, curves, and concentric circles of Art Deco’s finest livery. The 38mm steel case with curving lugs and box sapphire crystal uniquely emulate the famous chronos from that time. A black leather strap keeps the watch on track and confined, as it looks like it’s constantly in motion, not unlike a certain sculpture indicative of the times.
NE86 Is A Movement
It isn’t all just appearances though, as many micro-brand bi-register period chronos are wont to use budget quartz. Hajime Asaoka keeps it all Japanese watch and all quality, powering his chronographs with the automatic Seiko Instruments NE86A. This is a rare bird, but one we could all benefit from seeing more of out in the wild. A sibling to the slightly more common NE88 tri-register, it too employs a vertical clutch; it’s quality engineering and design from top to bottom. My fellow gear heads might enjoy reading more about what makes it special here.
Speakeasies And Jazz
(Queue Cowboy Bebop’s opening theme, TANK! by the SEATBELTS)
Kurono Tokyo’s Chronograph 2 is for the fast. Its owner is one that is always on the move, with the rhythm of life driving them. You might work hard, you might not, but you certainly play hard. A mover and shaker in love with the adventure of the night, the chronograph isn’t all for show; it’s come in handy more than once cleaning up on a few bets at the bar as to whom could do what faster. Your money was on Charles. Knowing the time is for the sober, or the soon to be, as a glance down at the date reminds you that yes, you do have work tomorrow, and it’s time to call it a night. But until that moment comes, you’re all for letting the band play on. Lady Luck is on your arm and this is your favorite tune.
A Rare Bird Indeed
Now, as the discerning know, Kurono Tokyo’s Chronographs, both “1” and “2”, sold out long ago. Kurono Tokyo only releases very limited editions, which are usually snatched up within minutes of going live. If you have a Kurono Tokyo — of any kind — congratulations, you lucky dog. Enjoy it! For those that don’t, don’t worry. Hajime Asaoka is constantly releasing new watches. He hasn’t done another chronograph in a minute, which is good news indeed.
…be warned: sellers know the secondhand value of these pieces and how impulsive their future owners might be…
With us having entered a brand new year, I anticipate a new iteration of the Kurono Chronograph soon. If you’re the live wire that can’t do without having this Japanese watch-jazz on their wrist, it’s in your best interest to stay on top of Kurono Tokyo’s website for the latest release information. Or you might go the way of buying one used, but be warned: sellers know the secondhand value of these pieces and how impulsive their future owners might be, an issue Hajime Asaoka has tried to mitigate in his unique sales process (he can’t fix your lack of impulse control, though). Expect to pay around $4000 for the next release or more for a used one.
In a complete 180-degree turn, but perhaps not any less fun, I present the Casio MQ24-7B2 for your consideration. Certainly not the most elegant, in looks or name, but it has its charm. It is plastic, yes. It is quartz, I know. But let’s choose to see these as fun, positive qualities for what they make for in this watch.
Cheap Yet Classy?
Japanese industry is not unfamiliar with functional contradiction. For 70 years Japan has secured a corner of the world market with high-quality, well-designed, inexpensive mechanical and electronic goods. Think Sony and Toyota; no one has been able to capture the quality of efficiency quite like Japan. Casio is yet another prime example. The Casio MQ24-7B2 may be the Japanese watch industry’s ultimate distillation of this axiom: it is one of the cheapest watches produced by a name brand. It also does its job — telling time — wonderfully, and its minimal design and retro styling might allow it to serve as a fashionable accessory. It won’t turn heads, at least not in the way a Grand Seiko might.
… the ultimate watch, as it exists solely for telling time.
Because at about $11 in the United States, the only double-takes this watch is causing is from its price tag. It might raise some eyebrows among friends of the watch collector, saying “I thought you liked watches.” In truth, wearing the MQ24-7B2 is not a departure from a love of horology. I argue, in fact, that it is the ultimate watch, as it exists solely for telling time. With no precious metals, exclusive branding, or superfluous features inflating its value, it is only a watch.
Easy Come, Easy Go
So, I posit, (un-ironically) this watch is for the ultimate appreciator of time and marking its passing. The wearer of this watch just wants a watch, not an investment, not a statement (though I can see how it could be used to be one), and not a pretty little trinket to adore and covet. Shell out your hard-earned $11, strap it on your wrist, and proceed through the world with the same amount of reckless abandon you might’ve had pre-watch.
Most of us are half as adventurous as we imagine we might be. The rest are more adventurous than they forget to anticipate.
It is technically “water-resistant”, whatever that means, though really who cares? Jump in the ocean, get it wet! Climb mountains with it, skydive. If it breaks, you can get another. The watch is literally cheaper than paying to change out its 2-year battery. I imagine, however, that this little (35mm) guy will last a lot longer than you anticipate. Most of us are half as adventurous as we imagine we might be. The rest are more adventurous than they forget to anticipate. Through accidental or intentional safe-keeping (though no need for keeping it in a safe) the MQ24-7B2 will endure in your collection longer than you think. It is a Casio, after all.
And, unlike Citizen, which portrays itself as the watch for the people, the cheapest Casios are the actual watches being worn by millions of people around the world. The owner of this watch, if he or she cares to think about it at all, takes pride in the fact that they wear a watch good enough for tribesmen, porters, fishermen, and medical professionals — people who live life, work hard, and use their hands. This is the watch for the people. Jared at the office spent $8k and doesn’t even dive (apologies to all desk-diving Jareds). To each their own, but you can own as many of the MQ24-7B2 as you wish. You’ll find one will do you well for a long time.
[Insert Strange Japanese (Watch) Dating Game Show Of Choice]
So there we have it — three unique entrants to this Japanese watch edition of Dating Profiles. Grand Seiko, Kurono Tokyo, or Casio: which one will you choose to be yours? Let us know in the comments which one and why!